6 essential lessons the Uncharted movie needs to learn from the games

Let’s get one thing straight: Uncharted is brilliant. Sure, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, while not perfect, is a fitting end to Nathan Drake’s story and a thrilling 10+ hours of adventure. It’s predictably great. Now, with the news that Stranger Things season 2 director Shawn Levy is in charge of bringing this franchise to the big screen, it got me thinking how that’d work and what the film should import from the games. 

Naturally, we demand an action-adventure film that feels like part of the games’ expanded world, and it’s obviously got to be good. Fingers crossed we get something more akin to the cinematic gloss of Resident Evil or atmosphere of Silent Hill rather than an unholy mess like Super Mario Bros or Doom. But aside from quality… what themes and ideas should it borrow from the games?

You need the right guy for the job

Nathan Drake is Uncharted. While his supporting cast is much-loved, the whole franchise is built around his charming, slightly abrasive, personality. It’s a vehicle for his ego. So, nailing the lead character with the right casting is essential. While Nathan Fillion’s name’s been bandied around for what feels like forever, he's almost certainly out of the running. Shame, and some fans still cling to the dream. Personally, I think there are a dozen or more actors that could fit the character for various reasons. Daredevil's Charlie Cox could give us a more level-headed, fresh-faced thrill-seeker type; or an older (and arguably better known) portrayal could see someone like Bradley Cooper or Chris Pratt assume the role. If you’re looking for someone who actually resembles Drake… look no further than Scott Eastwood (yes, he is the son of Clint). He’s a good shout too - a relative unknown with action-movie credentials and the potential to bring a fresh face to a modern blockbuster.

Right place, right treasure

One franchise staple is the way the game’s narrative takes us through an array of exotic and, frankly, stunning locations. Granted, it’ll no doubt echo the likes of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and virtually every James Bond film you can think of, but mouth-watering locales are what make Uncharted the rich experience it is. Basically, it’s anywhere you might find fancy treasure and dirty mercenaries in need of a good punching. Possible locales? Well, the obvious one would be the Secret City of Paititi in Brazil, where historians reckon an estimated $10billion treasure is waiting to be found. For a more nautical theme, maybe movie-Drake will go looking for the Flor de la Mar, a fleet of ships that sunk off the coast of Sumatra, carrying an estimated haul of $2.4 billion in gold. That’s 55,000kg of solid gold! Not sure how Nate would actually carry all that...

And to go with these stunning vistas are the action-packed set pieces. Obviously as gamers we are the ones playing out the adrenaline-fuelled scenarios but seeing Drake defy death with every insane escape, chase, or getaway at the cinema will be just as immersive. Among Thieves made us sweat our way through that precarious mountain-dangling train; Drake’s Deception gave us that memorable, hasty evac from a torched, collapsing house; and A Thief’s End got made us sweat with that epic jeep chase. Huge, inventive action sequences will be what sets this apart.

Bring back the gang

Any great film is made up largely of sharp scripting and, ahem, all the best words. Each game is packed with witty, top-notch dialogue; whether it’s a snappy retorts as Nate and Sully navigate their way through a heavily guarded jungle, or if the pair are bombing it through a shanty town in a battered jeep - the exchanges are always spot on. We need our key characters to appear in some capacity. After all, an Uncharted movie wouldn’t be complete without the cigar-smoking, huskiness of an ageing Sully - someone like JK Simmons would be ideal, likewise Bruce Campbell. Elena, as Nathan’s love interest and inevitable missus, has to be in there too (Brie Larson or Rosamund Pike?), as does Sam after establishing himself so well in the final instalment. Obviously, a fresh baddo is essential.

Flashbacks to Nathan’s past

While there are moments dotted throughout the games where we’re transported back to Nathan’s childhood, the segments are few and far between. They’re fun to explore, especially in the fourth one where you and your older, renegade-of-a-brother Sam break into (and subsequently escape) a seemingly abandoned house. Backstory’s always handy, especially to fill the blanks for anyone who’s never played the series but some new insight into Drake’s childhood wouldn’t go amiss. What would be cool is seeing the moment where Nate decides to become a fortune hunter - that transition between boy and man. Uncharted 4 sets the wheels in motion, but we don’t see his first proper outing (like, for example, young Indy in The Last Crusade).

A future storyline laced with death?

I’ll assume you’ve finished A Thief’s End – and if not, why not? You’ll therefore be aware of how nicely everything wraps up in the final story. For me, it’s a little too neat and tidy, especially after I was expecting – no, willing – someone to pop their clogs for a poignant farewell to the franchise. I’m no sadist and I’m fine with a happy ending yet the movie would have some nerve if it did what the games couldn’t; and that’s to off one of the heavyweight characters. Only this year Zack Snyder defied everyone in DC land by killing Jimmy Olsen, but who’d get the chop here? Sully, right? After the amount he and Nate have endured, not to mention we’ve previously been tricked into thinking he’s been killed on more than one occasion, it’d have a load of poignancy and impact, that’s for sure. Alas, we never got any big death payoff in the games but it doesn’t mean we can’t see what happens after Nate, Elena, and their daughter go sailing from their now super-comfortable, picturesque beach house. While the games have always traded on the matinee appeal of an adventure where ‘only the bad guy dies’, I actually think the series needs to evolve into something a little more adult, and axe one of its staples.

Love, not romance

While the series offers us high octane thrills, it has surprisingly little in terms of sex. That’s in complete contrast to mainstream Hollywood movies that insist on salacious helpings of hot and steamy action to attract audiences, but it’s really not necessary here. Sure, bring over the simmering sexual chemistry and sharp-tongued flirtations but we don’t need to hear (or see) Nate grunting and groaning… unless he’s clambering up an unstable rock formation, that is. Uncharted is one of the few games that actually paints a realistic picture of love and relationships - U4 especially highlights the problems of marriage - so having some kind of air-brushed Hollywood romance would be a massive step backwards, if it appears in the movie.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike scribbles at MTV, Yahoo Movies, BuzzFeed, GoThinkBig and Live for Films. As a huge animation and sci-fi fan, his favourite movies include Spirited Away and District 9.
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