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Rachel Manning | March 3, 2022

Directed by Ruben Fleischer, the film adaptation of the hugely successful PlayStation game franchise of the same name, Uncharted, has finally released in Australia on 17 February 2022. Release dates for the film had been penned back as early as 2016. Still, the film was delayed due to failure to secure a director and, ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic interrupting principal photography. However, with the action-adventure game series selling over 41 million copies worldwide and being dearly loved by many, it is safe to say fans highly anticipated the release. 

Uncharted follows young bartender and pickpocket Nathan Drake (Tom Holland), who is recruited by fortune hunter Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) to help him in his quest to find the lost treasure of Ferdinand Magellan. However, like in most cases of missing gold, the pair are not the only ones after the fortune. 

First and foremost, let me preface, I have never played an Uncharted video game. I never consumed any Uncharted related media. The only knowledge I had of the source material before watching was my awareness of the criticism with Holland’s casting as Drake, with many fans believing he was far too young for the role. However, I feel critics of the Holland casting will be pleasantly surprised by the charisma and physicality that he brings to Drake. 

I had feared that like many, I would struggle to separate Tom Holland from the Peter Parker role (to be fair, he does do the Spiderman pose during one of the many fight sequences, so he is not entirely helping himself), but his commitment to establishing Drake’s motives and attitude made sure this was not the case and reinforces what a great leading action man Holland is. 

The same cannot be said for Wahlberg. In this film, Mark Wahlberg is Mark Wahlberg. You could replace Sully with any other Wahlberg character and be left with just about the same end product. His character is void of any depth and leaves audiences feeling emotionless towards him, which sadly leaves the ‘team up’ moments with Drake feeling empty. 

The lack of a central villain hinders the characters as well. Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali, and Tati Gabrielle give excellent performances as Santiago Moncada, Chloe, and Braddock, respectively. However, the constant backstabbing and changes in motives hinder their character development and leave audiences feeling somewhat neutral during the film’s attempt at an impactful third act. 

Additionally, the cinematography is almost commercial-like. Unnatural and over-sharpened to the point where I found myself waiting for sales terms and conditions to flash upon the screen. However, the film makes up for this with its exhilarating action sequences. Although looking unbelievably implausible, the stunts and fight sequences are well-choreographed ultimately making for an exciting watch. In particular, the entire final battle is excellently written and executed. 

Whether you like the video game action film sub-genre or loathe it, it is not disappearing anytime soon, with Sonic the Hedgehog and Tomb Raider set for sequels and hell, even a live-action Minecraft movie (yes, you read that correctly) is currently in development. 

A significant gripe people have with video-game movies is the difficult task they present in translating the source material to the big screen in a way that is satisfying to both the hardcore fan and the casual consumer. However, Uncharted appears to handle this better than some of the genre’s predecessors, with a balanced mix of fan service whilst never presenting an overwhelming amount of game references. 

I never felt overwhelmed with Uncharted universe lore, which is predominantly thanks to the bulk of the plot consisting of adventure movie tropes you’ve seen a million times before. It is evident how heavily the film draws on its influences of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Tomb Raider. Although this may sound off-putting to some, it is done in a way that makes the film a comfortingly familiar watch and something you could easily go back to. 

The film feels extremely quick, without feeling rushed, which works in its favour. With a run-time just short of two hours, it carries on no longer than it needs to. Audiences can be thankful it has not subscribed to the all-too-familiar two and a half-hour plus action movie run time. The quick quips and banter between characters make for entertaining dialogue, and most jokes land well. If that still doesn’t do it for you, there is a fantastic montage in the film’s first act, in which there are several shots of a shirtless Drake working out, which gives many of us non-gamers what we came here for. 

Yes, this film is essentially a mirror image of every other in the action-adventure genre and it certainly doesn’t attempt anything ambitious or ground-breaking. However, it does provide an energetic two hours of entertainment that will appeal to long-time fans of the game whilst also bringing in new fans to the franchise. And if you don’t fit into either of these categories, you will at least have your ‘Tom Holland thirst-watch’ needs fulfilled.

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Rachel Manning

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