Released: 17th February
Seen: 27th March
In 2007 the first game in the Uncharted series hit shelves and it was nothing short of a smash hit, selling over a million copies in the first ten weeks and becoming one of the biggest-selling games for the PlayStation. Its success was so huge that there were plans for a movie being made way back in 2008 and for the 14 years since then, the franchise has bounced around with different writers, directors and stars. Just reading over the history of Uncharted it’s kind of incredible that it even got out of the development hell that it languished in for so long but now it’s here and… it’s fine. Nothing to write home about but it’s not awful.
Uncharted follows Nathan Drake (Tom Holland), a casual pickpocket and bartender who wants to do some adventuring at some point, possibly when his brother Sam comes back from wherever he ran off to when they were kids. Instead, he runs into Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), a professional treasure hunter with some serious trust issues who used to know Sam and has decided to recruit Nathan to help him locate some buried treasure. Of course, the evil treasure hunter Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) and his mercenary Jo (Tati Gabrielle) are also hunting for this same treasure and will happily take Nathan and Victor out if needed… oh and also Nathan and Victor kind of team-up for a brief moment with Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali). Everyone’s hunting for treasure and it’s all super exciting, or at least it’s meant to be.
It’s really hard to say that Uncharted is a good film, it’s certainly not a bad film or even just average but it rests somewhere just between “Average” and “Good”, just barely acceptable enough that it doesn’t feel like it was a total waste of time but certainly not the best use of it. From pretty much the start of the film, you can really tell that they are leaning on exactly two things to make this work. The first is the spectacle factor, the action set pieces are so over the top that it almost defies you to not enjoy them at least a little because if you can’t enjoy someone jumping from box to box that’s barely attached to a plane flying over the ocean then you might be dead inside. The second thing it’s leaning on is the pure star power of Tom Holland who is absolutely born for this exact genre of film and probably needs to visit the chiropractor because he must have injured himself while carrying this thing.
Everything else either doesn’t meet its full potential or just feels like a waste… starting with the second lead of Uncharted. Look, there is a place for Mark Wahlberg in films. He has his uses, he was fun in Ted and if he’s given the right character and script to work with, he can actually be pretty captivating… but yeah, he’s a prop here. He’s there because they told Mark he would be playing Nathan back in 2010 and I’m guessing they felt bad it took a decade to make the film and he aged out (hate to say this, he would’ve been too old for it back in 2010) so they put him in the role of Victor who I’m aware is big in the games, he’s nothing here. Everything Mark does could’ve been either one of the antagonists or Tom on his own, would’ve made the film a lot better.
Speaking of editing, Uncharted kinda feels like someone turned in a longer cut and had to hack this thing down as much as they could because something about the editing just feels wrong. Characters just kind of vanish for no real reason, plotlines are shoved to vague references, some edits are just spectacularly bad (in one case so bad that it reveals the limitations of the rating they were given because they slashed someone’s neck but you can’t show the effects of that, so we can just see someone clawing at a perfectly unslashed neck) and sometimes it just feels like either something is missing that should be there. Wouldn’t shock me to learn there’s a solid half hour somewhere on the cutting room floor that was actually kind of important. Hell, maybe there was more stuff with the cat, that would’ve been fun to see.
Honestly, everything about Uncharted just feels like this film is the discount version of other action-adventure films, which kind of makes sense when you realise it’s based on a video game that’s basically Indiana Jones but younger and with more witty catchphrases. You can feel where they’re leaning on classic tropes, repeated betrayals and moments of pure luck. There’s definitely something great here, some buried treasure of a concept that’s just waiting to be unearthed but they haven’t gotten rid of all the debris and crap surrounding it so we can only occasionally see the possibility for greatness buried deep within.
Uncharted is fine, but not truly special. It’s the movie you go see when it’s the movie of the week at the local cinema, the one you rent when it’s on discount and you figure you need a few brainless hours. Sure the script isn’t great, some of the effects are bad and there are more than enough problems here, so if you try to take it seriously you’re going to go insane… but with a lead performance that’s just charming as hell and a few fun set pieces, this is just good enough that if you switch your brain off you can get a few laughs out of it. Maybe if they make a sequel they can brush off all the garbage and make something actually good, but that feels like it might be uncharted territory.