Uncharted is based on the very popular action-adventure videogame series of the same name, which is somewhat inspired by the Indiana Jones franchise. I know the film is not very accurately matched to the game, and some of the game’s fans have criticised it for that reason. The film was in development hell for over a decade—it was first announced in 2008, but arrived in 2022. It went through various directors and actors, with the version that might have been decent the one David O’Russell wanted to do. O’Russell was attached for a year and a half, but actor Nathan Fillion campaigned for the role and got a lot of backing from fans of the role. One went so far as to actually ask O’Russell about it, who furthered his reputation as “Hollywood’s nicest guy” by being very dismissive and even claiming he had never heard of Fillion, who had starred in Firefly. Alex Garland, a great writer and director, also worked on the script at one point. Back in the day, Mark Wahlberg was supposed to be the lead, but by 2022 he was in a different role instead.
It ended up with Ruben Fleischer at the helm, a director I think is actually not terrible by any means. But the film itself was pretty damn disposable. I have no experience with the game at all, since it came out after my own gaming period. But based on my research, it looks like it was designed as a prequel to the game, a move that has not been well-received by some fans. It’s done very well at the box office nevertheless.
It’s kind of a mishmash between Indiana Jones, National Treasure and even a bit of The Fast and the Furious. I get the sense that there was a good videogame movie that could have been gotten out this, but it’s really bland. It feels soulless, and there’s not much to it despite a very convoluted plot. A lot of it feels like you’re just watching someone playing a videogame. The script was ridiculous, with some of the most ludicrous movie physics that I’ve seen since Shadow in the Cloud, and I just couldn’t manage to care about the characters, although Tom Holland is perfectly fine as lead character Nathan Drake. Videogame films are incredibly difficult to do and 99% of them are terrible—the 2018 Tomb Raider movie being one of the rare exceptions, since it’s stripped down and grounded in some kind of tangible reality.
Probably the best sequence is the silliest, where Drake is hanging out of a plane and keeps being thrown from one cargo crate to another so much that he might as well be playing Spider-Man again, it completely defies gravity. Magically he ends up surviving these various falls, as if he had spidey sense to get connected with yet another box. The director has claimed that the stunts were inspired by Jackie Chan, but at least Chan did his own stunts, and they were real. The special effects aren’t that great, other than the vertigo-inducing scene just mentioned, which is clearly some kind green screen.
The rest of the film revolves around that scene, and Wahlberg is phoning it in as usual these days. Antonio Banderas is a bad guy who’s also after the same treasure as Holland. It’s clear that this one was just a nice paycheck for him, he’s turning in a plain performance and nothing more. I hope Banderas schooled young Mr. Holland on the work of Pedro Almodóvar after he claimed to know who the Spanish director was on a Spider-Man: Far from Home press junket. There’s not much else to be said about this one, and that’s a shame –for the most part Fleischer’s previous films have been perfectly fine mainstream movies.
The 4K disc includes a commentary from Fleischer and the usual deleted scenes and various featurettes, although none of these go into the long and arduous development of Uncharted, which is more interesting than the film itself.