“Uncharted” tries to be a modern “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but it fails to rise to the challenge

Relying on stars and references to the source material to carry the action movie, it was a futile effort due to bad writing and pacing.

Action-adventure movies involving puzzles, booby traps, archaeology and the like are a dime a dozen. Some, like Steven Spielberg’s 1981 film “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” are iconic classics, beloved by generations of people. Other adventure films, like the 2004 Disney film “National Treasure,” enjoy a cult following despite their criticism. “Uncharted,” directed by Ruben Fleischer, has neither critical appeal nor audience appeal.

The “Uncharted” video game series is renowned for its fun gameplay, but as a movie it  is just plain bad. The film stars Tom Holland as Nathan Drake, who shares a name with the protagonist of the video game series. Mark Walhberg plays Victor Sullivan, Drake’s mentor and partner. 

The rest of the cast is, for the most part, forgettable in nearly every aspect. This is one of the main problems of the film – the characters are mostly one-dimensional with little to no development throughout the plot. There is an exception to this; Antonio Banderas’s performance as secondary villain Santiago Moncada is greatly entertaining, but that is pretty much solely due to his acting talent and not the actual writing. 

The “Uncharted” game series has many other great characters; Chloe Frazer, played by Sophia Ali in the film, is considered one of the most unique and interesting female characters in gaming. However, her cinema adaptation falls short of almost all expectations, and delivers a dumbed-down version of Frazer meant to be nothing more than a cheap love interest with a couple quips. 

The same applies to the adaptation of the relationship between Sullivan and Drake; a meaningful brotherhood between a mentor and protege is turned by the film into something that comes straight out of a low-brow buddy comedy. Tom Holland is a great actor, but it was clear his performance here was more or less paycheck-oriented. The same could be said for Wahlberg.

While the film could have used one of the game’s villains to provide a main antagonist with at least a slightly interesting backstory, the main villain is instead a brand new character created solely for the film, named Jo Braddock. Braddock is the definition of a one-dimensional villain; she has no interesting motivation, personality traits or acting whatsoever. She only really has two character traits, the first is being evil and the second is double-crossing people. 

These character issues are due to the abhorrent writing; most of the dialogue is based on b-tier humor and references to other movies. An example of this are the callbacks to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and its various iconic lines and scenes; these are plentiful in the film, and they are also derivative, uncreative and unfunny. The state of the writing is especially sad considering the source material, the “Uncharted” video games, have decent dialogue and some really comedic moments, not to mention better plots. 

Speaking of the plot, it is relatively basic; there are only three places that the characters go in the movies, one for each act, and the relationships between the characters are incredibly predictable, following almost every action movie trope that can be thought of. 

I have said before in my review of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” that an uncomplicated, straightforward plot can be rather good, and this remains true. However, a simple plot can only be truly good if it is supported by good acting and good writing; if the writing is bad, then this kind of plot can become boring incredibly fast, and this plot was just that; boring.

“Uncharted” had something else in common with “Shang-Chi,” and this was a positive aspect. I appreciated that “Uncharted,” while derivative and full of tropes, did not take itself too seriously. What I mean by this is that multiple scenes were just so out there that it nearly attained a status of ‘so bad it’s good,’ and I found myself entertained by these scenes. An example of this is the climactic battle, the premise of which is so ridiculous that seeing it was somewhat entertaining.

Let’s talk about the visuals. The movie’s visual direction was actually decent – I liked how some of the sets looked, and the lighting made for some interesting looking shots. However, when the best thing about an action movie is the lighting, it says something about the quality of the film overall. The special effects were standard action fare: big explosions, relatively little attention to detail, etc. None of the shots were exactly bad, but none of them were really memorable either.

All in all, “Uncharted,” was a derivative and unfunny adaptation of a somewhat popular video game series. This adaptation did little to respect the integrity of the characters, plot or creativity of the source material, and solely as a film it was not satisfactory either.