As a massive Uncharted fan, the day they announced the movie, I immediately went into panic mode. Why? Well, let’s be honest here. There aren’t many actually GOOD video game movies out there. So the fact that the people behind this film wanted to turn these already incredibly cinematic games into movies that were basically very long films by themselves—it definitely scared me. How will they translate more than 20 hours long game runs? Who will they cast? Which game will they adapt? I mean, there are 4 main Uncharted games about Nathan Drake out there.
Now that we have all the answers to all these questions, it's time to review the final result that seems to be dividing critics and fans as the movie has a 39% Rotten Tomatoes score from the critics but a high 90% from the fans. Who’s right? Warning, this is going to be a treasure trove of SPOILERS!
I have to go all the way back to the marketing campaign. It was brilliant, and it definitely helped me adjust my expectations. The behind-the-scenes look with Neil Druckmann and Tom Holland talking about the movie’s take on the game was key. They assured us that this is their own spin on the story of the games, and we won’t be getting a word-for-word adaptation. That helped me keep an open mind about the film. Adding to that was Nolan North’s honest support from the beginning: if Nathan Drake himself says it’s gonna be good, you should listen to the man.
And here’s the thing… It is a really fun ride from beginning to end.
It was a great choice not to adapt one specific story from the games but, instead, put together their own origin story for Holland’s Drake. I'm also a hardcore fan of seeing familiar things referenced in new stories, like the orphanage from Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End along with Sam and Nate’s beginnings. Even though I originally hated that Mark Wahlberg’s Sully didn’t have a mustache, the feeling disappeared pretty quickly, seeing the chemistry between him and Tom Holland is one of the bright spots of the film.
Hold up! Before I get too deep into the good stuff, let me do a run-through of things that weren’t great at all. And I will start with the one that bothers me immensely.
Here's what I didn't like in the movie.
Chloe Frazer. It wasn’t her. Simple as that. No hate towards the actress at all (Sophia Ali) who tried her best, but this role definitely wasn’t for her. What annoyed me the most is that they downgraded Chloe’s character (and Sully’s for that matter) in order to make Nate appear smarter. In the game franchise, Chloe is just as knowledgeable as Nate. In this film, though, she barely adds anything to the actual treasure hunt. She feels like a tag along character, it’s always Nate who figures things out, there’s only one or two instances where she adds anything to solve the puzzle and it’s the tiniest bit. She was there, sure. She did things, yes.
But it was nowhere near to the badass, smart, witty, great con artist she is in the games. I missed her remarks towards Nate. She radiated confidence in the games, but here I didn’t feel any of that. Most importantly she didn’t have any chemistry at all with Nate or Sully. As much as you could feel it between Wahlberg and Holland it was basically non-existent between her and the others. The only thing that really felt like the Chloe we have come to love from the games is her ability to play both sides of the conflict for her personal gain. She's a chaotic neutral character so it's great to see that come to life in the film as well.
Chloe is one of my all-time favorite video game characters, and I’ve found my way into cosplaying through that character. Therefore not really seeing the tiniest bit of resemblance (even in the clothes or hair like they did with Nate) was very disappointing. Moving forward, the writers need to really flesh her out more when it comes to her in possible future films for me to be able to say ‘Yes, this is it.’ But, to be fully honest, based on this movie I also don’t think that Sophia Ali can bring the whole energy and aura that Chloe has.
The "enemies" of the story, Antonio Banderas’ Santiago Moncada and Tati Gabrielle’s Braddock, were both incredibly underdeveloped, probably because of the small amount of time they had to fit them in. This is another disadvantage that watching a movie has compared to playing a game. All the villainous characters from the games were memorable, but not just because they were formidable (Braddock in the movie), but also because we had the time to get to know their motives and them a lot better. The backstory to the Moncada family could be fully left out in this film and it wouldn’t affect anything in the story. In fact, his whole character could be scrapped out entirely streamlining the runtime and giving the more interesting villain more screen time. Speaking of, the character Braddock is giving off some serious Nadine Ross vibes (a mercenary in Uncharted 4). Her introduction in the film has similarities to Nadine’s story arc in the fourth game and even her position as a mercenary leader. But we barely got to know her at all. Although they hinted at her connection to Sully multiple times it was never entirely clear what happened between them.
