A film adaptation of the Uncharted game series has been in development for the best part of two decades – so long, in fact, that Mark Wahlberg, now cast as mentor figure Sully, was originally due to play hero Nathan Drake (now Tom Holland). The biggest problem for the series was that the games began as an Indiana Jones wannabe, and escaping that long fedora’ed shadow was no easy feat. Finally, it arrives as a prequel, with a younger Drake taking his first steps as a treasure hunter.
When we meet him as an adult, in fact, he’s a bartender and pickpocket – but we know, from a childhood opening scene, that he’s also a history nut from a long line of treasure hunters. Wahlberg’s Sully recruits him to find the lost treasure of Magellan, promising him clues to his lost brother’s whereabouts on the way. But ranged against billionaire Santiago Moncado (Antonio Banderas) and his hitlady Braddock (Tati Gabrielle), and with one of the clues in the hands of the untrusting Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali), it won’t be easy.
Cue people falling from planes, underground chases, traps and puzzles – all present and correct from the games. But despite the usually steadying hand of Zombieland’s Ruben Fleischer as director, the tone is uneasy. In Holland’s first scene he apologises to a faceless henchman, which is far too Peter Parker for Drake. It’s as if the studio didn’t trust his charisma away from Spider-Man – although they should – and while his performance is good the script puts his characterisation all over the place.
The characterisations here are more likely to annoy than delight the hardcore fans
Wahlberg, too, is given a Sully who is far less supportive than in the games, actively prickly and sometimes outright hostile. The film seems to be going with a Pirates of the Caribbean-style approach where absolutely everyone is untrustworthy all the time, and in an adventure caper like this it’s nice to have actual friends here and there.
Still, the spectacle is achieved rather impressively, with a protracted but fun plane sequence, a two-level hunt through Barcelona and a visually original finale that is a little too CG-heavy but undeniably full of visual dazzle. There still hasn’t been a truly great film based directly on a video game, and the characterisations here are more likely to annoy than delight the hardcore fans, but the jetsetting and sunshine here is a welcome break from more serious action movies, and Holland will just about hold the interest.
Out in UK cinemas Feb 11. Out in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore cinemas Feb 17. In US theaters Feb 18.