Tom Holland Is Enjoyable in a Generic Action Flick

  • Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for “Uncharted.”
  • Sony’s video game adaptation takes the blueprint of the franchise and veers it in its own direction.
  • A less fun “National Treasure,” Tom Holland saves a generic action flick with his infectious charm.

In 2020, I played through the four main “Uncharted” video games at a breakneck pace of about six weeks.

Naughty Dog’s best-selling series makes you the Indiana Jones of your own global treasure hunts as you shoot, solve puzzles, scale mountains, trains, and even churches on your way to glory and gold.

Hungry for more, I remembered Sony was developing a film adaptation for over a decade, and I was initially thrilled, albeit, apprehensive. (Video game film adaptations can be hit or miss even if their track record’s been better of late).

In my mind, there was only one person who could play the film’s protagonist, Nathan Drake, a history buff, gun-wielding thief in his 30s: Nathan Fillion. I wasn’t alone in that fan-casting. Fillion seemed into the idea, making a very enjoyable 14-minute fan film released in 2018.

So when I learned Tom Holland was cast in the role, someone who I more or less consider my little brother, as opposed to the stud I grew to love in the video game franchise, I feared Sony got it wrong.

Tom Holland, 25, didn’t look old enough to play the Drake I fell in love with night after night in front of a TV screen during the pandemic.

Nathan Drake video game vs Tom Holland in Uncharted movie



Learning Tom Holland was cast in “Uncharted” was a momentary personal crisis for me since I considered Nathan Drake my video game boyfriend.

Naughty Dog / Columbia Pictures

Funny enough, Holland isn’t the main problem with the film. He’s not a perfect Nate, but if it wasn’t for Holland’s effortless likability, “Uncharted” would drag in its nearly two-hour runtime.

“Uncharted” isn’t a terrible movie — it’s enjoyable enough with a few sprawling action sequences — but the wannabe “National Treasure” is a generic action movie that never captures the full excitement of playing through the franchise. It certainly doesn’t try to redefine either the video game or action genre.

Instead, “Uncharted” capitalizes on the popular property to lure in a newer, younger audience who may have never played the games, originally released from 2007 to 2016.

“Uncharted” plucks some of the franchise’s greatest moments to remind fans they’re watching a film based on the game

Uncharted movie vs game


One of many familiar franchise moments seen in “Uncharted.”

Columbia Pictures / Naughty Dog, composite by Kirsten Acuna/Insider

The movie, a prequel to the entire game franchise, rewinds the clock back to when Nate (Holland) first met his longtime friend, mentor, and partner-in-crime, Victor Sullivan aka Sully (Mark Wahlberg).

Though taking some influences from 2016’s “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End,” the film doesn’t directly follow a storyline from any of the games. Instead, it invents a new fortune for Nate and Sully to track down: Ferdinand Magellan’s lost ships and treasure. In the game, Nate searches for Henry Avery’s lost ship.

Die-hard fans of the franchise may take issue with “Uncharted” as it cherry-picks recognizable moments and levels from the franchise while not being about any of those games at all.

Uncharted movie vs video game



“Uncharted’s” cargo plane scene in the movie versus the game.

Columbia Pictures/Naughty Dog, composite by Kirsten Acuna/Insider

The film uses specific imagery and characters from various games in the movie as if to remind fans they are indeed watching an “Uncharted” movie.

The film’s opening cargo plane sequence is borrowed from “Uncharted 3.” An auction heist resembles the one in “Uncharted 4.” A church scene brings to mind a puzzle from the first game, and a scene from the trailers with Magellan’s ships resemble a moment of discovery in the 2016 game as well.

Holland and Wahlberg are the best things about the movie in a cast that you otherwise have little reason to care for

Mark Wahlberg and Tom Holland in Uncharted


Mark Wahlberg and Tom Holland in “Uncharted.”

Clay Enos/Columbia Pictures

“Uncharted’s” toughest sell is accepting that Holland, who just played a high schooler two months ago in a worldwide phenomenon, is now playing a 25-year-old bartender who gets caught up in a treasure hunt.

