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Way Too Late: Uncharted

I know, I know, the movie has been out for months, but sometimes I get wrapped up doing other things (nothing) and I forget to watch stuff I'm excited about. I only saw The Green Knight the other day. I might maybe watch The Northman this weekend, who knows. But I did it, I watched Uncharted and now you all have to hear what I have to say about it. Because I lack the discipline to go to the theater by myself every time a movie comes out, this will probably be the first in a series of reviews I will be writing about films I watch whenever I get around to it. Here is this one.

Uncharted is originally a series of video games much in the vein of franchises like Tomb Raider. Developed by the studio Naughty Dog, which has also created the critically acclaimed The Last of Us series and the significantly less serious Crash Bandicoot games, it stars charismatic young explorer Nathan Drake, an adventurous young orphan and self-declared descendant of the legendary ship captain Sir Francis Drake. The player partners with Victor "Sully" Sullivan in a 4-part epic following the pair through a series of zany adventures around the world in search of hidden booty. The games' heart-pounding action set pieces and profound character moments made it an obvious candidate for a big-screen adaptation, and after a troubled production schedule, the film finally debuted in theaters earlier this year.

The film follows Drake and Sully, played by Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg respectively, as Sully recruits Nate to help him find the fabled lost gold of Ferdinand Magellan's expedition to circumnavigate the globe in 1500s. The wisecracking young Nate, employed as a bartender at the time, demonstrates his potential through his pickpocketing skills and also by educating Sully, supposedly a grizzled veteran of the treasure-hunting underworld, on the simple fact that Magellan did not survive his own voyage.

While initially skeptical of Holland's casting as the intrepid young Drake, I concede that Spidey won me over. He takes to the role with a youthful exuberance that evidently comes easily to him despite his deer-in-the-headlights affectation. His natural physical talent allows him to portray Drake's acrobatic style with reckless abandon that adds an element of frantic tension to the film's already thrilling action sequences. The film's pace is tempered at times by moments of emotional depth centered around Nate's hopes of finding his long lost brother Sam, and Holland navigates these valleys aptly.

Wahlberg, however, is as woefully miscast as ever as Nathan's cynical mentor. He replaces the endearing saltiness of the elder explorer with his insufferable "Cleverest Masshole" persona, making this the worst Wahlberg joint since whatever his last movie was (I looked it up and apparently it's Father Stu, Joey is right again). Sully's "I'm getting too old for this shit" sidekick archetype is one of the easiest acting templates to nail, yet they insisted on casting the Tim Tebow of actors for it and he misses the mark entirely. This aspect of the production is, to put it mildly, a complete dud.

While Sophia Ali delivers a strong showing as the double-dealing Chloe Frazer, the normally exemplary Antonio Banderas phones in an undercooked performance as the forgettable villain (I don't remember what his character was called and I don't feel like looking it up).

Where the film does meet the games tit for tat, however, is the action. In a scene teased in the trailer, Nate must scale equipment crates dangling precariously from the back of a cargo plane in flight, reminiscent of a similar set piece from the games. The film concludes with a fight scene aboard a helicopter/sailboat chase that I can only describe as Top Gun meets The Goonies. It doesn't have to make sense, it just has to be fun.

And it is, if little else. The film peppers in a fair amount of fan service, including a brief cameo by Nathan Drake's original voice actor. As far as video game movie adaptations go, we have seen worse. Uncharted does enough things well to serve as an enjoyable action-adventure romp, and if I can stomach Wahlberg's "acting", so can you.

Joey's rating: B-

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