Over the weekend, “Uncharted” was released into theaters. Based on the popular video game franchise, this action-adventure film surrounds Nathan Drake and the wild race for the lost Magellan Expedition treasure.
“Uncharted” stars Tom Holland as Drake in his first release since the global success of “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” and Mark Wahlberg as Drake’s mentor, Victor “Sully” Sullivan. Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle and Antonio Banderas also star in supporting roles.
While the film is a fun one to watch, with its action-adventure nature, the film has a few problems. For one, the writing is not particularly impressive.
Action-adventure screenplays don’t need to be Shakespeare, but there needs to be cleverness or campiness in their execution. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” — regarded as the best action-adventure film of all time — is great because of its incredible pacing, rhythm and clever sequences. If you want to lean into the more campy aspects of the genre, “National Treasure” does a great job, with its outlandish premise and Nicolas Cage’s performance.
“Uncharted” sort of splits the bill between those two movies. It is not as clever in its execution as “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but doesn’t lean into its campy elements as much as “National Treasure.” The film starts more seriously, opening with an emotional flashback that introduces the main character. However, as the plot starts to take shape, the action scenes get more and more campy and heightened, ending with one of the most unrealistic (but quite fun) sequences in recent memory. I wish the film dove more into this campy nature, as it only had two action scenes with that tone.
The film also starts off on a wrong note, with many poorly executed scenes in the first act. For some reason, it seems to rush through this ever-important period. The introduction of the two main characters is really rushed, leaving us to wonder how the two of them became such good friends in such a short time. Those opening few scenes are also the most poorly written of the film, making that beginning all the worse in execution.
The plot of “Uncharted” is serviceable. It is not particularly clever in its twists and turns, as most are fairly predictable. The story doesn’t surround a central theme and none of the characters have particularly major arcs, making the film feel unpurposeful. This is probably the biggest criticism of “Uncharted,” as its sole purpose seems to be to set up a sequel.
Now this is something that has been a problem throughout the film industry recently; movies are being made to create franchises rather than to just make good movies. I mentioned this in my “Venom 2” review, which especially felt like a movie just setting up a sequel.
The fact is, franchises can only thrive if you have a good movie to start. If “Iron Man” failed, there would be no Marvel Cinematic Universe. If “Star Wars” flopped in 1977, we wouldn’t have seen it expand to be the brand it is today. To make a great franchise, you first need to make a great movie. While “Uncharted” doesn’t necessarily deserve to be the poster child of this industry problem, it’s the perfect example of a film more focused on building a franchise than telling a good story.
On the positive side, “Uncharted” is a pretty fun movie. The action scenes take place in creative, unique settings, and the action-adventure concept, though it follow many cliches, is always a joy to watch. Holland is also solid in this movie. He isn’t as charismatic as he is as Peter Parker, but he and Wahlberg do have some chemistry. Much of the movie felt like it was burdened with introducing the characters’ backstories, so perhaps a potential sequel can tell a more thematically-rooted story.
Ultimately, “Uncharted” is not a film to treasure. It has a mediocre first act, poorly written dialogue and lacks major character arcs or a thematic storyline. For those reasons, it does not earn a recommendation.