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Let’s Talk about the ‘Uncharted’ Movie

by Anthony Herring

The games...

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="336"]Uncharted: Drake's Fortune review | GamesRadar+ Image from GamesRadar[/caption] The ‘Uncharted’ series is without a doubt one of the most popular PlayStation franchises. Created by the now-former creative director at Naughty Dog, Amy Hennig, the series began in 2007 with ‘Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune’ on the PlayStation 3. Unlike the developers’ previous efforts, ‘Drake’s Fortune’ sought to replicate the experience of watching an action film: it was plentiful with charismatic characters, brisk pacing, and wildly bombastic set pieces. Naughty Dog was hugely successful in their endeavor, as ‘Drake’s Fortune’ was positively received by both critics and players alike. The game’s success spawned three sequels, a prequel, and a spin-off: ‘Among Thieves’ (2009), ‘Drake’s Deception,’ (2011), ‘A Thief’s End’ (2016), ‘Golden Abyss’ (2012), and ‘The Lost Legacy’ (2017).

...and the movie

However, that is only half of the story. While the ‘Uncharted’ games were still actively being released, the movie division of Sony, the company that produces the PlayStation console, was developing an ‘Uncharted’ feature film. This process began in 2008, where producer Avi Arad revealed that he was working to develop a film based on the franchise. The film’s development would proceed to last for over a decade, being rewritten numerous times and being cycled through several directors, such as David O. Russell and Shawn Levy.  During this time, the film also attracted several, high-profile actors to it, such as Mark Wahlberg, Nathan Fillion, and Chris Pratt. Unlike Fillion and Pratt, Wahlberg became a permanent addition in 2010 as a young Victor “Sully” Sullivan, the mentor to series protagonist Nathan Drake (a deviation from the games, where Victor is a much older man). Years later, in 2017, a few months before ‘The Lost Legacy’ released, the film finally found its Nathan in Tom Holland, where it was revealed that he would be playing a younger version of the character-another deviation, as Nathan is an adult in the games. The film eventually got a release date as well: Dec.18, 2020, until it had to be delayed because of scheduling conflicts involving Holland and then-director Travis Knight in 2019. The film eventually found a new director in Jan. 2020: Ruben Fleischer, who directed the 2018 surprise hit ‘Venom’ for Sony. With a new director on board, ‘Uncharted’ finally began filming in March 2020—only for it to be delayed for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, filming resumed in July and concluded not that long ago, on Oct. 29. With filming now complete, ‘Uncharted’ is set to be released on July 16, 2021.

A Train of Thought

When it comes to ‘Uncharted,’ I am definitely a fan—of the games. (I’ll get to the movie in just a bit). I was introduced to them back in late 2014 when I was a freshman in high school, where I had bought the first three games for my PlayStation 3. After a month of playing through them, I had fallen in love with the characters and world that Hennig and Naughty Dog created. It was also around this time that ‘A Thief’s End’ was announced for the PlayStation 4, and I could not be more excited to play the final adventure in Nathan’s story (which absolutely delivered in terms of gameplay, story, and emotional weight, might I add). Even after six years of replaying the series several times, save for ‘Golden Abyss,’ which was a title for the PlayStation Vita, a handheld console that I never played on, I can confidently say that ‘Uncharted’ is by far my favorite video game franchise. I honestly hope that Naughty Dog develops another installment for the PlayStation 5, just so I can dive into a brand-new adventure in this amazing series. Alas, I cannot speak such praise about the film. Now, make no mistake, I don’t want the ‘Uncharted’ film to fail. I genuinely don’t. For starters, I feel that Tom Holland is a pretty good actor, having absolutely enjoyed his take on Peter Parker / Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and I believe that he could pull off a young Nathan Drake. However, there was an apprehension that he might make his take on Nathan too much like Peter, as the two characters could not be more different in terms of personality and motivations. Thankfully, this fear was quelled, somewhat, by Nolan North, the actor behind Nathan in the video games. He recently visited the set of the film, in which he met and praised Holland for his work ethic and performance as the character. Essentially, North gave Holland, and the film by extension, his wholehearted blessing. Other factors hinder my views on this film. Mark Wahlberg as Sully, for instance. Now, Wahlberg is well-known for playing stoic, tough guys who could beat you to a pulp if you gave them a weird side-eye. The problem there is that Sully’s character isn’t like that at all. In the games, Sully is a wisecracking yet caring mentor and father-figure to Nathan who would do anything to support him. If Wahlberg manages to portray Sully in a fairly accurate manner, or provide his own, unique spin on the character, then I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Another factor that worries me is the film’s writers, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway. The duo is responsible for writing ‘Iron Man’ (2008), which is not just a great film, but also helped to jumpstart the MCU. However, they also wrote films such as ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ (2017) and ‘Men in Black: International’ (2019), which are films that I found to be...less than desirable, to say the least. Much like with Wahlberg, I hope that Marcum and Holloway are able to recapture the magic of their ‘Iron Man’ script, and not end up crafting a replica of ‘The Last Knight.’ One final thing that I will discuss is the elephant in the room: ‘Uncharted’ is a video game movie. When it comes to these types of movies, they have a comically abysmal track record. ‘Mortal Kombat: Annihilation’ (1997), ‘Super Mario Bros.’ (1993), and ‘Assassin’s Creed’ (2016) are a few examples, having gained notoriety for their truly horrible execution, complete lack of respect for the source material, and simply boring/uninteresting tone, respectively. Despite that, there have been video game movies that were considered to be okay—not good, just okay—like ‘Warcraft’ (2016) and ‘Tomb Raider’ (2018). Films like these had decent aspects to them, like action scenes and performances, but were ultimately forgettable. Oddly enough, it appears that the only anomaly to this is ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ (2020), where many have referred to it as the best video game movie, which isn’t exactly high praise.  At the end of the day, despite some of the film’s moving parts giving me some apprehension about the project overall, I do wish the best of luck to the ‘Uncharted’ movie. Who knows, maybe it’ll end up being the best video game movie ever made. Maybe it’ll end up just being a great movie on its own. Maybe it’ll end up being awful. Until then, all I can do is hope.
Images: GamesRadar Featured Image: CinemaBlend