Let the record show that as long as there has been any talk of any sort of 'Naughty Dog' movie (aka, the developers of 'Uncharted' and 'The Last of Us', among others), I have been pretty opposed to the idea. When it comes to the 'Uncharted' and 'Last of Us' games, specifically, I hold onto the idea that those games are story-driven enough that they sort of become their own movies.
Now that they've finally done it, were my thoughts warranted? Was this just a crappy money-grab in which the creators said "give them a famous title, but just do basic homework and release whatever"? After all, 'Uncharted' is easily one of my favourite game franchises, that warrants a full play-through once every couple of years or so. And yes, that means we finally have a movie on the 'Arcade' page that I'm reviewing where I can say "I can compare this to the games because I've played them!" With that said, I'll come right out of the gates by saying one is gonna have to treat the film as something somewhat separate from the game series.
The film is meant to be an origin story in which treasure connoisseur/hunters Victor "Sully" Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali) and of course, Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) all meet and go on their first big hunt. It all begins as we see young Drake (Tiernan Jones) and his big brother, Sam (Rudy Pankow) going after the authentic map of the Magellan expedition, on display at a nearby museum. However, they are caught in the act and brought back to their orphanage for punishment. Sam gets kicked out, and is about to be sent away, but not before he ditches, leaving Nate with the one and only “Sic Parvis Magna” (essentially "Greatness from Small Beginnings") ring - which any 'Uncharted' fan will know about. From then on, he disappears without a trace, but Nate holds onto hope that they'll meet again.
Several years later, Nate ends up becoming a skilled bartender, and an even more skilled thief, using his charm to his advantage. Soon enough, Sully catches him in the act. But instead of offering Nate any trouble, he offers him a job - which happens to involve the very same map the boys were after in the beginning. Unless it's only a story, the map should be the first piece of a huge, geological puzzle that could very well lead to a pile of gold. Of course, no 'Uncharted' story is complete without opposition. In this case, we have another man after the gold, also knowing some of the clues, Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) and his skilled henchwoman, Braddock (Tati Gabrielle). Once again, it's a race to the treasure story, as to be expected with a title like 'Uncharted'.
I have to say that I went in, wanting to see an 'Uncharted' movie done well, and I more or less got what I wanted. It's tricky because right off the bat, there's some inaccuracy about how Nate and Sully meet. One will also notice just from the trailers that there are plenty of scenes lifted right out of the games, which probably makes one wonder what game it's based on, in particular. Most of the elements it takes are even from 'Uncharted 4', in which Nate's a "retired" guy, almost, but not quite, too old for the treasure hunting game. With that, I think that it all comes down to overthinking.
For those wondering, I would place this (accurate or not) right between the flashback scene of 'Uncharted 3' and the first game. I realize that doesn't help a whole hell of a lot, but it's important to remember that we're looking at these characters as younger versions of themselves. This movie is meant to be a prequel of sorts. However, it seems they are already working towards a sequel for this, so I do get the feeling that we're going to have a whole "different universes" thing going on. Not to the extent that 'Spider-Man' does it now, but something unofficial, like the 'Batman' movies.
The real treat about this particular video game-based movie is that it's the first on several up-and-coming Playstation Studio movies. When I see something like that, I have a bit more faith that they can do things better than some who don't have such a direct hand in it. They even throw a pretty funny cameo in here for the real fans, which you'll know right away when you see. Think something Stan Lee level, but perhaps a bit hammier. Otherwise, I almost feel like the trailer shows you what you're in for, and if you feel like the 'Uncharted' spirit is there, do yourself a favour and check it out.
Video game movies don't have a great history, but they are LONG overdue for the right hands to come along and do them justice. We may be getting something like that with Playstation Studio. I'll admit that the film isn't perfect, and I think that several purists might not take it as well as I did. But everything you want to see in an 'Uncharted' adventure is actually here. It reminded me a lot of 2018's 'Tomb Raider' in that sense. I think it's probably time to give up on the "perfect" video game movie though, and just focus on things like this. If the film had a different title, I would still say it's an "Uncharted Movie". This genre does seem to be getting better, and I hope to see more solid titles along the way!