Rated PG-13 for quite a bit of language. I thought that the movie was going to take the responsible route and replace the s-word with "crap" the entire film, based on the opening scene. That went out the window pretty quickly. It mirrors the video games, which swear more than they probably should as well. There's also violence and death, but similar in tone to something like National Treasure or Pirates of the Caribbean.
DIRECTOR: Ruben Fleischer
What? I really like the video games! Does that make me a bad person? I mean, I knew better than to get excited about Uncharted the movie. This was one of those movies that was over-the-top affected by Covid and the studio system. I'm not saying it is even a bad movie because, by gum, I enjoyed it. But I also know that it definitely isn't one of those great films. Heck, if we get a sequel, which the movie itself desperately wants based on those after-credit sequences, even then I don't think it will drum up the attention it so desperately wants. But I'll say this...this movie isn't awful.
The odd thing is that I was against the casting of Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg. I mean, I'm kind of right with that decision. I thought that most of my dislike of the movie was going to come towards Tom Holland, whom I love, but don't see as Nathan Drake. I honestly got behind Tom Holland as Nathan Drake (mainly because he wasn't being as Spider-Many as I thought he would be). As the film progressed, I completely forgot that I didn't like that casting decision. (Note: I'm a big fan of Nathan Fillion as Nathan Drake, as proven by this very expensive fan short.) It's just that Tom Holland is so young. So I thought that maybe this was going to be an origin story for Nathan Drake. After all, the games do that. Every so often, Naughty Dog --the creators of the Uncharted series --would show a flashback of young Nathan Drake, explaining how he got into the mess he is in today. Well, this isn't quite the origin story in the sense that Nathan's origin is still kind of thin. This is meant to be the Nathan Drake of the games and I steadily grew cool with that, knowing that they were appealing to a younger market. Nah, my real issue came with Mark Wahlberg as Sully. I mean, I like the Sully of the film that Wahlberg played (I'm giving you all kinds of conflicting information here!), but that's not Sully. Really, the film presents Wahlberg as Nathan-Drake-before-Nathan-Drake. Sully was always the guy in the chair; the guy in the plane. He's occasionally in levels with you, but his skill lies in the fact that he's your escape plan. Not so much in the movie.
I don't know why that matters to me. I think it comes from the idea that Sully is meant to act both as father and friend to Nathan. There are elements of that in the movie, to be sure. But Nathan is far more mature than Sully is throughout the film. If anything, Sully's journey through the course of this movie is to grow up because of his time with Nathan. The more I think about it, the more I think that only Sully grows while Nathan stands still. Sully acts as the gatekeeper to adventure for Nathan. Nathan, who leads a life more exciting than mine, but less exciting than Indiana Jones, is inducted into a world where his life is on the line throughout the film. The understanding is that, without meeting Sully, Nathan would never become this great treasure hunter that can lead a franchise into cinema history. (I don't think that's happening, but I can't blame Sony for trying.) But that also doesn't ring quite true for me either. Nathan robs the girl (who I thought was going to be Elena and I should probably slow down on my nerding out over video games) and Sully, in turn, robs him. Nathan has no difficulty breaking and entering into Sully's apartment. If anything, he's remarkably comfortable with it. While Sully still acts as a gatekeeper, it is almost like Nathan could have gotten into this adventure without Sully. After all, Sam has been sending him clues to this treasure (which requires this suspension of disbelief to make it work). It's almost like he was destined for this adventure. Sully was just there to bounce jokes off of.
The odd result is that the film is overtly Uncharted. Maybe this version of Nathan Drake doesn't tell as many jokes and is more pubescent than suave, but it definitely is Uncharted. But it carves its own path, despite lifting some of the best set pieces from the video games. Uncharted is an odd choice for a movie. I thought this back in the day. For once, I'm going to say that Sony was mostly successful with the final product. But Uncharted, by itself, is epically cinematic. There's a reason that a film nerd really gets into these games. I really like story driven games. It's why I never really get into multiplayer games. I need a really intense story to keep me moving. But Uncharted as a video game series already models itself more off of movies than it does video games. I remember watching Max Payne, a vehicle which I now remember also starred Mark Wahlberg. Max Payne was tonally perfect to the game and yet was an absolutely abhorrent film. Like, it was really bad. So how does Uncharted work when Max Payne failed. If you asked me a decade ago, I would say that video game movies can't work, but after animated efforts like Castlevania and that League of Legends show (which I haven't watched) have been such successes, coupled with Detective Pikachu, we know that isn't true. With Max Payne, everything was an info dump. As much as the film conveyed the complex plot of a game, there wasn't that sense of earning any of that information. It was just given to me, unearned. While Uncharted does a lot of that, the action sequences seemed to be choreographed to keep pace with the fights of the game. What happens is what happens with a good lightsaber fight. That action sequence is fun in itself, but we are rewarded with an important element of plot. And again, these games were meant to feel like movies. That helps a lot.
I'm currently playing Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. (I know I said I would scale back the video game talk. ) That game stars Chloe Frazier, the tritagonist of the film. Is it bad that I don't remember much about Chloe, despite having seen that her Wiki establishing her all over the Uncharted timeline. There's something glorious about her story in the film in the sense that it doesn't end up clean for Chloe at all. It's odd that protagonist, Nathan Drake, has so little growth in this film, that the secondary and tertiary characters are the ones presented with internal conflicts. But Chloe starts the film fairly damaged as a person. She is the personification of distrust. She is the rebel explorer archetype through and through. She's this foil for Sully, who ultimately overcomes his internal conflict. But we root more for Chloe, who is actually angry with the life that she has chosen. We see her warm to Nathan throughout the film. Nathan's innocence reminds her of the joys of treasure hunting and she does owe him for saving her life, despite multiple betrayals on her part. But she has that moment we've seen in a bunch of films where she betrays him one last time. It's expected that she would pull a Han Solo and come back into battle, acknowledging that her life of distrust is over. Instead, she leaves the film completely emptyhanded. It's such a great moment not because of anything that's done with it, but in the sheer understanding that it exists. One of the likable characters gets a less than stellar ending and that's cool.
Can I talk about one scene that was toppling over in my brain since watching it? A lot of the sequences of this film have been lifted from other Uncharted games. Heck, Nolan North, the voice of Nathan Drake in the games, even comments on the fact that one scene is directly from Uncharted 3 in his cameo in the film. But the one sequence that is totally new (as far as I remember) is the helicopters lifting the pirate ships away. It's this blockbuster, over-the-top sequences that had me giggling because of its absurdity. But I have to step back. The only reason it struck me as totally bonkers is the fact that it was new. When I play the games, the insanity of the sequences is what keeps me coming back to the games. For some reason, my brain never questions them when I playing the game. I'm always impressed, of course. But I never think "no way" when playing them. But the more I think about the climactic action sequence, I have to admit...it would really fit within the world of the games.
Okay, games games games. I'm not that obsessed with the Uncharted franchise. I do like them. But it also is fun to write about stuff that I'm knowledgeable about. I'm sure this film probably wouldn't hit right to an audience unfamiliar with the franchise and that's a real problem. My wife tuned out five minutes in. My son wanted to play Kirby on the Switch. So I ended up watching it alone. Yeah, I was guffawing and exploding with applause from time-to-time. But I can see how this would just be a knock-off of a genre that has already been exploited so many times. Yeah, it's not as good as Indiana Jones, or National Treasure. But it is as good as Tomb Raider, if not better. Sure, maybe games shouldn't be films for the most part. But this movie does more right than wrong. I wouldn't hate a sequel, even if I'm the only one watching it.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.