Genre: Action and Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 56 min.
Release Date: February 18th, 2022 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Ruben Fleischer Actors: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, Steven Waddington, Pingi Moli
rowing up in an orphanage together, Sam Drake imparts his love of exploration and artifact-hunting onto his younger brother Nathan. When Sam’s continued larceny finds him facing imprisonment, he’s forced to abscond. Years later, Nathan (Tom Holland) has grown up, but hasn’t lost his love for mischief and pilferage. When a more experienced “acquisitions specialist,” Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), approaches Nathan with information about both his long-lost brother and the long-lost riches of famed explorer Ferdinand Magellan, Drake is thrust into a race against time and competitors – ranging from fellow fortune seeker Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali) to ruthless financier Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) and his hired army of mercenaries, led by the murderous Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle).
Despite a few blaring differences – namely the ages of Drake and Sully compared to their polygonal counterparts – “Uncharted” accomplishes what few game-to-film adaptations can tout: faithfully simulating the source material. The look and feel of the film are ripped straight from game company Naughty Dog’s highly revered quadrilogy. While the plot finds the questers globetrotting to slightly different locations in pursuit of slightly different trinkets, their journey emulates almost identically the adventure the player behind the controller would experience. Invincible protagonists, increasingly difficult henchmen, vividly reminiscent environments, and escalating fantasy action sequences mimic the games with surprising accuracy. Even Wahlberg and Holland’s performances offer an impressively sincere recreation of the game duo’s verbal jousting and camaraderie.
Yet the film’s perplexing desire to change key – though ultimately trivial – plot points and character interactions from what the games established will undoubtedly cause consternation among diehard fans. But the ensuing adventure still retains the humor and excitement most endearing to the franchise. The irony lies in the fact that while the video games broke ground by allowing consumers a chance to play in a game that feels like a movie, the reverse is a movie that feels like a video game – a concept that isn’t exactly fresh in the world of cinema. The sense of gameplay fun isn’t an easy concept to translate to the big screen – there are no characters here to manipulate; viewers are instead at the mercy of the equivalent of two-hours of non-interactive cutscenes.
This is never more apparent than with the cold open, which works to elaborate upon one of the greatest of all airplane stunts, originally seen in “The Living Daylights,” in which characters grapple and dangle from cargo netting. But without the luxury of players specifically navigating their captive alter-ego through pause-able tussles and goals, this sequence is simply too steeped in computer graphics and models to impart any realism or tension. It’s ludicrously over-the-top.
Ultimately, since controlling someone else’s actions through fantasy scenarios isn’t possible, the result is a prominent lack of originality; from the orphaned troublemakers, to the mysterious man offering a ticket out of mediocrity, to familial estrangement, to the overly knowledgable hotshot with a very specific interest in Magellan, to a total absence of restraint before heading off on a worldwide adventure with a complete stranger, “Uncharted’s” premise incorporates every component necessary for a terribly generic actioner. Even the subplots, motives, backstories, antagonists, love interests, and snappy gibes are frightfully commonplace. And when puzzles are brought up, referencing the video game, they’re strangely unsatisfying; audiences aren’t a part of their solving, which means they’re not of much use as a tool for amplifying suspense or thrills. In fact, most of them are dull and unspecific, augmented by mystifying coincidences (such as how complex machinery would still be operable centuries after disuse).
Plus, the successes or failures of the lead characters are never of much consequence; they’re all utterly unconquerable, with devil-may-care attitudes amid perilous interactions that pose no believable threats. It certainly doesn’t help that they’re also morally indistinguishable from the villains – going so far as to switch sides regularly – displaying a duplicitousness that makes them all tremendously unlikable. The best of them are mere thieves, while the worst leave their accomplices to die; this assortment of booty searchers is entirely untrustworthy and undependable, making the continued, fragile alliances even more disappointing when they expectedly fall apart. There are intermittent nods to Indiana Jones, but no favorable recreations in tone or action or character designs; the exhilaration of archaeology, as so famously manufactured by that fedora-adorned adventurer, is nowhere to be found here. No matter how faithful to the source material “Uncharted” may be, it doesn’t equate to a competent adventure film.
– The Massie Twins