Holland feels a bit too awkward and young to be as smooth as video game Nate. Since it’s a prequel, I can be a bit forgiving that Holland’s interpretation of the character is an unpolished Drake.

Thankfully, Holland’s so darn charming that you almost forget about that. Here, it’s like he’s playing an extension of his Spider-Man character.

Wahlberg is the Happy Hogan to his Peter Parker. The stars’ chemistry is the best thing about the film. You could easily watch the two bicker back and forth as they try and discern clues to lead them to Magellan’s gold.

Thank goodness for that because this isn’t a film where you’ll be invested in any of the other characters.

So much of the film’s marketing push is wisely centered around Holland — the “Spider-Man” actor did just star in the highest-grossing movie since 2019 — that you’re likely unaware Antonio Banderas is the film’s antagonist.

Antonio Banderas Uncharted


Antonio Banderas as Santiago Moncada in “Uncharted.”

Clay Enos/Columbia Pictures

That’s a good thing because his star power is wasted here as he plays a rather one-dimensional, ruthless treasure hunter.

Despite Tati Gabrielle (“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”) really trying as one of Sully’s old flames, Jo, and Sophia Ali knocking Holland around, both of the film’s actresses have been diminished to unnecessary love interests for the two leading men.

Gabrielle’s Jo, particularly, comes off as a vengeful ex. Both characters seem to be vague interpretations of Nadine and Chloe from the game franchise.

Tati Gabrielle in "Uncharted."


Tati Gabrielle in “Uncharted.”

Clay Enos/Columbia Pictures

The most intriguing thing the film does is pose the question: Can thieves trust each other long enough to work together? When the film leans into that aspect it’s at its most enjoyable as Sully, Nate, and the women double-cross one another with a few shocking reveals.

It’s not clear who this movie was made for because it’s not the fans who love the games

Naughty Dog claims that 37 million people have played the latest “Uncharted” game, an experience akin to playing through an immersive movie.

But nothing in the film beats the chills I experienced from a major twist in the first game.

Instead, there’s a moment that’s so silly in the movie’s third act — it gives off “Pirates of the Caribbean” vibes — that you can’t help but wonder how many people working on this production ever picked up a PlayStation controller.

Some of the franchise’s most important aspects feel like afterthoughts or footnotes in the film.

Tom Holland in Uncharted



Tom Holland feels a bit like a Nathan Drake cosplayer.

Clay Enos/Columbia Pictures

This Drake can’t hit moving targets with a gun, which is critical to the entire game’s success.

The beloved ring that Drake wears around his neck, becoming a symbol of the franchise, is shoved in your face too briefly to carry the same emotional weight as it does throughout the series. Elena, a main protagonist and Nate’s eventual wife in the franchise, isn’t even hinted at here.

There is one nice nod to fans late in the film when Nolan North, the voice behind video game Drake, makes a brief appearance, but that feels like obvious fan service.

If you’re not making a video game adaptation true to its source material for the people who played the game, then who is this movie for? 

Personally, since the games take hours to play, I think each installment in the “Uncharted” series would have made a nice season of TV. That’s what Sony’s doing with one of Naughty Dog’s other hits, “The Last of Us,” on HBO.

Mark Wahlberg and Tom Holland in "Uncharted."


“Uncharted” probably would’ve worked better as a longer-form TV series.

Clay Enos/Columbia Pictures

But it feels like Sony’s more interested in using its “Spider-Man” actor to cash in on the casual Holland fan who may not even know what “Uncharted” is. (There is a brief, shirtless Holland in this film, which may be enough to get the Holland stans to theaters).

And maybe that’s enough for the studio. Likely confident in how the movie will perform, the film’s ending sets up a potential sequel.

If you like Holland and aren’t looking for a straight adaptation, you’ll enjoy this.

Otherwise, stick to the games. Or check out Fillion’s fan film.

“Uncharted” is in theaters Friday.


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