Loyal video gamers of the PlayStation variety are no strangers to the long-beloved tale of Nathan Drake and his treasure hunting. From the first Uncharted game released in 2007 by Naughty Dog, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Nathan Drake has captivated millions with his adventures across the globe — stealing, hunting and recovering treasure while fighting his enemies along the way. Credited with resurrecting PlayStation, the Uncharted series has not only been pivotal for its young fans, but for video game design in general.
While Uncharted has spawned three sequels, a prequel and a spin-off game starring a female protagonist, it has finally reached the silver screen, with Tom Holland as the titular character and a release date slated for Feb. 18. The first trailer arrived three months ago, and while those unfamiliar with the game were probably excited to see the adorable Holland in another action film, others might’ve been excited to see Holland free-falling out of a plane — reminiscent of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.
Holland is the main star, while Mark Wahlberg plays Drake’s mentor, Sully. Due to Drake’s younger age, the film is assumed to be a prequel that will show Drake before he really got started, with Sully helping him find his way. The film features the pair trying to recover a $5 billion treasure that the film villain, played by Antonio Banderas, is after. While there’s not enough information about him to make assumptions, it seems the storyline will also somewhat center around Samuel Drake, Drake’s long-lost older brother. A large part of the storyline in the original games revolved around the relationship between the two boys, and fans will be excited to see it possibly honored in film, though trailers leave it a mystery as to whether audiences will actually see the elder Drake on screen.
All versions of Uncharted were hailed not only for the voice acting and graphics, but also for their storytelling. The story of the protagonist is naturally a sad one; with the passing of their mother and a disconnected father, Sam and Drake find themselves in an orphanage early on. Sam is a troublemaker, rebellious and reckless. Proud of his late mother — Cassandra Morgan, an accomplished archaeologist and historian — Sam will fight anyone who disrespects her name, which is what leads him into trouble. Eventually, his fighting reaches a tipping point, and he is kicked out of the orphanage, leaving the younger Drake behind. He promises his brother he’ll come back, and he does while hunting down their late mother’s possessions sold off by their father. The elder brother is eventually arrested and then presumed dead following a prison fight. In an effort to continue his legacy, Drake picks up where his brother left off.
An Uncharted film was not a new idea; in development since 2008, after seeing many different cast members, directors and writers come and go, the movie finally began filming in early 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic. It was put on hold and finally completed in October 2020. There are a few crucial differences between the game and the film, perhaps resulting from the movie’s tumultuous development. Regardless, some game loyalists are not happy about them.
One of the biggest issues seems to be the casting of Holland as Drake: Holland is much younger than the game version of Drake. Most of the series depicts him as a man in his early 30s, with the exception of a few flashbacks here and there throughout Uncharted 3, where he would have been as young as Holland. Perhaps the biggest concern of fans is this: If the film were to be successful and spur a series, it betrays the vision of the original Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, since Drake is about 31 years old when his adventure starts in the game.
Casting a younger actor to play Drake could have been an intentional choice; in previous stages of the film’s production, Wahlberg had been set to play Drake, which would more closely adhere to the game. Nathan Fillion, another actor who bears an incredible likeness to Nathan Drake’s video game avatar, was even suggested for the role by fans a few years back, but the crew evidently went in a different direction. Treating the original plots from the games as simple suggestions may give the film more potential to spread out and surprise the audience; there remains a lot of mystery in Drake’s earlier years, at least in the realm of the video game series, and this film could provide some answers. It certainly seems that just by casting Holland, fans are already reconsidering what they know and what to expect from the film. It also gives the chance to explore beyond the video games; there are several pivotal years before gamers first meet Drake, years that are unknown and unheard of — perhaps this is their chance to learn of them?
On GeekTyrant, a popular website for videogame gurus, writer Joey Paur shares both his thoughts and those of Kurt Margenau, one of the lead designers on Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End as well as many other games in Drake’s universe. While Margenau supports the casting of Holland, saying, “I’m excited to see Tom Holland’s take on the character,” Paur vehemently disagrees. Holland, “in no way, fits the character,” at least according to Paur, without further reasoning as to why.
It can be argued that most of Holland’s previous roles don’t exactly align with the tough, rugged personality displayed by Drake throughout his video game journeys. Popular beyond belief for his portrayal of Spider-Man in six films since 2016, it may be that fans are typecasting Holland based on his lovable, nerdy, kind and irresistible Peter Parker. However, with his recent darker roles in “Cherry” and “The Devil All the Time,” Holland certainly shows that he’s capable of anything and could very well do Drake justice. It can’t go without saying that this is new “uncharted” territory in Drake’s life; his experiences in the games leave a lot to the imagination, and some of those unseen events could end up shaping Drake moving forward. Perhaps fans will see a hardened Drake played by Holland by the time the credits roll?
Aside from Holland’s acting, the other big thing people might care about is the storyline. After all, Uncharted is praised not only for impressive graphics, writing and characters, but a strong story that people care about. The premise of the film already sounds promising — Drake’s mentor Sully is present, Sam Drake is mentioned and treasure hunting is definitely involved. Thrills, fights, dangerous stunts to amaze at every second! One can assume that the adventure will be interesting and exhilarating: maybe even better than the experience of playing it.
Regardless of skepticism, the film is destined to reignite popularity for the well-received video game. Only a few weeks before the movie’s release, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy came out, which is sure to double the interest in seeing the video game resurface on the screen. Time will only tell; hopefully Uncharted proves to be a treasure worth hunting for.