At the surface, Columbia Pictures‘ Uncharted is an action and adventure film accompanied with witty humor. It’s like National Treasure, The DaVinci Code, and Indiana Jones all put together in one film. But does it seem like a cheap knockoff? Nah, definitely not to gamers who spent countless hours playing Naughty Dog‘s Uncharted series on Playstation 3 and 4.
The Uncharted series first debuted exclusively on Playstation 3 in 2007 with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. It then returned with Uncharted 2: With Thieves (2009) and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (2011). The fourth and final installation, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, dropped in 2016 for Playstation 4. While there were other spinoff games released on Playstation Vita and consoles, they’re not pertinent to the main storyline in Columbia Pictures’ adaptation.
With the success of the Uncharted video game series throughout the late-2000s and mid-2010s, its no surprise that the story was destined for film. Columbia Pictures, Playstation Productions, and Sony Pictures recognized this potential, releasing the revitalization on February 18th in North America. Still showing in theaters, the movie stars Tom Holland as Nathan Drake, Mark Wahlberg as Victor Sullivan, Sophia Ali as Chloe Frazer, Tati Gabrielle as Jo Braddock, and Antonio Banderas as Santiago Moncada.
While the adaptation sticks to the same basic storyline as the games, Columbia Pictures has certainly taken creative liberties. That’s to say, it’s obvious to those who have played the games that its not a perfect silver screen adaptation. Let’s discuss.
*Spoilers ahead* skip to bottom for movie review!
Uncharted Video Game Series
Nathan Drake—a descendant of the famous explorer and pirate, Sir Francis Drake—is fascinated by history and makes a life as a thief and treasure hunter. As a young boy, he ventured to Cartagena, Colombia, after leaving an orphanage in Boston. There, he befriended an older treasure hunter—Victor “Sully” Sullivan—when they find themselves after the same item in a Francis Drake exhibit. Years later, they are still hunting treasure and lost civilizations such as El Dorado or Shangri-La. This is the premise for all four video games that feature these characters. In the fourth game, Drake’s long lost and presumed-to-be-dead brother, Samuel, is a supporting character that has a past with Sully.
Uncharted feature film
In Columbia Pictures’ film adaptation, the main character’s background is similar. However, rather than traveling to Colombia, he goes to New York and takes a job as a bartender. He and Sully cross paths at the bar and discover a common link in Samuel. The brothers had been intrigued by Ferdinand Magellan’s lost treasure and were seeking to find it someday, but the two went separate ways when Sam was kicked out of their orphanage. Drake never heard from him again except through postcards. In light of this revelation, Sully enlists Drake to help find the lost treasure of Magellan. I found the portrayals of both Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan in the movie to be similar to the video games. Still, they weren’t without some signature twists by their portrayers—Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, respectively.
While the film deviated in part from the game series, it still maintained plenty of connections to its predecessors. Columbia Pictures excelled in fan-pleasing references and Easter eggs, pulling elements from the four core games and seamlessly incorporating them into a new story.
OPENING PLANE SEQUENCE
This scene is loosely based on one in Uncharted 3, wherein Nathan Drake is barely hanging onto cargo falling from the back of a plane. He eventually freefalls onto a piece of cargo and opens the parachute to make it safely to the ground. The same sequence occurs in the movie, but the story is obviously different.
A second note about this opening sequence is that it resembles the opening to Uncharted 2. It cuts right to Drake climbing up a wrecked train car on the side of a snowy cliff—like the game after the opening action sequence.
This scene loosely resembles the Rossi Estate black market auction that Nathan and Samuel Drake infiltrate with Sully in Uncharted 4. The plan is somewhat similar. They’ll dress up as waiters to blend in and Drake will cut the lights to cause panic. The plan works better in the game than in the movie as Drake is unable to cut the power and has to improvise.
Jo Braddock is a mercenary hired by the initial antagonist, Santiago Moncata. Her character is similar to Nadine Ross from Uncharted 4. Hired by Drake’s former treasure hunting partner, Rafe Adler, Ross was also a mercenary with a private army.
Chloe Frazer is a character from the video game series that also appears in the film. However, she only meets Drake for the first time in the latter. When she first appears Uncharted 2, they already have a history— both professionally and personally. The main connection between her roles in the game and films is that she betrays Drake and Sully a couple times. It’s just done in a different fashion.
the dad joke
When coming across a well in Uncharted 3, Sully makes a cringy joke, “Well, well, well.” Sam Drake repeats the joke in Uncharted 4, to which Nathan replies: “Sully, he stole your joke.” In the movie, after Chloe and Drake escape from a water-filled chamber, Drake can be heard saying this infamous, “Dad” joke.
NOLAN NORTH CAMEO
Fans of the Uncharted game series were waiting for Nolan North’s appearance. For those unfamiliar, North is the voice actor behind Nathan Drake. His cameo has his character laying on a chase lounge on a Filipino Beach. He notes the appearance of Chloe and Drake upon reaching the shore after falling into the ocean after the plane sequence.
RAISING MAGELLAN’S SHIP
This scene in the film called to mind two moments from the game series. The first was the discovery of pirate Henry Avery’s ship in Uncharted 4, which occurred in a cave just like Magellan’s. Then, there’s the raising of the El Dorado idol by helicopter in the original game.
A lot of inspiration seems to have been taken from Uncharted 4 to create this film. They can be observed in sporadic little inserts, such as Sam’s lighter never working right. Another example is Sam being presumed dead while actually alive and in a Latin-American prison.
“Oh crap!” There’s a lot to unpack here (see what I did there, Uncharted fans?). First of all, did you see the map that’s on the table between Drake and Gage? That’s an old Nazi map—much like the one from the first Uncharted game. Gage also mentions the name “Roman,” which could refer to Gabriel Roman, the antagonist from the same game.
Then, Sully makes an appearance sporting his signature look, complete with an unbuttoned Hawaiian style shirt, cigar, and his infamous mustache. All signs here seem to point to a sequel. Will it incorporate more elements from the first game? I, for one, would love to see cursed Spanish zombies in an old Nazi bunker, set in the tropics, on the big screen!
THE BOTTOM LINE
On it’s own, the Uncharted film adaptation is a thrilling ride with some witty humor to go along with it. But if you’re a diehard fan of the game series, I suggest you “turn your brain off” while watching it. The storyline that you know from the games is largely changed. With that said, the action sequences had me on the edge of my seat and the characterization of Drake and Sully was fantastic—even if the latter was a little cold and self-centered. Though, that might be a nod to his portrayal in the Uncharted 3 flashback, during which the duo first met.
Personally, I thought the antagonists were severely underdeveloped as characters. But, to be fair, they’re sort of the same way in the games—ruthless, evil, and greedy. In the same vein, I found Chloe’s character to be the most altered presence in the movie. Parts of her personality lined up with her game version, but she is portrayed as not-as-smart as Drake. In the games, she’s just as knowledgeable and resourceful.
Overall, I would rate this film a solid 7/10. If you like Action, Adventure, and Treasure Hunting movies, then this will be a great experience for you. Is it worthwhile for diehard Uncharted game fans to go see it? Absolutely. There are more than enough Easter eggs and game references to make you smile or let out a chuckle. Happy Hunting and Sic Parvis Magna (greatness, from small beginnings).
Self proclaimed “Elder Emo” and Sad Boi, Kendrick’s has been listening to scene music for nearly 20 years. Though he enjoys other genres such as jazz and bluegrass, his heart lies with punk and metal and their many flavors. When not jamming to his favorite songs and screaming his favorite lyrics, Kendrick enjoys spending time with his wife and his two dogs, traveling, watching movies, and playing video games.