As I watched the thrilling mid-air action scene that opens Uncharted, I realized that it seemed familiar to me. That’s because it’s lifted entirely from the fourth entry in the PlayStation video game series that inspired the film. The similarities don’t stop there, as the core plot and a flashback framing device featuring younger versions of lead character Nathan Drake and his brother are also direct transfers from the fourth game.
This close adherence to the source material has its perks and drawbacks. It’s great that the producers trusted the game blueprint enough to lean on it so heavily for the film, ensuring that the final product feels like it belongs in the Uncharted universe. Unfortunately, that slavish devotion to the source also generates major deja vu for viewers who played the game, with the final product frequently feeling more like a super cut of the fourth game’s cinematic cutscenes than a new original concept that can stand on its own merits.
And then there’s the time component. Even at two hours long, the film struggles to introduce and develop chemistry between Drake (Tom Holland) and his mentor/partner Sully (Mark Wahlberg), not to mention their other co-stars. The game takes at least 15 hours to complete and follows the three similarly lengthy previous entries in the core series, with constant banter between Drake and Sully, making for a much more organic and satisfying development of their relationship. I’m not saying it should have been a TV series, but the movie friendship seriously pales in comparison to the games.
For the non-gamers out there, Uncharted follows the globe-trotting adventures of Drake and Sully as they search for ancient treasure, this time a vast hoard of gold in two Spanish ships lost since Magellan’s expedition. It’s a bit like Indiana Jones, but with more intense Tomb Raider action. The movie has some fun callbacks to the games in addition to the overall plot rehash, including a brief sighting of a sticker on a suitcase for original game studio Naughty Dog, as well as a cameo by original Nathan Drake voice actor, Nolan North.
While the fourth game served as a retirement party for Nathan Drake, the plot has been somewhat retooled here to become an origin story to accommodate Holland’s tender age. The film was in development for so many years that Wahlberg was originally attached as Drake, but forced to move to the elder statesman role of Sully due to the delays and the age reset. While they’re both fine in their roles, and Holland in particular is super devoted to his craft, they never really feel like Drake and Sully. For me, the Drake character has always seemed exactly like Nathan Fillion in looks, mannerisms, and speech. Sully should be grizzled and gone to seed, even as a younger character, not the still rock-solid Wahlberg. What we got instead are capable actors that could conceivably carry a film franchise for many, many years to come if Sony so desires, even if they never quite make the characters their own.
Director Ruben Fleischer keeps the action moving by the numbers, offering little visual pizazz but effectively framing the action scenes. There’s one particularly bonkers action set piece at the end that is so preposterous even video game designers couldn’t have come up with it, featuring the two ancient treasure ships in combat in mid-air, with Holland swashbuckling all over one of the ships while they dangle from helicopters. That scene and the cargo plane madness that opens the film help to make up for the undercooked character development.
The Blu-ray is presented in 1080p HD 2.39:1, with default 5.1 DTS-HD MA sound. It includes plenty of bonus features that auto play right after the end credits, with a few deleted and extended scenes, behind the scenes looks at the action, villains, heroes, and Drake’s origins.