'Uncharted' is a Wannabe We Don't Want to Be
We review the long-awaited video game adaptation starring Tom Holland and find a limp noodle adventure.
Prepare for a bummer. After years of anticipation, the Uncharted movie adaptation is here, but it will leave your memory before the weekend is over. Director Ruben Fleischer jumbles together several sequences that definitely recall the source material, and there is some satisfaction in seeing Tom Holland's Nathan Drake hop around them, but such small gratification sours quickly as these live-action bits carry less danger than a Looney Tunes cartoon.
Uncharted the video game strove to be Indiana Jones: The Next Generation, and mostly achieved that goal, especially as its cast and craft enhanced over its numerous sequels. Uncharted the film barely cobbles together its wannabe status, presenting characters with childish motivation and green screen set pieces that would have looked wonky twenty years ago. And most frustratingly, the film is utterly oblivious to its weak sauce.
The screenplay, by Rafe Lee Judkins, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway, pulls us into the movie using the cargo-plane fight from Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. Holland awakes in midair, his foot tangled in a net, securing him to temporary safety. As he struggles, mercenaries crawl toward him, firing machine guns with a Stormtrooper's confidence. The moment should drop our jaws and widen our eyes, but the effect's physicality is painfully absent. It doesn't look like a video game - the Uncharted games were groundbreaking in their rendering - it looks like a cheap movie, which I'm sure it wasn't, but there we are.
When the swing-and-a-miss showstopper is interrupted for a flashback, my heart sank. "Oh, no," I thought. "This is the big scene. We're gonna build back to this limp, flat noodle fight." And we do, and it takes a long time peppered with fisticuffs and jumping and shooting, all edited with an over-caffeinated zeal.
Every action movie cannot be Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. There's only one Tom Cruise, and probably not for much longer if he keeps putting his body in harm's way for our benefit. Although let's be honest, he's a maniac cuz he loves being a maniac, and that's why we love him.
Ruben Fleischer's biggest influence doesn't appear to be the video games or his childhood love affair with Dr. Jones. The director seemingly learned all the wrong things from superhero movies and the Fast and the Furious franchise. His action scenes are ridiculous but not clever. They contain no connective tissue to the human beings running over, under, and through them. They're lifeless.
Now, some blood is pumping through Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, as the untrustworthy Victor "Sully" Sullivan. Their bickering, contentious partnership provides chuckles and charm. It only strengthens as Uncharted trudges toward its climax, and it's enough to entertain the possibility for a sequel. If another filmmaker were to come in and do a top to bottom action refurbish, I could imagine myself sitting down for a second chapter. But that film's trailer better be baller in every frame.
Mostly, the sensation experienced while watching Uncharted is dismay. Several, myself included, have tracked the long road this game series has taken to the big screen. So many Nathan Drake possibilities were tossed around in the process, and many sparked giddy excitement, including the too young Tom Holland. How can you hate on the best Peter Parker (don't @ me)? There is a strong, thrilling action-adventure movie waiting within the video game. This isn't it.
Quickie Review: Uncharted is a lackluster whiff, made barely watchable by its two charismatic leads. We await sequel possibility and leave our hearts open, but after years of waiting for this one to arrive, we won't lose ourselves in such precious hope. 6/10