Uncharted: The Movie (Review)

I have zero chill when it comes to Uncharted.

It was one of the reasons why I wanted a PS5 (they have since released the games on PC but hadn’t back then). I saw an advert and was instantly hooked. I have a love affair for ‘archaeological treasure hunts’ when it comes to movies. Books have been a bit hit and miss (I think I might need to write my own to have something I truly love). A lot of the same issues plague the movies but I guess the visual bonanza makes it easier to ignore. I got the Tomb Raider game for free on the PC and I didn’t overly enjoy that (I found it frustrating for some reason but can’t recall why now). Anyway quite why I thought I would really like the Uncharted games I don’t know. But I asked for the remastered ‘Nathan Drake collection’ (aka the first 3 games) AND the remastered ‘Legacy of Thieves’ collection. I got the entire set having not played a single minute.

Fortunately I did really enjoy the games. I have completed the campaigns on 1 & 2 and have almost finished 3. I am not that good at it so I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get all the trophies but I will go back and try and get some of them. It’s a bit annoying that the trophies require all the difficultly modes (I like normal/easy ok, don’t judge).

Anyway! That’s the game and this post is about the movie. I’m just saying the perspective that I came to the movie with. Someone that loves the genre, has played the games (well half of them) and put the movie on my “must watchlist” the second I heard it was a thing post-getting the games.

So what did I think?

Casting was not the best

Writing was… missed the point in a fairly crucial area

Realism went out the window for the finale in a way that was probably fair for how crazy the games can be but ehhh didn’t hit the right note

Sounds negative? Let’s take the points one by one
The game is probably not very realistic in terms of what the human body can do. All that leaping and jumping and climbing. Tom Holland is an incredible physical actor who was Spider-Man and is probably the most believable actor for being able to do those things. The problem is compared to the game he’s too young. He still has his “I’m a teenager” look going on. So while it’s a ‘young mans game’ and therefore realistic, I did find it a bit jarring.

The actress who played Chloe was obviously also younger, so that she was a match for Holland’s Drake. Mark Wahlberg played Sully and that was the worst casting of all to be honest which brings me to the point where casting marries with my major writing complaint.

Where was the heart?

I get that in the movie they were going for a kind of ‘origin story’ whereas in the games the characters have known each other for years. I don’t pretend to understand why the movie thought it had to do that, but ok. Maybe my perspective is warped because I die so often in the game so I have heard the “Nate!” and “Oh God no!” and other expressions of grief so often, but dammit the feeling is that these people care about each other. They risk their lives for each other, doing crazy stunts sometimes. Even in the second game where Chloe did a “is she a traitor? is she not?” turn there was a warmth to her. Now a good part of that might be because Claudia Black did the voice acting and she is phenomenal. She brought that kind of warmth to ‘grey’ characters with Vala in Stargate, and with Aeryn in Farscape. It’s like “I pretend I’m all about me, but actually I am really loyal” and I love that vibe. It’s something I really like in characters.

There was none of that in the movie really. It did just come across as very pure-self interest. I know at the very end Sully did let his gold go in order to save Drake but he hesitated a long time. It was so cold and all about the money for most of the movie. Chloe too. It was all backstabbing and not in the friendly rivalry kind of way. Some of that was definitely the writing but I do also think some of it was the casting/direction. There was no chemistry, there was no feeling of camaraderie or banter.

The complaint I had about the helicopters managing to lift massive wooden ships and have a flying aerial battle is secondary really compared to the lack of heart. It was stunning and crazy and really sad in a way. I mean suspension of disbelief said those ships were super old, and they were super well-preserved, and then they hit them against the rocks and smashed them to bits and they fell into the ocean and sank. How tragic and what a waste. It felt like it was done for the spectacle and I have serious doubts that helicopters could lift that kind of weight let alone be that agile. There’s suspension of disbelief like for that crazy action sequence when they are falling out of the plane and climbing up the cargo pallets which are trailing out the back – I will go along with that to a point, and then there’s just no way physics doesn’t work like that. Now I don’t know physics all that well so maybe helicopters can do that kind of thing, but it didn’t feel right to me.

Was anything good?
Sure it was an Uncharted movie.

I said at the beginning I have a love affair with this genre, and I also find movies the most excusable when it comes to the crazy. So I will let a lot slide just to enjoy the treasure hunt. I actually bought the blu-ray as I wanted to see it really badly, I’m not going to the cinema right now, and I had waited several months and it still wasn’t on netflix etc. I am sure I will watch it again, possibly multiple times. Every single time I will probably bemoan that it isn’t what I wish it was – that I wish it had the heart of the games – but it’s a treasure hunt movie, and there just aren’t enough of those.

I do actually hope there will be a sequel. I think perhaps if there is, now the film-makers have got the crazy ‘origin’ story out of their systems they could perhaps settle into the family dynamic of the games, and have the heart/warmth that was missing here. I do think that Mark Wahlberg was not the best choice as Sully. Like Holland he is too young to match the game but that is more accurate to real life possibilities so that’s ok. However, he doesn’t have the… think Burn Notice, think Sam Axe – now that is basically a perfect Sully. Bruce Campbell would have been perfect. He has the heart, the loyalty, and yet can do a convincing ‘I just want the money’ as a facade on top. He would be too old to match with Holland so I am not suggesting they should have cast him, I’m just saying that’s the kind of vibe I think the actor should have given off.

As I said I do have similar feelings regarding the actress that played Chloe but I haven’t seen her in anything else. Wahlberg is just like that, so I didn’t think he could summon the warmth required, but perhaps with some different writing/better direction that actress could. Although it’s tough line, that strength but also vulnerability, to give the correct impression of the loyalty but only because it suits me, and maybe otherwise but shut up I don’t really care except I do. As I said Claudia Black is a master at it, can even put it across in voice. Hannah John-Karmen in Killjoys as Dutch was also pretty damn good at it, I could have totally gone with fancasting her as a younger Chloe to be honest.

Does any movie ever match the source material? Book adaptations are usually lackluster, the Warcraft movie didn’t hit the right notes, the Assassin’s Creed movie didn’t either. I think the common thread is that movies have to do a lot with much less time, whereas the other mediums have more space to develop everything. So I guess with that in mind the Uncharted movie wasn’t bad. It just didn’t hit the right vibe. Seriously I keep coming back to the lack of heart but that was the most disappointing part for me.

Still want a sequel though.