Almost by definition, films based on video games are subpar features meant to propel teenagers into buying the latest installment in the entertainment franchise on PlayStation, Xbox, or computer console.
Movie franchises have spawned from several popular titles over the years including multiple Tomb Raider installments, fighting series like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, as well as a Resident Evil series.
In recent years, PlayStation has been the most aggressive in attempting to develop its original content with several planned films and television series in the works. The first of which, Uncharted, starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, debuted this past weekend after being twice delayed in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Based on the action-adventure gaming franchise of the same name, Uncharted follows a young Nathan Drake as he is lured into a high-stakes quest for the long-lost treasure of world traveler Ferdinand Magellan by a fortune hunter who worked with Nathan’s missing brother Sam.
Perhaps the biggest flaw of director Ruben Fleischer’s film is Holland himself, who gives a charismatic performance as Nathan, but sounds and acts too much like his now iconic Spider-Man character to be fully believable here as a naïve treasure hunter. The young British actor pulls off his American accent quite well, and yet ardent Marvel fans will hear and see Peter Parker on the screen.
This especially occurs during the film’s numerous stunt pieces, which often require Holland to perform some sort of parkour leap or long swing that one might expect from a certain comic book webslinger. And while it’s to be sure that Fleischer is ramping up the dynamics of these sequences to give the video game aesthetic, Holland might not the perfect choice.
Wahlberg fares somewhat better as fortune hunter and erstwhile mentor Sully as his charisma and surly Boston personality makes him a solid antihero with just enough questionable motivations to create dramatic tension with Nathan.
The best performance in the film is given by Antonio Banderas, playing slightly against type as the heir to a global financier family with claims to the Magellan gold. It’s a welcome sight to see Banderas play someone this ruthless and the gravitas and edge he brings to the role makes for a formidable and logical foe in a film where logic is somewhat lax.
For an action-adventure movie, Uncharted has a lot of turn-your-brain-off style entertainment that can be a lot of fun in bursts, especially a cargo plane sequence ripped directly from one of the video games that sets the tone for both the first and third acts of the film.
Visually, Uncharted has some beautiful sequences that feel like the cinematic cut-scenes one might find in the video games and the exotic locations are treated as truly unique and special.
Fleischer doesn’t always find the right tone throughout as the film becomes a mixed bag of everything from National Treasure to Angels and Demons to the Tomb Raider movies without defining itself separately.
In spite of all of its many flaws, moviegoers desperate for a little bit of mindless fun and willing to go with the incredulous nature of the plot may find Uncharted worth taking a chance on in theaters.