By Marc S. Sanders
None of what is said in the film Uncharted matters. The film opens in the middle of a death defying, albeit CGI, action scene with heartthrob Tom Holland dangling from a cargo net that’s hanging outside of a plane thirty thousand feet above the ground. He apologizes as he kicks a couple of faceless thugs out into the great wide open, and he rolls his eyes at an oncoming sportscar driving off the plane’s ramp in his direction. But it’s not like he’s worried that the car will mow him down and kill him before the fall would even do so. That’s because even here he’s just charming Tom Holland who’s never afraid to die. I guess that was my problem with this escapist film, based on a popular video game. No one was ever afraid they’d die. So, why should I be? Excuse me while I refill my popcorn. You don’t have to tell me what I miss. I’m sure I’ll catch on.
Holland portrays treasure seeking adventurer Nathan Drake. Early on, it is established that his brother is being held captive somewhere. Nathan is receiving postcards from him, with statements written on them that seem more like riddles. Hmmm! Is his brother sending him clues, do you think? One of their last conversations while they were living in an adoption house was something about gold hidden by Magellan. The conversation went on longer than I cared, honestly. I gave up on the details. These scholars weren’t going to tell me anything intriguing. That’s the best way to approach Uncharted. Just watch for the CGI stunts, Holland’s agility on bannisters and bar counters, and see how all the secret doorways open.
Soon after the exposition, Nathan is accompanied by a slightly older adventurer named Victor Sullivan, or Sully (Mark Wahlberg). Holland and Wahlberg toss some smart alec zingers at one another. See they’re only supposed to get along so much.
The guys attend a black-tie auction where I knew Nathan was gonna be dangling from those hanging ceiling lamps somehow, and then they are on their way to Barcelona. Oh yeah. A diary helps them out as well with some clues that turn up only when they have to conveniently turn up. A map will help them too, only when it’s conveniently there. I’m not interested though in watching Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg trace their fingers across a map. There’s also the beautiful adventurous girl, Chloe (Sophia Ali), who we are supposed to trust or maybe not trust. The bad guys are Antonio Banderas, who’s really given nothing to do except have his name listed in the credits. Look at that! PlayStation Studios actually contracted Antonio Banderas to be in their movie!!!!!! I did say bad guys, right? Sorry. The other one is an Asian woman named Braddock (Tati Gabrielle), who’s only interesting trait is the blade she carries is in the shape of a scythe. It’s only held and hardly gets used.
Are you starting to recognize that all I’m describing is surface material here? There’s no depth to anyone. Uncharted is so afraid to swim in the deep end, that it doesn’t even connect our hero Nathan with his long-lost brother. Like ever!!!! The film acts like a video game and thinks like a video game. So why not just leave it as a video game? If you want to make a movie, then the filmmakers should have gone a lot deeper.
It’s easy to compare this modern update on the adventure film to Romancing The Stone or any of the Indiana Jones pictures. What continues to set those forty-year-old movies ahead of this fare, is that we actually feared for the characters. Kathleen Turner’s apprehensive motive for going from New York City to the rain swept jungles of Cartagena was to rescue her kidnapped sister while trying to uncover a priceless treasure along the way. Her sister could be fed to the alligators at any given moment, or worse Turner could be brutalized by vicious Columbians on her tail. When the famed archeologist, Indiana Jones, gets trapped in an underground room full of snakes or is left dangling over a bottomless pit, he looks terrified. He has no rope to hang from and there really is no way out, and he knows it. This could be the end.
Nathan Drake, however, knows it’s never the end for Nathan Drake, and that’s…well…that’s boring.
What can I say? I’ve always gotten bored quickly with video games. I know. I know. You’re gonna debate with me that this is BASED ON A VIDEO GAME. Fine. I agree. Yet, I paid for a movie. At times Uncharted moves like a video game character that walks in place when confronted with a wall. Your joystick can’t figure out how to turn the guy around so he can trot in another direction away from the edge of your flatscreen TV. It just doesn’t go anywhere until, how do you like that, Sully and Nathan turn to the right page in the diary or read the right post card from the long-lost brother that we never get to see. Wait! Let’s look at the map!
I really like Tom Holland. He’s charming and handsome and athletic. Spider-Man has demonstrated that he’s a good actor too, beyond the comic book action. He’s definitely cut out for a tongue and cheek action picture. Mark Wahlberg is ready to be the mentor. He’s fine as well. He’s just done it better in a film like The Italian Job. They look like a great pair of partners. Unfortunately, they are given nothing to demonstrate how good a pair they really could be. Put a little fear in these guys. Make believe they’ll actually drown or fall to their death from a helicopter. Put them at the wrong end of a gun or a sword. Heck, when you give them a sword, allow me to believe they aren’t so proficient with it. I mean Holland is only 25 or 26 here. How much could he have learned already. Let them get shot in the arm, and still carry on. Give them a limp. Cut their lip or bruise their temple. Uncharted doesn’t do any of that. It only jumps to the next level, and as soon as you dispose of a baddie, they fade away out of the scene…like in a video game.
It’s not terribly bad. Uncharted is like going over to your friend’s house, though. He shows off his PlayStation by popping in the game and he promises he’ll let you have a turn to play. Only your turn never comes, and while you sit there gazing at the posters and trophies in his room, your friend thinks he’s entertaining you for hours as his game goes on and on and on. So, uh…when’s it my turn to use the controller??????