Grade:  C+/B-
Action-Adventure
Rated PG-13

I’m a big fan of the Indiana Jones and National Treasure movies, so I wanted Uncharted and its treasure hunt to have the same energy level and quality.

But it doesn’t. The writing isn’t as crisp, the plotting isn’t as complex-yet-understandable, and the whole film tonally just doesn’t feel as if the writers could agree on the level of tongue-in-cheekiness vs. serious adventure vs. video game style. Then there’s this nagging feeling that the stars aren’t having as much fun as they should be, all things considered. Tom Holland is engaging. Mark Wahlberg is engaging. But they feel separately engaging, and not consistently so.

When it hit theaters in 2022, Uncharted quickly became the fourth highest grossing film of 2022—which, given the mixed reviews, pretty much hints at how badly fans wanted to like this film in spite of what critics may have been saying.

I mean, when you cast Holland fresh off his latest Spider-Man success and pair his built-in naiveté and nice-guy affability with someone like Wahlberg and the world-weary cynicism he seems to drag behind him like a bag of complaints, you’d think something more fun would happen—or at least more than what the film provides.

You almost feel like the film is in trouble in the early going when the attempt to establish a backstory for Nate (Holland) feels a bit clumsy and confusing. So how is it that orphans Nate and brother Sam are somehow accomplished enough to try to steal a map from a Boston museum and can come and go as they please? And why, when the orphanage kicks Sam out and he leaves through a window, doesn’t brother Nate go with him if they’re legitimately a treasure-hunting team with that kind of capability? Whether Sam is using or protecting his brother, the sequence felt rushed and paint-by-numbers.

Fast forward 15 years and it’s back to the future, with Holland-as-Nate doing his best Tom Cruise Cocktail impersonation . . . but, unlike Cruise, failing to please the women.  When Sully (Wahlberg) approaches him and tells him he knew his brother and tries to get him to throw in with him to find the treasure (and also, Nate is thinking, his brother) we get Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade vibes where Indy tried to find and help his father while also tracking down a priceless artifact. Everything else is here too:  the various maps, the “keys,” the journal that only history buff Nate is capable of figuring out, and a back story for Sully that seems to involve every other treasure hunter, mercenary, and not nearly menacing enough wealthy guy with daddy issues in New York.

Later, the plot takes a turn down Goonies lane, and all of these film nods could have been fun if there had been a wink to go with them. But the writers and director Ruben Fleischer were never able to convince me that they were appropriating iconic scenes from the treasure-hunting genre and trying to do something more with them. Same with a character (Braddock, played by Tati Gabrielle) who kind of reminded me of Thumper—half of the female henchmen team of Bambi and Thumper that made James Bond’s life interesting in Diamonds Are Forever. I couldn’t tell if it was a deliberate allusion or if it was just the filmmakers’ subconsciousness tossing everything into Uncharted that they could remember from other films involving treasure . . . and diamonds.

With an adventure like this you necessarily have to suspend belief, but there are times when small things pop up like a piece of worn carpeting to trip you and make you think outside the film. It happened when the characters were using these precious gold crosses as keys and torqueing the hell out of them. Gold is a soft metal, I’m thinking aloud. “Yeah, and everything else in a film like this is so realistic,” my college-age daughter said. But maybe that’s the point. If someone slits a person’s throat from behind and we later see that person still lying on the ground with a slit that was enough to kill but not enough to cause a pool . . . even a puddle of blood . . . it takes you out of the movie experience. There needs to be an internal logic in a film, even when the film itself is logically outrageous. Sophia Ali (Grey’s Anatomy) and Antonio Banderas round out the main cast, and as with Holland and Wahlberg, you get the feeling that they would have been able to do more with fewer clichés.

A fellow critic once remarked, “If all critics agreed, only one of us would have a job.” Good point, and in the spirit of fair play I need to report that the numbers for this film are all over the place. Only 41 percent of critics at Rotten Tomatoes liked the film, but 90 percent of the audience did. At the Internet Movie Database the film got a collective rating of 6.4 out of 10, with 112,000 voting thus far. At Metacritic, critics gave it a 45 out of 100, while “users” gave it a 6.2 out of 10. Six, I think, is a fair number to put on Uncharted, which marks it in the C+ or C+/B- range.

Three of us watched together in our household. My wife liked Uncharted, my college-age daughter said it was “okay” but that she expected more, and I had the same feeling as my daughter. The action isn’t bad, but the best scene is a parcour romp that was fun to watch, and maybe “fun” is the key here. There’s an overall sense of fun lacking in this treasure heist-hunt, and the best films in the genre always seem to make that a top priority. The tagline for this film is “Fortune Favors the Bold,” and I think the filmmakers needed to be a little bolder and less derivative. Maybe next time?

Entire family:  No (10 and older?)
Run time:  116 min. Color
Aspect ratio:  2,39:1
Featured audio:  DTS-HDMA 5.1
Studio/Distributor:  Columbia/Sony
Bonus features: C+
Includes:  Blu-ray, DVD, Digital
Trailer
Amazon link
Rated PG-13 for violence, action and language

Language: 3/10—No f-bombs that I heard, but probably several handsful of lesser swear words

Sex:  1/10—The word is mentioned like once, but there’s no nudity and nothing overtly sexual here; even the dancing in a club seems tame

Violence:  4/10—For an action film the violence is surprisingly subdued; aside from near bloodless throat-slitting, some characters fall to deaths, others are crushed to death, and there are action sequences involving weaponry that really don’t show serious injury or deaths; everything is implied or else off-screen, with only two jump scares

Adult situations:  3/10—Main characters drink frequently and there’s some smoking, plus bar scenes, drinking from very old bottles, and glamorizing the bartender’s role as entertainment and a pick-up profession

Takeaway: Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg? This one didn’t click, but I’m glad the ending seemed to be setting up a sequel (of course!), because these two deserve a do-over