Review by Daniel Blackaby February 18, 2022
Uncharted (Christian Movie Review)
Final Verdict: A fun, globetrotting, swashbuckling, adventure film that doesn’t take itself too seriously (and does little to warrant being taken very seriously).
About The Film
The attempt to adapt popular videos games into blockbuster movies has resulted in some of the worst films to ever debase the silver screen. I am still haunted by the experience of watching the abominable Super Mario Bros. (1993) as a child. Yet, like treasure hunt, filmmakers continue to search for the secret that will crack the code and buck the trend. Is Uncharted the film to succeed where others have failed? The answer is…maybe?
I have never played an Uncharted video game, so I don’t know if the film is faithful to the source material. The film version is National Treasure meets Indiana Jones, but if Indiana Jones wanted to get rich by selling the artifacts instead of selflessly donating them to a museum. It is a fun, globetrotting, swashbuckling, adventure film that doesn’t take itself too seriously (and does little to warrant being taken very seriously).
Tom Holland has already proven he can carry a film as a leading man. He is likable in the lead role, playing Nathan Drake as a slightly world-wearier Peter Parker. Mark Wahlberg is fine as well, playing an older and more jaded treasure hunter and mentor. Holland and Wahlberg play off each other with a typical buddy adventure vibe, even if they don’t have quite as much natural chemistry as the films wants them to. Chloe Frazer (played by Sophia Ali) holds her own as the female member of the treasure hunting crew, before getting strangely sidelined in the final act.
As is perhaps expected for a silly adventure film, the less you think about it the better. Plot points make less sense the more you reflect on them, with a “fetch quest” storyline that is often as enjoyable as fetch quests are in video games (which is not at all). Many of the puzzles the characters must solve lack cleverness. Rather them demonstrate the intelligence of Drake, the simplistic puzzles do more to expose the utter incompetence of the other treasure hunters. Uncharted heavily relies on the charm of its characters to carry the film through these sections, until flying off the rails in in a wild, over-the-top third act. It’s undeniably fun in a “this is clearly a video game movie” sort of way, even if the spectacle and fantasy vibe of the climax feels out of step with the more grounded first two acts.
In the end, Uncharted manages to avoid many of the pitfalls that have undone other video game movies, even if it fails to do much to transcend far beyond that low bar. As a fan of silly adventure films, and without any knowledge or expectations of the source material, I enjoyed the film for what it was. It may not be an excellent or ground-breaking film, but we’ve certainly come a long way from the dark days of Super Mario Bros.
On the Surface
Profanity: Frequent mild profanities throughout the film (mostly “sh—”).
Sexuality: Both a male and female characters emerge from the water with wet shirts tight against their bodies in a slightly suggestive but not gratuitous manner.
Violence: Villains die in bloodless and non-gratuitous ways.
Substance: Alcohol plays an oddly outsized role in the film, seemingly as a shorthand way to show how “worldly” the characters are.
Beneath the Surface
Engage the Film
Trust No One
Betrayals, backstabbing, and double-crossing come fast and furious. Characters flip flop allegiances so frequently that viewers might start feeling some whiplash. These betrayals are punctuated and contrasted by a scene where Antonio Banderas’ mustache-twirling villain asks his father, “Don’t you have faith in me?” His father then points to one of Barcelona’s famous cathedrals and says, “I have faith in Him.” In a sense, the film suggests we can trust God—but no one else. God may be good, but humans are depraved and selfish. That is not say the film is cynical toward human nature. This is a film designed to entertain, not to preach a moralistic sermon. There is a degree of optimism with Nathan Drake as he learns that he still has a choice and isn’t destined to become like the lonely, self-serving Victor Sullivan (Wahlberg). Although some of the positive character growth is quickly undone by a closing scene that serves to set up a possible sequel.
Greed and Selfishness
“What is lost can be found.” These words are repeated several times throughout the film. In a flashback scene, Drake’s older brother explains that there is a difference between something that is “gone” and something that is “lost.” The teaching has a double meaning in the film. On the surface, the words refer to the lost treasure. Parallel to this, however, is the sense that Nathan Drake is himself “lost.” A troubled and difficult upbringing has left him without direction, driftingly aimlessly and selfishly through life. The search for the lost treasure therefore also becomes the search for himself. Obviously, the film does not explore this in any overtly Christian or “Amazing Grace” sense, but the subtle theme does add an extra layer of meaning to an otherwise purely-for-entertainment movie.