Now back to the good things.
First up: Nathan Drake. I can say with a big smile on my face that Tom Holland was an excellent choice. It is so obvious throughout the entire movie that he loves playing Nate, and that warmed my heart. During the fight scenes or when they are on the actual treasure hunt itself, you could just feel it on his every move and the way his face lit up. I loved how they built him up from a petty thief to the treasure hunter who we all love so much. Smart-mouth all around, a bit clumsy sometimes—it was his first time running after treasure after all. He really did a kickass job with the character. Although they changed Nate’s origin story (he didn’t escape from the orphanage with Sam, his whole introduction to Sully is different) but I can see his Nathan Drake turn into Nolan North’s (Uncharted game series) wise cracking older Drake in future installments.
Next, Sully got “upgraded.” He is more involved in the action, but of course that’s because he is much younger in the film vs the games where he is quite a bit older. I thought that Wahlberg was pretty fun in the role and really made a great team with Tom Holland. The creators were onto something when they paired them up. In the games, Sully’s character wasn’t as knowledgeable as Nate, Chloe, or Sam, but he definitely knew his way around and picked up on things really quickly. Even though Sully in the movie started out a bit cold-hearted and selfish, the writers slowly built him up to be the character we all love. He begins to care about Nate and even a cat that becomes a recurring joke throughout the film.Through this, I was once again reminded that this is an origin story for both us game fans and for those who knew nothing about the games beforehand.
I also absolutely adored that they choose to open the movie in a similar manner to the second and the fourth game where we get a glimpse into the trouble that our hero gets into later on in the story. It all starts with the scene we already saw in the trailers, the whole falling out of the plane with the crates bit, timeline-wise it happens closer to the climax. That’s exactly how they opened Uncharted 2 where Nate wakes up in a train that’s hanging down from the edge of the cliff. Uncharted 4 opens with Nate and Sam on the sea trying to get away from the mercenaries chasing them. Such a good callback. There were a lot of callbacks like that along the way. Some made me smile, others made me straight-up giggle. There was even one where I literally gasped and laughed at the same time. Lagasped? I don’t know, but I do know that my loud reaction came as a surprise to all the fellow people in the cinema.
And, of course, Nolan's cameo in the movie is no longer a secret. I don’t even know if it was secret to begin with: I think we all expected it since cameos in movies from the original actors are pretty common (Johnny Depp in 21 Jump Street, David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser in Starsky and Hutch etc.), and Tom Holland obviously “spoiled” it during his Jacksepticeye video appearance. If there were other people in the cinema with me who played the games, they either didn’t recognize Nolan or were very quiet about it. What it confirmed for me is how many people watch these movies without knowing anything about the games.
The action throughout the movie was spectacular, and it was very clear that they put all they had into those sequences. It didn’t just come out as fun but also extremely exciting. A big highlight was the part where Nathan and Sully fight together in the end, it was the peak of their chemistry, and it made the movie even more enjoyable.I loved how it was the first time they fought side to side and they were able to help each other, the whole choreography of the scene added so much to it.
The treasure hunting parts themselves were also well done, even if the puzzles got solved a bit too quickly to my liking and didn’t really come close to what we experience in the games. What I mean here is the secret entrances to tombs or hidden temples that no one has ever been in, but our main characters run through them like it’s nothing, figuring stuff out almost without a problem. Sure, this is the result of the time limit they have when it comes to movies. I also think that it is a common problem when it comes to movies like this.
All together, what we got is a very fun movie that pulls away enough from the game to be different but definitely keeps important details enough to feel familiar to the fans. It was a welcome surprise how much I actually liked it, and it is easily among the better game adaptations I’ve seen so far. Then again, given the part about movies that were based on games, this wasn't a hard trophy to earn. There’s an after-credits scene where the filmmakers open the door for even more live-action adventures for Nate and Sully. The movie already made $44,155,000 on opening weekend in the US so we can most likely expect news of a second movie, which I honestly wouldn’t mind at all.
And don't forget: Sic Parvis Magna - Great things from small beginnings. Alright, my fellow Uncharted game fans, have you seen the Uncharted movie yet? What were your impressions? Let's get out those good and bad reactions in the comments!