'Uncharted' Is a Rare Video Game Adaptation That's Actually Good

Directed by Ruben Fleischer

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

Photo: Clay Enos

BY Andres GuzmanPublished Feb 15, 2022

It's taken over a decade for us to get here, but Uncharted is finally in theatres. During that time, multiple filmmakers and writers almost took a stab, but eventually Ruben Fleischer did the deed that most thought would never happen. And he did a pretty great job at it, alongside writers Rafe Judkins, Art Marcum and Matt Halloway. The game-to-movie curse doesn't continue for this film.

Uncharted follows Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) and Victor Sullivan (a.k.a. Sully, played by Mark Wahlberg) as they try to find the lost (not gone) gold that was on the Magellan expedition in 1522. That's the main quest and, just like the games, there are adventures in multiple locations, with a variety of supporting characters and villains, twists and turns

But if you've played the games, you'll realize that the film takes a lot of inspiration from the final game of the series, A Thief's End. Nathan's backstory feels as if it comes straight out of the game, while present-day scenes are a brand new story. As a fan of the series, it was exciting not to be aware of where things would go but still feel at home.

Neil Druckmann (co-president of game creator Naughty Dog) said during a 2020 press event that the most important aspect of the film is the relationships between the characters. That's primarily because of the banter between Nathan and Sully. It's what makes the games special, outside of the similarities to Indiana Jones. Seeing Holland in action as Drake invites obvious comparisons to Peter Parker, as both characters have a tendency to make jokes while they're facing dozens of no-name guards or goons. Wahlberg does a great job of capturing Sully's "I'm too old for this" complaints while he tries to keep up. By the time we see Nathan Drake at his most Nathan Drake-y in the final act, it's clear that Uncharted got its characterization right, as Holland and Walhberg embody and slowly become those characters gamers are used to playing as.

Fleischer delivers some good action scenes, as the audience is consistently able to see each sequence play out, never cutting away unless for a reason. That's partly because Holland is actually able to tackle some of the stunts (including the parkour he goes around doing). A sequence on a plane is a huge moment in all the trailers, and with very good reason. Not only is it the most quintessential Uncharted moment in the entire film, it's also an incredible scene, filled with high-stakes tension.

Uncharted isn't another victim of a bad video game adaptation — rather, it's an outlier that proves that they can be done. This film could cause viewers to return to the games or play them for the first time and find an incredibly rich storyline with wonderful characters. Not that every game should become a movie, but when you make a video game that is more cinematic than most films, it deserves to be seen on the biggest screen.

Uncharted is an origin story, an introduction to these characters for viewers who don't know anything about them. It gives the audience more than enough reason to want to know them better — hopefully in a sequel.

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