As a genuine outsider to the world of video games, it truly feels like I’m stepping into uncharted territory whenever a new video-game movie comes out. With that said, it’s truly exciting getting to explore a new franchise through a whole new medium. Maybe it’s just my luck but the adaptations I’ve seen have only made me want to play the actual games. The masterful Netflix ‘Castlevania‘ series actually made me pick up the games and I’ve genuinely enjoyed playing them. Ever since the recent ‘Mortal Kombat’ movie and ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ movie, I’ve been constantly eyeing the games whenever I go shopping but I’m never quite ready to commit with a price point like that. In the case of the ‘Uncharted‘ series, my brother actually bought all four games and even though I’ve personally never played them, I’ve seen him play a few times and the more I saw of the games, the more worried I grew for this movie.
very mild spoilers for ‘Uncharted‘ are featured in this review.
The most popular argument regarding the video-game movie concept is that they’re unnecessary and never as immersive. Video games have achieved insane visual sophistication with graphics that look life-like. What’s the point in watching the story unfold if you, the audience member, aren’t interacting with it. Watching Nathan Drake solve the mystery isn’t as exciting as playing as Drake and solving the mystery yourself. It is something the movie could’ve easily fixed and yet it doesn’t. The puzzle-solving is fed to us piece by piece without ever trusting the audience to think for a split second. From what I gathered, the ‘Uncharted‘ franchise is one that would actually make a ton of sense to adapt as a movie. It’s a huge, action-adventure story with thrills, humour and heart. The foundation for a fantastic movie is already there yet this movie doesn’t really care too much about it. All of the depth, charm and thrilling aspects of the games get lost in a dull, lacking and uninspired action-adventure movie. While the action is quite an improvement for director Ruben Fleischer, the emotional depth of this movie is non-existent, the humour almost always fell flat and while Tom Holland truly shines as a movie star here, he never really proves that casting him as Nathan Drake was truly the right choice.
If you took away the ‘Uncharted‘ branding and named this movie anything else, it would be a perfectly fine two hours. The movie is quite fast-paced and the action is actually gripping at times, however, when the story and characters lack so much depth, it doesn’t really make that much of a difference how good the action is. The emotional core being the bond between Nate and his brother Sam isn’t compelling because we never spend the appropriate amount of time with them. Their introduction puts us right into the night they got separated. It’s a shame because the actors were selling it and had this movie featured a longer backstory for the two of them, it would’ve amplified the stakes much more. Cliches are not a flaw, their very existence is proven by the fact that they’re a great storytelling tool… when they’re done right. The problem with movies like ‘Uncharted’ is that they don’t develop or work around these cliched plot points and as a result, the movie ends up feeling shallow. The entire dynamic between the main two leads (Holland and Whalberg) is as compelling as watching paint dry. Here, Tom Holland does all the heavy lifting as Mark Whalberg makes as good an impression as Mark Whalberg usually does. It’s frustrating seeing Whalberg’s Sully continuously betray and lie to Drake about serious stuff and never actually apologize for it. The movie never gives you a reason to root for Sully or make you believe he and Nate are a great team. It literally forces the two of them to be a team and hope for the best.
Unless you’re a fan of the ‘Uncharted‘ games, Tom Holland is the sole reason anyone should be seeing this movie. Seeing Holland’s career evolve and blossom through the ‘Spider-Man’ movies has been a treat but ironically this is the first time where I truly saw him as a bonafide Hollywood movie star. He has the ability to carry an entire movie on his shoulders, he has the rare qualities of a true leading star. Endlessly charming and dashing while also bringing a lot of physicality to the role. This is undeniably Holland at his prime and it’s a shame that his talent is wasted on this movie, especially when he is miscast as Nathan Drake whose character is undeniably altered to fit a Peter-Parkerized version of the character. That being said, as someone who never played the games and doesn’t have an attachment to them, Holland did a fantastic job leading this movie and while this movie didn’t leave that strong an impression on me, I do have hope that with some tweaks and changes, it could turn into quite a stellar franchise for Holland. This is a world I wouldn’t mind seeing more of.
Overall, as someone with no attachment to the games or the characters, I found ‘Uncharted‘ to be a surprisingly fun time due to Tom Holland’s star power and the fast-paced action and adventure. That being said, what keeps ‘Uncharted‘ from being the start of a truly great franchise is the underdeveloped script, mediocre plot and the fact that for the most part, every character outside of Nathan Drake is ultimately unlikeable. It’s not so bad that they need to start over but it’s not really the movie that’s going to reinvent how video-games movies are perceived, ‘Sonic The Hedgehog 2’ on the other hand…
‘Uncharted‘ is in theatres now.