The Peanut Gallery Reviews Uncharted
PG Score: 6/10
Uncharted was released in theaters on 2/18/22
Following in the footsteps of the main character, Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland and Venom) boldly ventures into unexplored territory, which will keep the gamers in the audience on their toes…and maybe ruffle some feathers. The adaptation still pays reasonable homage to the source material, but questionable casting and dry dialogue prevent it from striking gold. While far from a bust, Uncharted fails to live up to the potential that is just waiting to be discovered for much of the two-hour runtime.
The story serves as a prequel to the bestselling video game series of the same name. It centers on wisecracking thief Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) as he is recruited by treasure hunting enthusiast Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), who is seeking Ferdinand Magellan’s missing fortune. Facing extreme peril at the hands of the merciless Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas), the pair must work together to reach the prize and maybe even find Nate’s long-lost brother.
While he ensures his own brand is apparent, Fleischer sets aside time to offer nods to developer Naughty Dog’s unparalleled adventure series that made the movie possible. Various character clothing, multi-step puzzles, and locations will be instantly recognizable to franchise veterans. There are also Easter eggs scattered throughout, including a few that reward eagle-eyed viewers in particular. Most noticeable are a few familiar set pieces, led by an exciting opening pulled directly from an iconic chapter from one of the installments. In fact, the film’s introduction itself honors the games as they all begin with breathtaking action sequences.
A Daunting Task
For fans like myself who have devoured every second of the near-flawless games, it is virtually a foregone conclusion that any attempt to bring that magic to the big screen would fall shy of the mark. Keeping that disclaimer in mind, Fleischer flaunts some entertaining action but is unable to capture the awe-inspiring spectacle found within the PlayStation powerhouse. There are several times when it seems Uncharted is on the cusp of diving into something special, only to do a cannonball into more familiar waters instead. Transferring the adrenaline rush felt while playing through every frenzied firefight, high-speed vehicular pursuit, grueling fistfight, and heart-racing platforming section to film is no easy task. While it proves to be too much for the Gangster Squad helmer, his efforts are not without merit.
Because Fleischer essentially removes shootouts from the equation, the action focuses on brawls and environmental hazards. This results in a somewhat lopsided final product, but the choreography and colossal scale help fill the void. Nate and Sully venture all over the world, and the diverse backdrops add color to their thrilling stunts. There is a lighthearted tone present for the entire movie, so the clashes opt for amusement over intensity. The pacing moves quickly and allows the breezy mayhem to be the main attraction, if nothing else.
In general, the writing leaves much to be desired. Hardcore fans awaiting the clever banter that the games are known for would be wise to temper their expectations. The playful back-and-forth between Nate and Sully never fully clicks. There are a few chuckles to be had, but the humor fails to land consistently. Introspective monologues miss the mark, and (what are intended to be) witty remarks distract from the action rather than enhance it.
Given that Uncharted takes place prior to the games, some degree of latitude should be granted in terms of character likeness. Taking that into account, the most glaring problem still lies within the casting. Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, while both competent actors, are simply not the right fits for their respective roles.
Even as a younger version of Nate, Holland does not exhibit the mannerisms or exude the swagger of his video game counterpart. As evidenced by his performance in the 2018 live action short film, Nathan Fillion is a dead ringer for Nathan Drake. He faithfully embodies the character and genuinely feels like “the guy.” The fact the full-length movie functions as a predecessor clearly factored into the decision to cast the younger Holland instead. The same applies to Wahlberg’s Sully. A gruff and grizzled performer would be ideal, but due to the timeline, a more gracefully aging candidate was selected. The Boogie Nights actor moseys through his lines and never really seems to be invested in the part.
Antonio Banderas’ Santiago Moncada is an underwhelming bad guy. A trite backstory and one-dimensional personality leave the Oscar nominee with little chance for memorability. Tati Gabrielle portrays Braddock, who makes for a better villain. The actress convincingly conveys her cold nature and vicious skill set. It is worth noting that both antagonists are original characters. Sophia Ali plays Chloe Frazer and bears an adequate resemblance to the mercurial explorer. She enthusiastically embraces the role, and her performance does justice to the fan favorite from the source material.
A Valiant Effort
Ruben Fleischer teases glimpses of a gem that never quite sees enough daylight to shine. Still, the filmmaker attacks the gargantuan responsibility of adapting the legendary video game series with admirable gusto. At the risk of coming up short on the goods at the destination, the full throttle journey makes Uncharted worth plotting a course for.