Well, it’s happened. After thirty years of trying, video games movies have finally reached the middle. Uncharted, the globe-trotting Indiana Jones-riff adventure game, comes to the big screen at last, starring Tom Holland as a young, just-starting-out adventurer, Nathan Drake, and Mark Wahlberg as his shady mentor, Sully. It is in every way middling, just an absolute mediocrity of a movie, but after thirty years of video game movies so bad people dubbed them “cursed”, that’s a rousing achievement in the genre. Video game movies are no longer the worst thing in the world, they’re now as average as your run of the mill studio blockbuster effort. Great work, everyone.


Buoyed by Tom Holland’s irrepressible charm, Uncharted jogs past at a reasonable two hours, obviously skinned down to its most action-forward version, though if director Ruben Fleischer really wanted to make this a run-and-gun adventure, he could’ve skimmed a solid twenty more minutes off it. Still, with Holland charming and chirping his way through a script that veers between ludicrous action set pieces and completely hollow “emotional” beats, Uncharted goes down relatively easily. Once upon a time, this is exactly the kind of movie you’d stumble across on a Saturday afternoon while folding laundry, and half-watch contentedly while sort of doing something else. It’s a little bit a waste of Holland’s time—he is legitimately too good for such middling efforts—but he seems to honestly love this big bonanza movies, and he appears to be having some fun here. 

Somewhat surprisingly, Mark Wahlberg also seems to be enjoying himself, playing an untrustworthy thief who lures young Nathan—this character is supposed to be like, forty, and as a long-time player of Uncharted, it’s a lot to get my head around a version of Nathan as fresh-faced as Holland—into a life of crime and adventure to try and recover Ferdinand Magellan’s lost gold. Holland and Wahlberg have decent, sibling-esque camaraderie, sniping at each other’s ages, heights, and competencies in a way that feels like the dialogue grew out of mutual good humor and not a lab on a studio lot. Uncharted has three credited screenwriters and three additional story credits, so there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but Holland and Wahlberg manage to make Nathan and Sully’s relationship, at least, feel like something real humans might have.


Not as successful is the villain plot, where Antonio Banderas is obviously bored and phoning it in. Of course, this is a fundamental issue with video game adaptations, because the real enemy in a game is your own ability to successfully beat the game. That doesn’t matter in a movie, though, so we’re left with the vastly uninteresting Santiago Moncada, a middle-aged spoiled brat also trying to find Magellan’s gold, so that he can restore his family’s honor, because they got duped back in the sixteenth century by Magellan’s crew, who hid the gold in the first place. Fine, whatever. Uncharted isn’t interested in making Moncada interesting, it just wants to hit all the beats of an Uncharted game, from death-defying action to Nathan solving a series of puzzles and clues about the treasure’s location. It’s equal parts Indiana Jones and National Treasure, though without the sense of danger or madcap commitment of either. 

But I have sat through far, far worse video game movies, and Uncharted is at least basically competent. It looks decent; none of the acting is distractingly bad; the action is bog standard for a big budget film, but Holland can sell it; and there is a shadow of a story as Nathan seeks to find closure with his estranged brother, Sam, by completing Sam’s journey to find the gold. If they make more of these—and a sequel-baiting mid-credit scene sure hopes they do—the Uncharted brain trust might strive to challenge themselves to rise to Tom Holland’s level and come up with a script worthy of his time and talent, but as a first attempt of a movie stuck in development hell for years, in a genre that truly offers nothing to cinema (video games are already cinematic and their appeal is player engagement, something movies can’t replicate), Uncharted is probably the least offensive version of itself. Experience tells me this could have been much worse, and I am just glad it’s passable. Let’s call it a solid B- and agree that’s a win.


Uncharted is exclusively in theaters from today.