‘Uncharted’: Tom Holland adventure tries to be everything, succeeds at very little
Gorgeous but unsatisfying, long-awaited movie version of the video game blunders in keeping the “Spider-Man” star largely apart from co-star Mark Wahlberg.
After nearly a decade and a half in Development Purgatory, the movie adaptation of the popular video game franchise “Uncharted” finally hits big screens — and you’d think that somewhere along that 14-year timeline, they would have remembered to put an actual movie inside the movie.
Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by Ruben Fleischer and written by Rafe Lee Judkins, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, based on the video game by Naughty Dog. Rated PG-13 (for violence/action and language). Running time: 116 minutes. Opens Thursday at local theaters.
You know how they say some athletes can do it all and excel in every major phase of their particular sport? “Uncharted” is kind of the opposite of that. It tries to do it all but doesn’t stand out in any particular element.
- This is an action buddy movie that keeps the putative buddies apart for too much of the action.
- This is historical drama on the level of “National Treasure” or “The Mummy” — in other words, not to be taken seriously — but it doesn’t even rise to the empty-headed, breezy escapism of those films.
- This is a film that introduces a possible romantic interest who is quite the formidable foe and/or ally as well (depending on which way the screenplay goes) — and then keeps her on the sidelines down the stretch.
- This is a story that doesn’t seem capable of deciding who the main villain is until deep in the telling, by which point this particular villain doesn’t seem all that imposing or dangerous.
Watching this movie is like having a particularly unsatisfying Wordle session. You start off in promising fashion but in a few quick moves, nothing is in the right place.
Tom Holland reminds us of his versatility and inherent likability as he slips into the role of Nathan, a gymnastically inclined (hey!), street-smart hustler and bartender who’s pulling off some Tom Cruise-in-“Cocktail” level tricks behind the bar while working his pickpocket game on the upscale clientele. In a scene with strong echoes of the Danny-recruits-Linus opener from “Ocean’s Eleven,” the mysterious Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) pays a visit to Nathan at the bar and tells him if he’d like to take a big step up from copping jewelry and go on a REAL adventure, look him up.
Sully wasn’t kidding about the stakes being raised. He’s on the ultimate treasure hunt, looking to recover Ferdinand Magellan’s legendary lost fortune of gold, which went missing some 500 years ago and is the stuff of myth — or is it the stuff of maps? With the help of Nathan, who’s something of an expert in this field, Sully believes he can use the clues from a rare map (and the clues that come in from an unlikely source) to determine the exact location of the treasure.
As for why Sully would pluck Nathan seemingly out of nowhere to join him on this “Indiana Jones” of a quest: Sully was working with Nathan’s estranged brother, Sam, who Nathan hasn’t seen since they were both living in an orphanage and Sam had to leave — and never made good on his promise to return for Nathan. Now, if they find the treasure, Nathan just might find Sam as well!
With a pair of bejeweled crucifixes literally symbolizing all the double-crossing that transpires along this convoluted journey, Nathan and Sully get into all sorts of death-defying, CGI-requiring, green-screen-heavy adventures, ranging from the slick and relatively grounded to airborne stuff straight out of one of the more ludicrous (or should we say Ludacris) “Fast & Furious” adventures.
Antonio Banderas roars like he’s doing Shakespeare in the Park as the standard-issue billionaire villain Santiago Moncado, while Tati Gabrielle’s assassin, Braddock, is such a stone-cold, murdering psychopath, it’s as if she’s a spinoff character from the Hannibal Lecter franchise. Another curious piece of the puzzle that doesn’t quite fit is the character of Chloe Frazier (Sophia Ali), who is out for herself and can’t be trusted but Nathan and Sully have to trust her due to certain circumstances and she has to trust them as well but there’s a lot of talk about how none of them trust each other, cuz ABANDONMENT ISSUES.
Given the longtime movie-star status of Wahlberg, and Holland’s undeniable range and skill set, it’s almost baffling how unmemorable they are together. Wahlberg seems particularly half-hearted in his line readings, though in his defense, the snap, crackle and/or pop isn’t really there in the dialogue.
“Uncharted” features some gorgeous location shots and some fairly impressive CGI — even when we’re firmly in the land of the ridiculous and Holland’s Nathan is enduring punishment even Spider-Man might not survive. Here is a movie that springs from a video game long hailed for being so cinematic and vibrant — and yet the movie fails to live up to that promising foundation.