The Uncharted movie won’t be out stateside until later this week, but it’s been out internationally for a few days, having released in a handful of markets last Thursday and Friday. So far, the cinematic adaptation of a popular video game series is being received about as well as any other cinematic adaptation of a popular video game series. That is to say: terribly.
Uncharted, based on Naughty Dog’s enormously popular series of adventure games of the same name, has had a long road to the silver screen, having been mired in development hell for about as long as the iPhone has existed. Spider-Man’s Tom Holland plays Nathan Drake. Mark Wahlberg, once attached to the starring role, is cast as Drake’s mentor, Victor “Sully” Sullivan. They’re joined by Sophia Ali, as longtime supporting character Chloe Frazer, with Puss in Boots’ Antonio Banderas in a villain role created for the film. It’s meant as a “prequel of sorts,” but early trailers have shown a film that borrows liberally from iconic set-pieces in the games.
As of this writing, the Uncharted movie is sitting at a “rotten” 50 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, the film review aggregation site. Of course, aggregation sites are total bullshit, a copout that boils discussion down to metrics and allows fans to isolate themselves from meaningful critique. But that doesn’t negate that critics are skewering this thing.
There are indeed positive reviews, but even those aren’t exactly over the moon, describing the film as “passable” (Time Out), “rather ordinary” (The Film Authority), a “diet version of Indiana Jones” (Movies4Kids), and “just a string of breathless action sequences” (Express).
The core of Uncharted has always been Drake’s relationships with those he loves, but that seems to be missing here, particularly when it comes to the chemistry (or apparently total lack thereof) between Holland and Wahlberg. For Empire, Nick De Semlyen pointed out their tired banter, saying “scenes start to feel like cutscenes that you wish you could skip.” Clarisse Loughrey, writing for The Independent, called Uncharted an “inert,” “passionless” film based on a “script that has no idea what [Sully and Drake] mean to each other.” For the pink pages of the Financial Times, Danny Leigh deemed the film “uptight” and “joyless.”
It’s not just Drake’s friendships and mentorships that fall flat. Uncharted sure sounds like the epitome of Blood Knife’s seminal “everyone is beautiful and no one is horny” essay, which lamented how much effort these days goes into ensuring A-listers propagate unrealistic beauty standards all while romance and anything akin to actual sexual desire are essentially purged from action flicks. “It’s like someone…is shouting, ‘Tom, take your shirt off!’; ‘Tom, it’s time to get wet!’” Charlotte O’Sullivan wrote for Evening Standard, noting how Holland and Ali’s characters share a bed but “don’t do anything in it.” (In Uncharted canon, Nathan and Chloe date.)
If there’s one universal bright spot, though, it seems to be Holland, though some critics couched their praise for Spider-Man 3.0 as too good for the script. Kevin Maher at The Times said Tom Holland’s star power and irresistible charm is “wasted” in a “tedious” adaptation of a blockbuster game. But perhaps no pan sticks more than The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, who praised Holland’s performance but skewered the film for having a “box office algorithm where its heart is supposed to be.”
Uncharted officially starts rolling out in the United States this Thursday. I cannot wait to see it.
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