Uncharted Territory: The Return of Nathan Drake

Everybody grab your map and compass because it’s time to find the point of the new Uncharted movie. If it wasn’t clear already – MAJOR spoiler warning ahead.

Five years since the last Uncharted game and six years since the last game with main character Nathan Drake, Uncharted has not so triumphantly returned. It’s important to note that the film takes place sometime between the backstory revealed in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and the events of the game series.

Uncharted 4 reveals some important backstory between Nate and his older brother, Sam. However, in the movie they pick and choose sections of the backstory and take creative liberty with the rest. Truthfully, it took me a while to understand what they were going for when they introduced a young Sam in the movie. I only realized because I have played the games but those I watched with genuinely had no clue what was going on.

With the film already off to a rough start, there were many inconsistencies between the film and the games. For example, in the game when Nathan is 15, he and Victor “Sully” Sullivan meet in Colombia while both searching for Sir Francis Drake’s ring, which Nathan is a descendant of. When a 20-something Nathan meets Sully in the movie, they meet in a bar and spark up a conversation. This scene alone almost completely erases the entire plot of the third game. Not only that it completely changes the origins of their relationship.

Another major character inconsistency is with Nathan’s brother Sam. Again, in the games Sam goes missing when he and Nate are much older, posing as prisoners in Panama to steal the pirate treasure of Sir Francis Drake. While trying to escape from their failed plans, Sam is “shot” and supposedly dies until his return later in the game reveals he is alive and well. In the film, Sam leaves much younger to find the gold of Ferdinand Magellan, and although he is mentioned many times, does not return throughout the film.

Despite the lengthy list of negatives, this film wasn’t all that bad. They had beautiful scenery throughout the film and even highlighted Sully’s backstory. They kept key moments from the games such as Nathan’s plane fight and the discovery of Magellan’s ships inside the cave. Yes, these scenes were from different games, which again conflicts with the ENTIRE timeline, but it was refreshing to see an homage to the original games. 

More so than that, there were a few easter eggs throughout the film. Firstly a “blink and you’ll miss it” moment. Near the beginning, where Nathan opens a chest covered in stickers, on the inside you can see a flash of a Naughty Dog Game Studios sticker – the original developers of the Uncharted game series. 

Secondly – a cameo that even took me a moment to process. While walking through the beach resort, leading man Tom Holland walks past a man who briefly talks to him and tells him good luck.​​ To an ordinary viewer, this may seem like any old movie extra but anyone who has played the games knows that voice anywhere. The man on the beach was none other than Nolan North, famous voice actor and the voice of the original Nathan Drake. This short cameo was by far my favorite moment throughout the entire film.

In all honesty, this movie wasn’t great…It’s clear why critics and avid fans despised this movie. Personally, I toe the line. However, as much as I hate to admit it, I still enjoyed it. Some inconsistencies were hard to get past but I tried to enjoy the movie. If you ignore the connection between the movie and the games, the film in itself was not horrible (But not saying it was great either). I do, however, have to give credit where credit is due. I think this prequel-style film worked out much better than a hardcore game-to-film adaptation would have. It wouldn’t surprise me if Uncharted became a movie series as well, but I won’t object if it doesn’t. Not even Tom Holland could save this mediocre movie from critics, but that won’t stop fans of the games.