Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

"Uncharted doesn't break new ground, and doesn't retread familiar territory in a fun way. It's diverting enough, but its crosses and double crosses are all pretty well signposted"

Based on the popular videogame franchise, Uncharted gives Tom Holland another role as a franchise protagonist. Unlike his turn as one of several Spider-men, however, this is more swing and miss than anything else. Nathan Drake has starred in ten games on seven platforms, or at least four games with various ports, expansions, and collections. Selling more than 13 million copies, it's a commercial success, and a critical one too. This is unlikely to be the case for the film.

Ruben Fleischer directs. He helmed both outings of Zombieland and there's maybe been an attempt to match their irreverence that's been stymied by IP-holder intervention. He's no stranger to capers - Gangster Squad was one of his - and while this has scenes reliant on GPS and cellphone simultaneity, it's otherwise distinctly old-fashioned. He also directed the first Venom, and in the same way that its use of effects foregrounded the artificiality of it all Uncharted, feels drawn from plastic-y cloth.

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It's not that there aren't some flashes of fun. It pretty quickly establishes its nods to the games' core mechanics, puzzle-solving and pretty enthusiastic jumping, and an acquaintance with health and safety that would leave even the Mission: Impossible crew a little worried. Nathan, 'Nate', and his older brother are treasure hunters. Separated by circumstance, a great fortune awaits when he's recruited by Sully (Mark Wahlberg). You could, if pushed, identify the lockstep elements of the hero's journey, but that trope is one of many the film relies on.

There are five individuals credited with the script, three screenplay and then another two screen story. Rafe Lee Judkins has written for a bunch of spy-fi TV shows including Chuck and MCU-adjunct Agents Of SHIELD. He's on both lists. This is his first feature, though he's also writing The Division, another movie based on a videogame. Art Marcum and Matt Holloway's s writing career started with Shadow Of Fear, a secret society murder mystery thing that coincidentally shares its title with an episode of Captain Scarlet, and since then is all comic book, sequel, toy and videogame franchises. John Hanley Rosenberg's second feature, he penned 2009 ghost love horror triangle Lost Soul, and a début for Mark D Walker.

It's impossible to determine who penned what, but their influences pale in comparison to the requirements of corporate film making. This includes product placement whose subtlety is inescapable. "I'm in a Papa John's", says a character, in a Papa John's, after walking past the sign and past all those branded pizza boxes. In fairness, unlike the 13 branches that are actually in Barcelona, this one has a mosaic that's part of a puzzle, but it's still less subtle than the cherry red Mercedes 300SL gullwing that falls out of a plane.

That's not a spoiler, even if it's not in the trailer. Admittedly, two of the jokes that are in the trailer aren't in the film, and if you were waiting for Pilou Asbek because you saw him in it you have to wait until the credits, indeed, until after his credit. Two scenes in there, setting up sequel opportunities. Are they a surprise? No, not really. Which is the case across the film as a whole.

There's a treasure that's been hidden for centuries, but apparently it's just gold and not the secret formula for a preservation technology that means ropes and wood can survive on a tropical island for 15 billion seconds. It's a secret that will restore a family's fortunes, though they're doing well enough to have an office-cum-archaeological dig and their own C-17 Globemaster III and access to two improbably capable heavy-lift helicopters.

That family is the Moncadas, and as fun as it is to watch Antonio Banderas chew scenery as a baddie there are so many other, better, options. It's not his first videogame movie. He was in 2002's "Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever", a film most famous for being incredibly bad and not for being codeveloped with the first of its two first person shooters for the Gameboy Advance. Mark Wahlberg too has form, he was in Max Payne which similarly attempted to turn game mechanics into story beats. Though at least its Sin City-inspired visuals and time-shifting Norse-mythology-inspired designer drug had some novelty.

Uncharted doesn't break new ground, and doesn't retread familiar territory in a fun way. It's diverting enough, but its crosses and double crosses are all pretty well signposted. There's a line "[X], why did it have to be [X]?" that ably enough references Indiana Jones before Dr Henry Jr is name-checked. There's an improbably accented henchman who doubles as a helicopter pilot but Steven Waddington (credited as 'The Scotsman') is from Yorkshire. Some of the stunts are alright, but in a festival of CG one sequence reminded me of Jackie Chan's jump in Police Story, but not in a good way. I'll admit that it's almost certainly more expensive to insure Tom Holland than it was to cover Pao Pao but why attempt a leap when you know you'll fall short?

Reviewed on: 17 Feb 2022
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A street-smart young man is recruited by a seasoned treasure hunter to help him recover a fortune amassed by Ferdinand Magellan and lost 500 years ago by the House of Moncada.
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Director: Ruben Fleischer

Writer: Rafe Judkins, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway

Starring: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle

Year: 2022

Runtime: 116 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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