After headlining “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and propelling it to a massive $1 billion-plus worldwide box office, Tom Holland will trade in his web shooters for the white henley of treasure hunter Nathan Drake in Sony’s “Uncharted” movie. The film is based on the massively popular video game series of the same name.
Envisioned as playable “Indiana Jones” movies, the “Uncharted” games feature globe-trotting adventures and death-defying action set pieces, along with a charming, wise-cracking protagonist in Drake. The entire series has sold more than 40 million copies, making it one of the most popular for Sony’s PlayStation console. Sony hasn’t revealed a great deal about what fans of the games can expect from Drake’s inaugural big screen outing, but keen observers can spot lots of allusions to the adventurer’s previous escapades from the trailers and stills that have been released thus far.
According to our detective work, the “Uncharted” movie appears to mix storylines, characters and set pieces from the four main games and follows Drake’s early adventuring days, which are only seen through a couple flashbacks in the series. Fans were split when they first saw Holland’s younger take on Drake, who’s portrayed in his mid 30s in the games, and Mark Wahlberg as his accomplice Victor “Sully” Sullivan, who’s normally a cranky, cigar-smoking 60-year-old. After first revealing Wahlberg’s younger Sully, video game fans were dismayed to see he didn’t have his iconic mustache. The second movie trailer included a quick shot with a mustachioed Wahlberg, but it’s unclear when the brief scene takes place or if that’s Sully’s look for the entire film.
In the movie’s early development days, Wahlberg was originally attached to star as Drake, which would’ve been a more video game-accurate portrayal. An “Uncharted” film adaptation has been in the works since 2008, after the first game’s release, but development dragged on and on and on. A revolving door of directors entered and exited the project, including David O. Russell, Dan Trachtenberg, Neil Burger, Seth Gordon, Shawn Levy and Travis Knight, before Ruben Fleischer (“Venom,” “Zombieland”) came on board.
With the movie already playing fast and loose with the characters, it also hops around the video game entries and splices together a brand new story, partly inspired by the pirate treasure hunt in “Uncharted 4” and showcasing the high-flying airplane scene in “Uncharted 3.”
“Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End,” released in 2016, marked the final adventure for Drake that saw him reunite with his long-lost brother Sam and travel the world searching for a fabled, treasure-filled pirate city. During the adventure, Drake crashes a high-stakes auction, explores a booby-trapped tomb and finds a pirate ship loaded with gold — all moments that appear in the trailers for the “Uncharted” movie. One of the film’s main differences is that the pirate ships get airlifted by helicopters out of the jungle in what seems to be a final act stunt; in the video game, he has a fiery duel to the death with the main villain aboard the burning ship. The fourth game seems to be the main inspiration for the film, but it also borrows the airplane scene, one of the franchise’s most memorable action sequences, from “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.”
In the game, after sneaking onto a cargo plane, Drake finds himself in a shootout that damages the aircraft and sucks out its contents high above a desert. Hanging on for dear life, Drake is flung off and free-falls in the air, only to latch onto a piece of cargo with a parachute and float down to earth — though he’s stranded in the desert and nearly driven insane. The “Uncharted” movie trades the desert for the ocean and an Arabian mercenary for a Scottish brute who battles Drake on the plane, but the rest of the transplanted sequence plays out largely the same.
The film also remixes Drake and Sully’s first meeting, originally seen in a flashback in “Uncharted 3.” Instead of a young, orphaned Drake running into Sully in Colombia and having his life saved by the elder treasure hunter, the film has Drake working as a bartender in Manhattan before meeting Sully. Their partnership seems to be an uneasy one, rather than the father-son relationship that Drake and Sully enjoy in the games.
Besides Holland and Wahlberg, the cast includes Antonio Banderas as a villain named Moncada, Tati Gabrielle as his accomplice Braddock and Sophia Ali as fellow treasure hunter Chloe Frazer. The only existing video game character is Chloe, though she was introduced in “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves” as Drake’s rival and brief love interest. She appeared briefly in “Uncharted 3” and became such a fan-favorite that she co-starred her own spinoff game, “Uncharted: Lost Legacy,” the series’ most recent release.
The new villains Moncada and Braddock may take inspiration from Rafe Adler and Nadine Ross, the pair of antagonists in “Uncharted 4.” Nadine was a private mercenary leader who helped Rafe, a greedy treasure hunter who was once Drake’s partner. However, Banderas’ character is much older than Rafe, and it appears he doesn’t have any connections to Drake’s past, at least from what we know leading up to the movie.
One major video game character who’s missing so far from the film is Elena Fisher, Drake’s main love interest and wife by the end of the series. Elena starts out as a reporter joining Drake on his first adventure in “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune,” then accompanies him on all of his later outings. It’s possible she appears in the film as a surprise role or perhaps Sony is waiting to introduce her in a later film, assuming “Uncharted” manages to break the curse of video game movies that flop at the box office.
Drake’s brother Sam could also make an appearance in a future movie. In the games, he’s conveniently not mentioned or seen until “Uncharted 4,” but both Drake and Sully namedrop him in the early moments of the movie trailers, setting him up as a more important, albeit unseen, character. In a flashback in “Uncharted 4,” Sam was left for dead after a heist gone wrong, but he surprises his brother years later by being alive and itching for one last hunt for pirate treasure.
Will existing fans of the “Uncharted” franchise turn out to theaters for the film adaptation? It has a young, bankable star in Holland and eye-catching action sequences, but video game movies can be a fickle business. For every high-grossing “Sonic the Hedgehog,” there’s a disastrous “Super Mario Bros,” and even “Sonic” had to infamously redesign the blue speedster to more closely resemble its video-game counterpart. Aging down “Uncharted’s” Drake and Sully may bring up the appeal to non-gaming fans, but it also may turn off diehard gamers.
The bread crumbs that Sony and the filmmakers have dropped so far signal that Drake’s cinematic excursions won’t lack for globe-trotting, pyrotechnics, and high-flying acrobatics, a natural for Holland who is no stranger to gravity-defying stunts thanks to his stint as Spidey.