The Uncharted game series has always worn its movie inspirations prominently on its sleeve, spending plenty of time riffing on Indiana Jones whilst providing story and set-piece moments that have always aimed squarely at being ‘cinematic’. It’s been an immensely successful combination, though one that dooms its movie spin-off from the get go – what’s the point of this Uncharted when not only has it lost its source material’s interactivity, but it doesn’t even function as well as an adventure movie as any of the original games?
Ruben Fleischer’s take on the material borrows liberally from individual moments within the game series, but doesn’t directly adapt any one of the stories, instead opting to act as a prequel to the first game, introducing us to a younger version of the games’ beloved lead duo, Nathan Drake and Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan. Voice acted to perfection by Nolan North and Richard McGonagle, respectively, in the games, here Nate is played by Tom Holland and Sully by Mark Wahlberg.
It’s in this casting that Uncharted finds probably its most fatal flaw. Holland has the physicality necessary to pull off Nate’s signature parkour stunts but is otherwise too fresh-faced to convince as a globe-trotting thief and history buff, while Wahlberg captures absolutely none of Sully’s affable gruffness and fatherly charm. Of course, a game and its movie doesn’t have to be a one-to-one translation, but if you’re going to change something that really worked in the source material, you better have an ace up your sleeve and, when it comes to its cast, Uncharted really doesn’t, Holland and Wahlberg lacking either comic or father-son chemistry.
It doesn’t help that the writing they’re given is so generic, or that the dialogue directly references Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean, two vastly superior adventure series that Uncharted should not be so directly inviting comparisons to. The plot itself has some fun turns, though – I’m a sucker for a worldwide MacGuffin hunt, and Uncharted delivers there. After Sully spots Nate’s knack for thievery in a fancy bar, he invites him on a quest to find the lost gold of the doomed voyage of Ferdinand Magellan. Tombs are raided, ancient puzzles are solved, and a dastardly billionaire collector (Antonio Banderas, really slumming it) tracks the pair at every turn.
It’s hardly groundbreaking, but the Uncharted games all thrived on cliché within their plots, and it’s no different here. It’s a shame that the action often feels so feeble though, the weightless shootouts and middling fist-fights all instantly forgettable, while the standout set-piece of Nate fighting off baddies while falling out of a cargo plane is lifted almost shot-for-shot from the third game.
It’s in moments like this that the redundancy of the 2022 Uncharted becomes so damaging. In many ways, the games already were movies, and they had better dialogue, performances, and music than this. In the grand scheme of modern Hollywood action movies, and especially in the world of videogame movies, you could certainly do a lot worse than Uncharted, but you’d also just have a far, far better time breaking out the Playstation and enjoying one of the magnificent games it fails to live up to.