February 17, 2022

Review: “Uncharted” Fails to Break the Video Game Movie Curse

At a certain point, it feels like if you’ve seen one action movie, you’ve seen ’em all. Occasionally, there are exceptions that give me hope for the action genre, and prove that the market is still alive for original material. Uncharted, adapted from the PlayStation video game series, is unfortunately not one of those.

It’s not for a lack of trying. There are some decent enough set pieces, and the action is well-shot by director Reuben Fleischer (Zombieland, Venom), but there’s just not enough that I haven’t seen before to make me invested.

Tom Holland plays Nate Drake, a fortune hunter (and future adventurer) who is recruited by Victor “Sully” Sullivan — played by a miscast Mark Wahlberg — to track down the lost treasure of the Magellan expedition. They are racing against Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) and mercenary Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle), so their mission does have a ticking clock. It’s just a shame that the stakes are virtually nonexistent.

As soon as the characters are introduced, their trajectories are main abundantly clear. It’s not only a matter of predictability — the film has the audacity to pretend like everything it does has never been done before. This can be a good attitude to have (it’s the same idea as “dance like nobody’s watching”), but when done in this way it feels almost insulting.

Holland is fun enough (as he always is), but he brings nothing new to the table, like most of the cast. Banderas is playing the textbook soft-spoken but intimidating villain, Wahlberg is playing the same character he always does — discounting The Departed — and Sophia Ali plays Chloe Frazer, perhaps the most poorly-written and obviously-twisty character in the entire film. The only one that I truly enjoyed seeing is Tati Gabrielle (whom I know from Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), who is the only one that seems to know exactly what movie she’s in, appropriately chewing the scenery and playing the most over-the-top trained killer she can.

I had the most fun in Uncharted during the very CGI-heavy action sequences, which says a lot about the rest of the movie. At the very least, it’s is a passably exciting, harmless ride that won’t make you think too hard. About half of the movie could be cut and it would still function the same way (which obviously wouldn’t work), but the necessary steps in the central search for the treasure are few and far between, weirdly sidestepped in favor of detours and “side quests.”

I had faith in Uncharted, hoping that it could potentially break the video game movie curse, but it ended up grouping itself in with the rest, intentionally or not. It may be better than the average video game adaptation, but that’s not exactly a high bar. [Grade: B-]

Director: Reuben Fleischer 

Writers: Rafe Lee Judkins, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway

Starring: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle

Rated: PG-13 for violence/action and language

Available: Theaters

Fun Fact: Nolan North, who portrays Nathan Drake in the video game series, has a speaking cameo as a man on a hotel beach.

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