After years of development hell and vague rumors, the Uncharted movie adaptation finally made some big official announcements earlier in the year, namely its lead actor. Tom Holland was revealed to be playing the titular role of Nathan Drake, with the official title of the movie being NATE. For those unfamiliar, Uncharted is an action-adventure video game series where you play as a wisecracking treasure hunter in the search of long lost treasures, usually while being gunned down by competing forces. So ya, this is a movie based on a video game which means…it won’t be good.
It’s a long standing joke in the movie community that movie adaptations of popular video game franchises tend to always be bad. From the earliest example of the infamously panned Super Mario Bros.(1993) movie, to the latest Sonic the Hedgehog movie, which was mediocrely received by the masses. It’s clear that movie based video games (MBVGs) have a rusty history, and I have doubts that NATE is going to break the mold for three reasons that plague all MBVGs.
1. Pacing, Pacing, Pacing!
Pacing in a movie is incredibly important, as it can be the difference between a movie that fluidly tells its narrative and a movie that meanders for what feels like twice its actual run time. Not too long, not too short, just perfect! That’s what pacing is. It doesn’t help then, that video games and movies tend to have radically different forms of pacing. Movies on average tend to run anywhere between 1 ½ – 3 hours in length. Meanwhile, video games can run on average anywhere between 8 – 20+ hours in length. That’s due to gameplay in between all the narrative moments of a game, if it even has any sort of narrative to begin with.
Now granted, what NATE can be grateful for is the fact that the Uncharted series has always been seen as a video game that succeeds in being a cinematic experience, meaning a game that tries to mimic movies. Uncharted always received praise for its characters, dialogue, action set pieces, and motion actor performances, while its shooting gameplay was seen as merely passable. All NATE really has to do is present a tight, short, and sweet narrative that showcases its likable characters and includes a handful of fun action sequences. It already has its core foundation built, so it’s just a matter of actually using it.
2. Stick to Your Roots!
Far too often, MBVGs tend to strife from outside of their source material in an effort to not alienate people who haven’t even heard of the video game franchise, let alone played it. This leads to a movie that tries to appeal to a wider audience, while alienating the people it should be placing all its chips on. This is why a lot of times MBVGs are not just critical flops, but financial flops as well. It would be within NATE’s best interest to actually stick to its roots, although that already is something to be questioned just by looking at its casting of Tom Holland.
Nathan Drake is a grown man throughout most of the series, with only brief flashbacks to his youth. Most of the characters also seem to have been casted with younger actors. With that in mind, it’s difficult to tell whether NATE will be telling a story about a young Nathan Drake, that stays faithful to the overall character, or if they’re simply cashing in on Holland’s popularity and banking for an action-adventure flick aimed at teens. We can’t say for sure until we get some sort of trailer, but I’m banking on the ladder unfortunately.
3. Where’s the Fun?
Lastly, there’s the inherent issue with MBVGs that can’t be avoided, and that’s that they can never be as fun as the originals. This isn’t just some argument for “Oh you can never beat the original, ” more so that making a movie based on a video game fails because movies lack one characteristic that are integral to video games – interactivity. Video games are one of the rare examples of an entertainment/art medium that needs the constant user input of the person consuming said product.
Sure, while in most video games, the narrative follows a linear structure that can’t be manipulated by the player, the moment to moment gameplay is what makes players grow so fond of the franchise. In a book, play, or movie, the consumer is simply a bystander to the overall narrative, whereas video games put you into the characters shoes. You become the character. I can’t help but feel that when I end up watching NATE, the only thing I’ll be thinking of is, “Man, I’d rather just play the game please.”