The Uncharted franchise was always an interesting series to me. As someone who grew up playing video games in the early 2000’s and continued to do so on and off into the present day, I got to experience firsthand the evolution of gaming from a pixelated mishmash of goofy mechanics and cobbled together stories to the birth of cinematic gameplay. I don’t think another series truly represents that transition more so than Uncharted. When the first game came out, it really served as a vanguard for Sony, ushering in the future of storytelling in videogames as well as a paragon of hope for the flailing PlayStation 3. In retrospect, it’s easy to see why. Uncharted has always been a series that focused on translating the bombastic, edge of your seat excitement of a summer blockbuster to a video game kids and adults alike can enjoy. To see this concept then be translated to a film may seem like a natural step to many, but for others such as myself, it had seemed like a step in the wrong direction. After seeing the film, I really think it falls into the category of the latter.
First things first, this movie is a generic treasure hunt movie. There is some untold fortune in some exotic location and in order to get it, our pioneering heroes need to trot across the globe in order to find it. Luckily for them, they have the knowledge, skills, and equipment to do so and are on the verge of collecting the last piece of this centuries’ old puzzle. Unluckily for them, they aren’t the only ones. This plot description may carry the gist of Uncharted, but it also describes about a dozen movies from the last decade alone. Nothing truly interesting occurs, there are no incredibly breathtaking feats of action, and the characters are interesting as cardboard.
Procedural cop dramas – television series like Law and Order where events play out in a structured and predictable manner across the genre, regardless of the show’s name – have been a thing for decades, but nowadays it seems that we’ve entered the age of procedural action movies, where every burgeoning action franchise attempts to do their best Fast and Furious imitation. It really makes for a digestible but altogether uninteresting experience, like eating your wife’s cooking on a Thursday evening after eating dinner at home every night for the past week and packing leftovers for lunch at work the next morning.
However, that isn’t to say this is a bad movie or a flawed one. Being bland doesn’t mean bad. In fact, there isn’t anything overtly trite or awful in this movie. In fact, I did enjoy one aspect of this film: the performances of Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg. Without these two, this movie would be unwatchable. Their charisma and talent alone make these characters likable and makes you as a viewer want them to succeed, at least at a surface level. Whatever deep-seated emotions or inner conflicts they attempt to resolve over the course of this two-hour runtime are altogether useless, unimportant, and uninspiring to me as a viewer and for that, it makes a discussion on themes, deeper meanings, motifs, and the like, pointless. With that said, the lack of compelling characters is not the fault of the actors, but the scripts they were given.
If this film was dropped on a streaming service in time for a long weekend, I’d say this is a must watch, because in the world of the multitude streaming services we find ourselves in, the more content the better. But because this film is not streaming and is only premiering in theaters, this really is a hit or miss decision. If you were a fan of the games, this may be an interesting experience worth watching. However, I did find it strange that they’re telling an origin story for Nathan Drake in the present day while the games are set in the mid 2010s. If you’re in the market for a basic action movie though, this is exactly what you’re looking for.