Film - Uncharted

Kraig Taylor-Bryant enters Uncharted territory [with a few charted spoilers - Ed] to watch, well, Uncharted...

Did anyone else see that short Uncharted fan film starring Nathan Fillion as Nathan Drake? Well I did and that was pretty good, especially considering the director Allan Ungar didn’t have many projects to his name at all, save for a couple of films maybe in the last ten years. The short version of this article is that the fan film feels like more of an Uncharted film than the 2022 film starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg. Given their odd choice of director, Ruben Fleischer, known for Zombieland and Venom, I shouldn’t be surprised; they hired a comedy/action director for an adventure movie.

I don’t want this to be one of those articles that irrationally starts yelling about how a movie “ruined the franchise” or “killed my love” of Uncharted, because honestly, this just isn’t an Uncharted film, more like if National Treasure had a baby with Fast and Furious, and I want to (try to) calmly analyse why I think so.

For those unfamiliar, the official synopsis of this film, is as follows. “Street-smart Nathan Drake is recruited by seasoned treasure hunter Victor "Sully" Sullivan to recover a fortune amassed by Ferdinand Magellan and lost 500 years ago by the House of Moncada” [according to IMDb - Ed]. Not a bad story plot right? Add to that the intrigue of a man who has travelled round the world in search of gold and you’ve really got something.

But then you add Tom Holland as Nathan Drake, an actor who seems to be trying to be Spiderman, with his unearthly acrobatic skills (which apparently can be excused since Drake grew up on the street), and who unfortunately knows way too much about treasure hunting and history before they’ve even started. Then there’s Mark Wahlberg as Sully Sullivan, a decent action star who seems to be better when acting with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Departed” or Will Ferrell in “The Other Guys”, not so much with a new to the scene actor in Tom Holland.

From a character perspective Nathan Drake doesn’t seem to have an arc. There’s a moment in the story when it seems like he could’ve had a defining character moment. When Nathan is at his lowest he turns to his brother Sam’s guidance (in the form of postcards), at which point, if done differently, he could’ve found his passion for treasure hunting, but it doesn’t have much effect on us as an audience because he had no trouble solving these puzzles earlier anyway. Maybe I feel this way because I wanted to see Nathan learning about treasure hunting, rather than knowing everything like he seems to in the game, so maybe I should’ve tempered my expectations.

It feels like there was probably an earlier draft where Nathan doesn’t have all the answers all the time because, early on in the story, Sully says he tracked down Nathan because of his intriguing history knowledge. It's only we later find out that Sully actually knew Nathan's brother, and thought he could use Nathan to track down the treasure, if Sam told Nathan anything before he went missing. Meaning the whole “existing history knowledge” about everything, didn’t really need to be there. I mean sure the flashback between Nathan and his brother where they set up the plot of the movie was clever, but it doesn’t mean Nathan should instantly become a history buff (alongside his bartending gig as well).

I did love the flashback scene in the beginning though, it seems to set up a theme of legacy, especially when Nathan's brother Sam (Rudy Pankow) talks about their “Sir Francis Drake” blood. On the topic of legacy, the main villain Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas), searches to reclaim his family fortune, who I suppose has some family connection to the lost treasure too? Honestly there was so much information being thrown around so quickly in the form of Wahlberg providing exposition every five minutes, I can’t say for sure.

Whilst on the subject of the villain, the conversation with Moncada and his father (Manuel de Blas) was quite interesting, and Moncada had a lot of charisma, he seemed to just fit perfectly with the adventure genre. It’s just a shame he was unceremoniously killed and overthrown by a much less interesting villain, before we got to see more of him. The less interesting villain, in fact, could have been replaced by the morally grey “Chloe” character (Sophia Ali), who in this film unfortunately comes off as just annoying (her moments of changing accent from English to Aussie are only the half of it).

Chloe initially helps Sully and Nate uncover clues to look for the lost treasure but because she clearly has a past with both Sully and Nathans brother, that she doesn’t like to talk about, she doesn’t trust either Sully or Nate. Whilst this is an interesting idea, having her betray the two of them three times in the story and then confined to “looking in the wrong direction for the treasure” at one point in the story, she instead just comes across as annoying and almost pointless. However, if we were introduced to Chloe as the sidekick to the original villain Santiago Moncada, it would’ve made for an interesting dynamic if she’s instead out for herself, by choosing to betray Moncada, if she sees he’s not going to get the treasure before Drake and Sully. Clearly they’re trying to drag out her redemption arc so I think if they really wanted to do that, this would be a better way of doing it.  

Despite Wahlberg’s casting of Sully being part of the problem, I also think having Sully confined to the role of “keeping watch” for guards and letting everyone else solve the puzzles when Sully’s in his youth (unlike the games) was a missed opportunity, especially when establishing the Sully-Nathan friendship is supposed to set up Sully’s redemption. I mean, yes, Sully was more of the “eye in the sky” in the games, but I always thought this was because of his older age, whereas here he’s supposed to be more youthful.

If they were this desperate to cast Wahlberg in the role maybe they could’ve instead tried to reinvent the character, instead of saying “kid” at the end of every sentence, expecting himself to spontaneously morph into the game character. By the end of the film Sully has to choose between his friend or his fortune, and that’s exactly why setting up the Nathan-Sully relationship better was so important.

I think overall if you’re a casual viewer that’s crazy about fun action flicks with an okay story, Uncharted at least ticks that box. If you find Sully’s phone jokes about Tinder and leaving “tabs open” funny then even better. However, if you’re looking for compelling character arcs and emotional depth, it might be worth charting a course somewhere else for your movie fix.

Follow Kraig on Twitter @Kraigandhismac

Images - Photo by Clay Enos - © 2020 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved.
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