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Uncharted Movie Review

Uncharted (2022) movie poster Uncharted

Theatrical Release: February 18, 2022

Running Time: 116 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Writers: Rafe Lee Judkins (screen story & screenplay); Art Marcum, Matt Holloway (screenplay); Jon Hanley Rosenberg, Mark D. Walker (screen story)

Cast: Tom Holland (Nathan Drake), Mark Wahlberg (Victor Sullivan), Antonio Banderas (Santiago Moncada), Sophia Ali (Chloe Frazer), Tati Gabrielle (Braddock), Steven Waddington (The Scotsman), Pingi Moli (Hugo), Tiernan Jones (Young Nate), Rudy Pankow (Young Sam)


How quickly can an actor eradicate all the goodwill that comes from starring in not one but two of the most beloved blockbusters of modern times? For Tom Holland, fresh off the behemothic secrecy-fueled success of Spider-Man: No Way Home
and only three years and one global pandemic removed from Avengers: Endgame, it takes just a few minutes of Uncharted, a mindless adaptation of a PlayStation video game series that plays like Cocktail meets National Treasure without any of the fun inherent in that mash-up.

The youthful 25-year-old plays his actual age as Nathan Drake, a New York bartender with a knack for picking pockets. But there is nothing adult about this adventure, which also marks Holland’s debut as executive producer and does nothing to build upon the gaming franchise launched in 2007 and consisting of four serialized third-person console titles and assorted prequels and spin-offs.

Nathan, who we’re introduced to hanging onto a series of cargo outside an airborne aircraft, lost his older brother Simon fifteen years ago. Countless postcards have detailed the wayward orphan’s efforts to locate the fabled gold sought by Ferdinand Magellan. It’s the same gold pursued by Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg, collecting another big, easy paycheck as has become his norm), a suave bachelor who reaches out to Drake to help him on this quest, promising that finding the treasure should also lead to finding his missing brother.

Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) and Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) go searching for long-lost treasure in "Uncharted."

The narrative here is so banal that it pains me to describe it in any fashion. But the globe-trotting treasure hunt also involves a ruthless Spanish billionaire with family ties to the fortune (Antonio Banderas); Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle), a mercenary with whom Sully has some history; and Chloe Frazier (Sophia Ali), another fortune hunter who is working alongside Sully and Drake, but maybe not amidst trust issues.

Uncharted has all the stupidity of Hollywood escapism without the entertainment value that is supposed to come with it. It’s hard to see the appeal without prior knowledge of the games. Even with that, do the more improbable scenarios of free-falling and dangling and ancient ships suspended by helicopter work as anything more than bombastic nudges of “remember this part”?

Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) and Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) search a little more for long-lost treasure in "Uncharted."

Director Ruben Fleischer made a really fun movie in his debut, 2009’s Zombieland. Its untimely 2019 sequel improbably proved to be quite a bit more fun than expected. But his few other efforts outside of that post-apocalyptic horror comedy franchise have been major disappointments, from awards fodder that died in January (Gangster Squad) to what should have been an easy addition to the winning buddy comedy tradition (Thirty Minutes or Less) to Venom,
a movie that gave Sony some much-needed commercial success without anything people could feel good about enjoying. Fleischer opted to merely executive produce last year’s financially formidable but apparently just as bad Venom: Let There Be Carnage and instead direct this long-gestating adaptation. It’s hard to see why, other than preferring to work with Holland and Wahlberg to Tom Hardy and Zombieland alum Woody Harrelson.

There is no creativity to Uncharted, nor is there anything bearing resemblance to our contemporary world. The jokes mostly don’t land; the trailer’s best one has been cut and inexplicably because it did a better job of establishing the tension between Sully and Drake than what survives. And the action grows tiresome in a hurry, the staged excitement failing to engage your senses despite the considerable resources that have gone into the obligatory visual effects, production design and stunts of multiple set pieces. The best tentpoles, a class that undeniably includes Holland’s dynamite Spider-Man threequel, the most enjoyable film of last year and still fresh in mind just two months and many box office records later, unify us and dazzle us. They reunite us with our mostly abandoned childhood wonder and not by dumbing things down. Uncharted does nothing of the sort, checking off the boxes of what a modern blockbuster is supposed to have (diverse cast, female characters who are more than eye candy, locations all over the world to pump up international interest, an end credits song with chart potential) without committing to or believing in any of it. The movie might make money and spawn even more mindless sequels but it fails to realize its cinematic potential or do anything worth celebrating or remembering. The line between movies and video games grows thinner with time, but what works in one medium rarely translates to the other. No matter how well it performs, we can add this to the pile of video game adaptations that have inspired scorn and ridicule.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: The BatmanMoonfallDeath on the NileScreamSpider-Man: No Way Home
Directed by Ruben Fleischer: VenomZombielandZombieland: Double Tap30 Minutes or LessGangster Squad

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Reviewed February 27, 2022.

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