Uncharted Review

The number of movies adapted from video games has been growing more and more in recent years. The latest video game to make the leap to a live action film is none other than Uncharted, PlayStation’s cinematic treasure hunting action-adventure series. Considering how story-heavy the games are, and how much inspiration they take from classic films like Indiana Jones and The Goonies, many have speculated for quite some time that Uncharted would be one of the easiest games to translate from video game to movie. Now that the highly-anticipated blockbuster has been released, does it meet the expectations gamers have had for it, or should it have stayed lost forever? Let’s explore every clue to find out. 

The Good

This movie is jam-packed with thrilling action and suspenseful moments. Sitting through this movie in a theater is like being on a rollercoaster with how exciting each action sequence is. The hand-to-hand combat is extraordinarily well-choreographed, and the gunplay is nothing short of exciting. However, what truly makes these action sequences stand out are the stunts. Dangling from the cargo of a plane, swinging from lighting fixtures, escaping a flooding tunnel, and sword fighting atop of old wooden ships being carried by helicopters are all visual spectacles that bring any audience member to the edge of their seat. 

It’s also worth noting that the nameless goons who only exist for the heroes to fight (like in most action movies) are clearly confirmed to be biting the dust. There’s no gore, but these people aren’t surviving these over-the-top occurrences. There’s even a surprisingly satisfying “crunch” at one moment. This both raises the stakes for each character involved in the action and stands out from other modern blockbusters that have their characters survive just about anything. 

The performances from each actor are incredible. Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, and Sophia Ali absolutely kill it as they perfectly capture how their video game counterparts act. Antonio Banderas and Tati Gabrielle also show off their outstanding talent throughout, as they play menacing-yet-believable villains. Holland is always fantastic as the cocky, sarcastic hero-type and Banderas feels like a true threat whenever he’s on screen. 

One of the best elements in the movie is that there are genuine surprises throughout. Characters backstabbing each other and never knowing where loyalties lie leads to some moments the audience may never see coming. It’s quite refreshing to see surprises in a blockbuster movie since most of them follow a similar formula nowadays. Whether it’s a character turning their back on another or someone being killed off unexpectedly, the film keeps you guessing what will happen next, keeping the suspense strong. 

There’s more than a satisfying amount of character development throughout the film’s plot. Characters learning to trust each other in the criminal world of thieves may be an obvious source of development, but it’s still heartfelt when it happens. Sully’s development especially shines as he learns that perhaps there are more important things than gold. 

An area that Uncharted excels in is its overall look. The massive sets built for ancient ruins and pirate ships are tremendous. The production design department working on this did an incredibly impressive job. The visual effects and life-like CGI blend extremely well together to immerse the audience into this adventure tale. 

Uncharted isn’t just action-packed and suspenseful; it’s also pretty hilarious. The banter between Nate and Sully is witty and showcases their personalities wonderfully. Plus, their chemistry is so good it feels like they’ve been friends for years. Each sarcastic quip leads to uproarious laughter. The humor is perfectly timed as it comes when you may not expect it, but it never takes away from the serious or heartfelt moments. 

Another impressive feat that Uncharted accomplishes is that it recreates scenes and gameplay mechanics from the games perfectly. As seen in the trailer, Nathan Drake climbing along shipping containers is pulled directly from the third game. There’s a shot later on featuring Nate in a cavern discovering an old ship that’s identical to a scene in Uncharted 4: a Thief’s End. All of the gameplay mechanics that make the Uncharted series what it is are used: climbing, platforming, parkour, hand-to-hand combat, shooting, puzzle-solving, and even rope-swinging are featured. It’s a great way to adapt a video game to a movie. 

This film also manages to tease more of what’s to come in potential sequels while also feeling like a good standalone story. It gets us excited for more while feeling like a satisfactory tale. 

The Bad

The pacing early on in the film feels a little rushed. We’re barely introduced to characters when we’re thrown into the action. It does even itself out more as the movie continues and the pacing feels better later on, but more time could have been given to explore the characters, the rules of this world, and the mission they’re on. 

There are objects that Nate carries on his person that are vital to the plot. These include his smart phone, a lighter, and postcards. Each of which spend an awfully long time submerged in water during multiple instances throughout the film. They’re all impervious to water apparently as the phone works like brand new, the lighter still lights, and the postcards aren’t a pile of mush. I can buy death-defying stunts happening in an action movie, but this detail makes no sense to me. 

This is an overall strange way to go about an adaptation for any form of media. They tell a brand new story in the spirit of the source material, which is similar to most comic book movies, but they completely recreate exact moments and shots from the source material as if it were adapted from a novel. Uncharted is such a story-oriented video game series that they could have just adapted the first game, instead they told their own story. Imagine if there was just one Harry Potter movie where Harry, along with his friends Ron and Luna (because Hermione isn’t in it for some reason), goes to a magical school, competes in the Triwizard Tournament, discovers the Chamber of Secrets, and battles Voldemort. It’s in the spirit of the books and recreates many great moments, but it’s a new story compared to what the source material is. That’s the Uncharted movie that we got. It’s a great movie and does feel like the video games brought to life, but there are odd decisions made with it in terms of an adaptation. 

Speaking of odd decisions, it may seem like an origin story leading up to the games, but it’s not. Holland isn’t playing “Young Drake” like in the flashbacks of Uncharted 4; he’s present day Nathan Drake. There’s even a flashback in the movie with a “Young Nathan Drake” that’s not Tom Holland. They have already recreated scenes from the later games, so they won’t be building up to them. These actors all perform well and behave exactly like the characters in the games, but are all decades younger than their video game counterparts. Mark Wahlberg is closer to the appropriate age of Nate than Holland is. 

Conclusion

Uncharted may not be the big jump that video game adaptations need to reach the top of the box office, but it is a massive step toward that. We’re not quite at the Marvel Cinematic Universe level, but we are thankfully beyond the black leather X-Men stage. It has some pacing issues early on, uses some questionable logic, and features bizarre decisions for an adaptation, but it still captures the fun of a video game. 

This film is a perfect example of going to the movie theater to experience a massive spectacle. It’s action-packed, over-the-top, contains several surprises, and has a third act that’s absolutely bonkers without ever getting too dumb or farfetched. Plus, it’s a fun revisit to the treasure hunting genre for those who enjoy Indiana Jones and The Goonies

This movie is certainly not without its flaws, but it’s still hugely entertaining for fans of the video game series (with references throughout like the Naughty Dog logo on a case) and for newcomers to the franchise. It’ll be exciting to discover where the adventure will take us next. 

Rating: 8/10

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