Successfully writing about a guilty pleasure film is a sort of art form. On one hand, you end up liking something for its endearing qualities and hilarious flaws. On the other hand, the film in question shouldn’t work and could be criticized for lackluster storytelling and characterization. This is 100% the case with the first ever Uncharted adaptation to the big screen – a film that is both wildly fun and unfortunately uninspiring.
Blockbuster films like these remind me that moviegoing is supposed to be a fun experience. Whether you are able to gleam ideas and spiritual philosophies (like the heaping amount of indie films that made my top 2021 list) from them is an argument for a later day, or at least later in this review. Uncharted doesn’t offer up much of an ambiguous, existential theory of life that I picked up on… and that’s ok.
Uncharted Review: A film that is both wildly fun and unfortunately uninspiring.
It’s a genre film; one that is supposed to follow in the footsteps of National Treasure and other historical heist films. These flicks rely on charisma and creativity to develop a world that an audience member would want to relish in for 90 minutes and forget the inherent struggles of actual, realistic life and responsibilities. If we’re using these parameters, Uncharted is one of the rare successful video game-inspired adventure films.
If we’re talking how authentic and true to form the film is compared to the video game, I’m not a scholar on the topic. The video game series never hit me over the head and forced me to play it so I can’t comment on its canonical status in the grander scheme of Uncharted lore. From a quick Google search, the film dazzles in the same vibrant and lush environment that the game seems to be set in. The stunts mostly work and don’t pull you out of the film and the CGI is surprisingly great in most parts.
But the poster boy of Uncharted is far and away the best aspect of the film. Tom Holland does a majority of the heavy lifting in a movie that still has quite a few flaws and glaring weaknesses (ones we will get to in a bit). There’s been a lot of talk this week over Holland’s non-Spidey roles and what they mean in the grand scheme of his career, but it’s safe to assume that Holland’s acting chops and seamless transition into different characters isn’t the issue.
As for the rest of the cast, I can’t say this is the most inspired collection of talent. Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali and Tati Gabrielle all turn in fine performances, but none that leap off the screen and call for a deeper discussion. They all feel like characterized step-ins for the cliché villains and traitors of the genre. And don’t get me started on Mark Wahlberg, who is basically a walking corpse from the first time he shows up on screen. The movie doesn’t scream innovative in its characters.
Honestly, the film doesn’t scream innovative in many senses at all. As it’s been mentioned numerous times already, Uncharted is a genre film. It’s not pushing the boundaries of that genre – it’s perfectly fine living within the norms of it. The script is clunky as they solve nearly every puzzle and riddle along the way in a matter of seconds. The twists and turns feel forced and inorganic, and the concept of looking for gold has been played out over and over and over and… you get the idea.
Uncharted is a fun and entertaining joyride. It sets up sequels (as all franchise films have to do at this point) and does an admirable job introducing a world and its characters. Are these pieces all that different from previous films in this vein? Not really, but I still couldn’t help but leave the theater a teeny bit interested in seeing the next iteration.