I’ve covered a lot of movies in early development before, but few have been so hard to discuss as the tumultuous Uncharted movie. Based on the popular PlayStation exclusive series of action-adventure games by Naughty Dog, this movie has been of interest to me for years now. Uncharted is already one of my favorite, if not my actual favorite, video game series ever. I love everything about these games: the gameplay, the story, the characters, the environments, the puzzles, everything. It’s basically a modern Indiana Jones with Tomb Raider’s gameplay. What’s not to love? How is this not a setup not just destined for film?
Unfortunately, the project has been in development hell ever since the film’s first announcement in 2010. Yes, the same year as Iron Man 2 and Toy Story 3. This project is only slightly younger than Bruno Mars’ singing career. It’s been that long. In that time, the project has gone through 4 directors, 3 or 4 scripts, and at least 3 big name actors attached to play Nathan Drake or Victor Sullivan. It’s been a mess the past 7 years, with the film even being removed from Sony Pictures’ release schedule last year. It seemed at that point that the film was officially dead, and at this point I wouldn’t blame anyone who wanted to just give the idea a rest for a while. It was already exhausting trying to keep up with the development process as it was. That was until yesterday brought an unexpected piece of news.
Sony announced that the movie is still very much alive, but with a new twist. The film will still be helmed by director Shawn Levy and writer by Joe Carnahan as announced back in 2016. We even have a new actor Nathan Drake, the second announced star after Mark Wahlberg to play the smartass, head-first, parkour-loving adventurer. It’s none other than… Tom Holland? Like Spider-Man Tom Holland? I’m pretty sure Nathan Drake is in his late-20s or early 30s (at least in the first game), and Tom Holland is… let me check real quick… my age! 20 years old. Okay, I didn’t know that. Kind of a big gap, especially for someone who looks like and portrays a 16 year old named Peter Parker, but I guess it can wor-… Oh! That makes sense.
Turns out this film is no longer about the first game, Drake’s Fortune, but a prequel to it a la the flashback scenes in third game, Drake’s Deception, or perhaps even the fourth game, A Thief’s End. Well, that’s definitely a different approach than we were expecting. It’s certainly a creative solution to the whole development hell situation, but the question now is whether that’s a good idea or not?
I like many others were taken aback when I heard the news. Not only were we expecting a film about the first game in the series, many of us were looking forward to it. Sure, the story of Uncharted 1 isn’t as compelling as Uncharted 2, 3, or 4, but that’s okay. This film is supposed to establish a baseline for the perspective franchise; one to inspire better sequels down the road. However, seeing as that’s no longer the case, I think this is an interesting alternative to a straight retelling of Uncharted 1. I’m actually curious to see how and if they can pull this off.
Consider what we know about Nathan Drake’s past from the games. He’s an orphan from a treasure hunting mother who’s father abandoned the family before his mother died. He has an older brother named Sam who basically skipped the orphanage one day, only sneaking back in to see his brother every so often. It’s Sam who teaches Nathan most of the parkour-ish abilities he’d use to trek tombs and buildings in the future. By the time he was 13 he would also run away from the orphanage to live in the streets. We see him try and retrieve the ring of Sir Francis Drake from a museum, because he claims to be one of Drake’s descendants. (That turns out to be a lie). It’s on this venture that he meets Victor “Sully” Sullivan, a conman who also dabbles in treasure hunting. Victor helps Nathan escape a terrible fate led by Sully’s employer and takes Nathan under his wing. Together the two formed a friendship like father and son.
That already is a pretty good background for a main character, obviously. This is why fans love the character of Nathan Drake so much. I believe with this main character backed by Tom Holland’s determined, wisecracking, in-over-his-head attitude will make for a great foundation for a film. Couple that the director of Real Steel and Stranger Things, and the writer of The A-Team and Blacklist, and you have a pretty good formula. That is of course with respect to one minor aspect that could become troubling.
No, the issue isn’t that its a video game movie. That on its own has come with a bad rep, but it doesn’t immediately disqualify it. My primary concern is the actual premise. Look at my summation of young Nathan Drake above. It’s a lot of background, sure, but is it enough to fill a whole movie? I don’t think so personally. You’d have to really stretch things out if you intend of just sticking to what happens in the games. That means that Sony and Carnahan will have to come up with new material to fill in the extra time and give the film a purpose. Your basically going outside the game’s canon to create a new canon, which can either be really good or really bad.
We’re gonna have to wait and see what they decide to have these characters do outside of just meet and try to steal the necklace; because stealing the necklace took like a half-hour or less in the actual game. That will be the determining factor on whether this film succeeds or fails. Either way, I’m very interested in seeing where they will go with this new concept for this storied project. In the meantime, I propose we sit back, relax, and hope that this film will actually come out in our lifetimes. The last thing we need is for this to fall through, too, leaving us to wait even longer for a proper Uncharted movie to finally grace theaters.
That’s at least what I think of the situation. What about you? Is this a good idea or a bad idea? What do you want from an Uncharted movie, and are you excited to see one? Sound off in the comments below!
I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!