REVIEW: Mishandling of characters upend ‘Uncharted’ adaptation

As a person who stays mostly in Nintendo territory, I’m unfamiliar with the popular Playstation series “Uncharted.”

I have to imagine it’s a bit more compelling than this film, though.

Tom Holland stars as Nathan Drake, a young man who’s working as a bartender in New York City, with some side hustles, but dreams of more. As a child, he used to talk about lost treasures and how to find them with his brother, who he hasn’t seen in years.

The film picks up with Nathan being approached by Victor (Mark Wahlberg), a treasure-hunter who knew Drake’s brother. Victor asks for Nathan’s help in finding a specific treasure lost to history, which he agrees too. However, the journey is treacherous, with a rich and powerful man, Santiago (Antonio Banderas), also after the treasure.

As an action film, “Uncharted” is accessible for fans and non-fans of the games alike. The movie takes a classic, swashbuckling adventure approach, reminiscent of those seen in the “Indiana Jones” films.

This is true right down to scenes showing a plane flying over a map, marking where the characters are going to next.

Goodhearted rogues work to outwit the more evil, selfish villains who’re after the same treasure, with both parties traversing around countries. It’s a familiar and fun format paced out fairly well over a runtime just under two hours.

It’s an enjoyable enough romp with some exciting fights and characters surviving dangerous traps. Is that enough entertainment to warrant a watch? Sure. But does this movie really have enough depth and intrigue to be something that one really gets invested in? Not so much.

While the action set-pieces and puzzle solving moments catch a viewer’s eyes, the movie doesn’t really move a viewer or make you want to root for the lead protagonists. It’s a rather hollow experience, with none of the real ‘meat’ of the movie able to build a connection.

Nathan’s longing for his brother seems underwritten at times. Victor’s back and forth between being only focused on treasure and helping mentor Drake isn’t very engaging. , Their budding friendship and learning to trust each other, never grips an audience the way it should, either. It’s simply hard to really care about what’s happening on screen.

UnchartedBlog
Courtesy Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures.

One of the things not helping these aspects in “Uncharted” is the casting. Both lead characters feel woefully miscast, each with their own issues.

Tom Holland seems out of place as a young man who relied on street smarts growing up and had to get his hands dirty from time to time. Not only does he still look very much like a teenager, having just played one in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” he also doesn’t have the rugged swagger one wants from this role.

That’s not to say Holland is bad in the role, he’s a fine actor and does his part. But there’s always this feeling he’s not a good fit.

The same is absolutely true for Mark Wahlberg, who’s just playing, well, Mark Wahlberg. It’s honestly kind of hard to tell what’s different about this Wahlberg performance than his others in recent years, since they all kind of blend together.

This isn’t to try to knock Wahlberg, as in the right kind of role he can have a great film presence as a resident badass who’s ready to roll up his sleeves and get something done come Hell or high water. But it’s harder to buy him as the experienced, journeyman adventurer who balances being cultured with also coming across as somewhat of an outlaw.

There are plenty of actors out there at the right age, such as Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Pine, Oscar Isaac, Tom Hardy and Jeremy Renner, or even a Gerard Butler or Jason Statham, who’d have more success really getting the role working more in the right direction.

Antonio Banderas isn’t bad, though, despite portraying a rather typical type of villain.

“Uncharted” doesn’t revolutionize the adventure movie and it lacks a certain grittiness that some of the other genre staples do, but it offers some light entertainment to kill a couple hours. What’s a shame is that with some better characterization work, the film could have been much stronger. 2.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

3 thoughts on “REVIEW: Mishandling of characters upend ‘Uncharted’ adaptation”

  1. The movie definitely has potential and the third act is where the feature gets the most right to its video game source material, but the movie feels more generic and I thought that Wahlberg was a miscast.

    Liked by 1 person

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