Action Adventure

Review: ‘Uncharted’ Rides High on Chemistry and Spectacle, but Still Falls Short of the Video Games

February 16, 2022Ben MK

Ever since Uncharted: Drake's Fortune debuted on the PlayStation 3 in 2007, gamers have been enthralled by the adventures of its protagonist, quick-witted treasure hunter Nathan Drake, whose globetrotting, death-defying exploits rivalled that of fellow polygonal character Lara Croft and even cinematic counterparts like Indiana Jones. Fast forward a decade and a half and three sequels, one prequel and one spinoff later, and the Uncharted franchise is now about to make the leap to the big screen. But even with the combined star power of Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg working in its favor, does this highly anticipated, big budget video game adaptation have what it takes to live up to the hype?

An origin story that's clearly meant to lay the groundwork for future installments, the film follows Nathan (Holland), a 25-year-old who may or may not be the direct descendant of one of the 16th century's most well-known explorers, Francis Drake. Orphaned at a young age and separated from his older brother, Sam, at the age of ten, Nathan quickly learned how to take care of himself, honing his skills as a small-time thief and pickpocket while working as a bartender in New York City. Nothing, however, could prepare Nathan for the swashbuckling adventure he's about to embark on, after soldier-turned-treasure-hunter Victor "Sully" Sullivan (Wahlberg) makes Nathan an offer he can't refuse — presenting him with the opportunity to reunite with his long-lost brother, in exchange for his help in finding the fabled lost fortune of Ferdinand Magellan.

And so, just like that, Nathan and Sully team up, forming an uneasy partnership that sees the pair racing against the clock to obtain an ancient relic that could very well be the key to unlocking Magellan's mystery, as they journey from the Big Apple to Barcelona and, eventually, the Philippines, encountering all sorts of danger and solving all manner of mysterious puzzles along the way. Of course, they're not the only ones in search of Magellan's riches. Billionaire businessman Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas), who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, has also made it his lifelong mission to track down what he believes is his family's rightful inheritance. And with a ruthless mercenary named Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) and her team of cold-blooded killers under his employ, Nathan and Sully have all the more reason to stay one step ahead.

What follows is more or less what you might expect from a big screen version of Sony's hit gaming series, with director Ruben Fleischer and screenwriters Rafe Judkins, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway doing their best to appease longtime fans of the franchise while also introducing the uninitiated to the world originally created by the game developers at Naughty Dog. Unfortunately, their efforts more often than not end up relegating character and story development to the backseat, as Holland, Wahlberg and their co-stars are dropped into the middle of scene after scene of mindless CG mayhem, each more ludicrous than the last, while viewers are expected to root for their friendship, something that feels unearned, at least until the movie's closing moments.

That said, there's still a good deal of fun to be had here. Wahlberg, returning to the same action-adventure mode as in the last two Transformers sequels, delivers exactly what's demanded of him, while Holland, fresh off the blockbuster success of Spider-Man: No Way Home, proves that he can be more than just your friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. Together, their chemistry is enough to keep Uncharted afloat. Yet, if the inevitable followup is to take this burgeoning adventure film franchise to new heights, it will take more than buddy comedy antics and blockbuster set pieces to keep audiences coming back for more.

Uncharted releases February 18th, 2022 from Sony Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for violence/action and language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 56 min.

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