Tom Holland’s new adventure as Nathan Drake turns out to be a fun, fast-paced adventure heading towards box office milestones, yet the film’s lack of personality due to source material changes robs it from notability. 

Fans of the Uncharted video game series might be delighted to hear that the box office earnings for the film adaptation hit $106.4M in its first weekend, leading Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group Chairman and CEO, Tom Rothman, to declare it a “new hit movie franchise.” 

Those who have read previous articles on Hollywood’s difficulties with creating successful video game adaptations might believe that the box office success of “Uncharted” indicates its addition to a recent trend of positively received adaptations. The film even causing Rothman to express his enthusiasm about a possible sequel. 

While this might be the case, there are a couple of aspects about the film which already indicate a couple of problems that could negatively affect later installments. So, let’s dive into Ruben Fleischer’s “Uncharted” (2022) and examining the elements that make the film a successful action-adventure movie but sub-par as an adaptation.

Surprisingly, “Uncharted” was a mostly faithful adaptation of the popular game series, accurately displaying all the hallmarks of a classic Uncharted-esque adventure.

The adventure begins as aspiring treasure hunter Nathan Drake, played by Tom Holland, is recruited by experienced treasure hunter Victor Sullivan, Mark Wahlberg, to assist him in locating a lost 16th century fortune. With the combination of Nate’s street smarts and clue deciphering skills paired with Sully’s resources and experience, the duo sets out on a globe-trotting journey. 

Seeking to uncover the truth behind the legend of historic Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s lost fortune, they must race against the greedy Santiago Moncada, believing the treasure to be his birthright. 

Nate and Sully must face the odds as they solve century-old clues and puzzles as well as fighting off the army of mercenaries hired by Moncada, but find their greatest challenge is figuring out how to work together. 

Many “Uncharted” fans may recognize notable action sequences and narrative pieces in the movie as they mirror prominent plot points from “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Fortune and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.” The use of these elements, combined into one movie, surprisingly translates into a well-paced, enjoyable action-adventure as it unfolds into a signature Nathan Drake treasure hunt. 

The initial set up for the hunt of Magellan’s fortune is effective and the transitions between the puzzle solving and action sequences feel organic, striking a natural balance between the two most prominent elements of the plot. There is little error in the film’s execution of fitting into its genre but also little notability as well, and it partly has to do with how the film serves as an adaptation film.

While there are a good number of things the movie got right as an action-adventure film, there are many things it got wrong as an adaptation. In my previous article, I discussed the difficulty with adapting narrative driven video games: “Narrative video games are ‘so similar to movies already… that adapting them into movies seems almost unnecessary, and like it would actually make the stories worse,’ one writer at Forbes suggested.” 

Therefore, directors and scriptwriters have to find a balance between creating an accurately depicted adaptation while also presenting new elements to display something different than what’s already been shown in the games.

Sadly, the changes made to the source material take away from its potential of being a more notable action movie and diminishes it as an adaptation. The most notable changes were the character adjustments, and the dynamic between them, made to Holland and Wahlberg’s characters, Drake and Sullivan. 

The plot serves as an origin story of Drake’s path as a treasure hunter and the lifelong relationship between Drake and Sullivan. Drake initially meets Sullivan in his early 20s, in contrast to meeting Sullivan as teeanger in the games. 

In the games, Drake is a ruggedly charming, witty yet clever treasure hunter. While Holland succeeds in portraying his Drake as witty and clever, the choice to introduce a younger, greener depiction of the treasure hunter casts aside much of the rugged charm the original Drake had. Instead, we have a much more wet-behind-the-ears and arguably frantic character, almost reminiscent of Holland’s past role as the young and inexperienced Spider-Man Peter Parker. In short, it’s nothing we haven’t seen from Holland before.

I was skeptical of Wahlberg’s casting of Sullivan, due to Sullivan being an iconically elderly yet suave and fiercely loyal partner to Drake. He was the definition of a smooth talking silver fox. All of this is lost in the adaptation. Instead, we’re met with a sarcastic, deeply distrusting and greedy Sullivan. Although his character arc  throughout the adventure redeems him, it crippled the character dynamic that could’ve been presented in the first film — a character dynamic that could’ve given even more personality and notability to the film. 

Perhaps possible sequel installments will alleviate the franchise’s problems with blandness and inaccurate character adaptations. But it’s hard to call a Nathan Drake adventure boring, even with a different kind of Drake, making this film still worth the watch.