I have not played any Uncharted game, now up to six on Sony systems. Essentially the only thing I know is a few of the characters, namely Nathan Drake and Sully, and the type of games they are. So one might think I’m not the audience for the film adaptation, starring Tom Holland as Drake and Mark Wahlberg as Sully. But I love serial-like action adventures. Heck, Captain America: The First Avenger is one of my favorite MCU flicks for that reason. And who doesn’t love the Indiana Jones series? So, I am the audience for Uncharted, no matter if I played a game or not. As it should be for anyone watching it. I can’t tell you if the film works as an adaptation of the game. But I can tell you it doesn’t work as a good film. Uncharted is a thoroughly dull adventure with mostly lackluster set-pieces, inane dialogue, and a whole lot of stupid to bring the movie from one plot point to the next.
Like every action in the movie is built upon five hundred years of people being absolute morons. From Magellan’s sailors who hid the gold our heroes and villains seek, to city planners and builders in Barcelona, and said heroes and villains who miss incredibly obvious clues that practically smack them in the face.
The Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) film starts in media res, in the midst of an action sequence that might as well have the voice-over “well this me, how did I get here you ask?” It immediately doesn’t bold well with some really wonky rag doll physics. I know action movies stretch that, I’m not an “oh that can’t happen” purist, but Uncharted immediately breaks my belief suspenders. It’s the sort of moves that you don’t question in a game, but look awful in a film.
Maybe it’s a blessing there isn’t another action sequence, well the same one just the full version, for another 70 minutes. Okay, there are two very small ones, but they are so poorly choreographed and short – blink and gone, they barely register. Most of this time is spent setting up Drake’s adventure. He’s a small-time pickpocket and grifter working at a fancy bar (but somehow doesn’t know to sip wine, choosing to chug it, later on, to show he’s an inexperienced rube?). He’s roped into an adventure by Sully, a larger-scale adventure grifter who worked with Nathan Drake’s missing older brother. Sully and older Drake were looking for the hidden gold brought to Barcelona by the surviving captain and 18 sailors who traveled around the world with Magellean (he died in the Phillippines, they finished the circumnavigation). Two crosses of gold will unlock the path. They have one, and now they need the other to figure out the next step. This allows for the first heist sequence, of which the reasons and hows are full of “wait what?” thoughts that don’t stop once they start. Ineffective Bad Guy Anthonio Bandaras also wants it at this auction, and if he wins the auction it’s not stealable any longer? Or so they say to create an unneeded urgent nature.
I’m not going to tell you, dear reader, all of the inanities to follow, as that gets past first act spoiler, but I’m going to say a few things here that made me roll my eyes so skip if you want. Sully is stuck on the next step, involving a drawing of a pine tree in a journal. Nathan points the way… to a church WITH THE LOGO OF THE DRAWING CALLED THE SISTERS OF THE PINE TREE. This sets an adventure under the church, into chambers that have obviously been much visited by other people as they are sewers, a nightclub, and a large chamber they are looking for with a SEWER GRATE for characters to talk to each other. A sewer grate. Next to a complicated series of gears and doors apparently NO ONE has noticed for FIVE HUNDRED years. Even when building a, grumble… PAPA JOHN’S pizzeria that incorporates some of these. An obvious corporate tie in a business where Sully can fire a lot of bullets into a wall and just walk outside with no police showing up.
What this sequence leads to makes ZERO sense when thought about later, except to continue the globe-trotting expected of such a film.
Underwhelming action sequences follow, though the climax ALMOST gets there, if not so poorly done. Cursing of sudden by inevitable betrayals. Obvious clues are missed. Writers Rafe Judkins, Matt Holloway, and Art Marcum make the characters speak on-the-nose simplistic want to quips at one another. Lots of wirework in front of green screens that look as unconvincing as Egypt in Death on the Nile. The audience sighs at two credit scenes. Bob catches what are obvious nods at the game although he doesn’t know the context.
On top of this, just about every actor is just awful. As I noted, I’ve not played the game. I can’t compare Tom Holland’s lost performance or Mark Whalberg just being Mark Walherg to Sully. Antonio Bandaras phones it in and barely makes an impression (he attempted something for Doolittle, so that’s what a difference it makes). I’ve not even mentioned Sophia Ali as Chloe Frazier yet in this whole review. That’s how little she comes out. If there is a bright, well at least less-rusty, show, it’s Tati Gabrielle as Braddock – a kick-ass mercenary. One of her minions, Steven Waddington, looks so much like my friend Langley it was odd; but he and another henchman Pingi Moli might be iconic in a better movie. Give me a movie about them!
UNCHARTED was just as lost as the treasure the characters are searching for. Underwhelming and barely existent action sequences set in front of greenscreens. A solid rewrite, better-fitting actors, and someone better than Flisher, who landed for Zombieland and nothing else since, and there could be a great, fun flick. You know what – get me Joe Johnston! Or Andy Serkis, he fixed the not-there-Venom into something fun for the sequel.