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 Spider-Man: Homecoming's Tom Holland will play the young Nathan Drake, I'm wondering what the film should (and shouldn't) 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 and 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? 

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.

Everything must break

Speaking of action sequences, it's not an Uncharted game if Nathan Drake isn't leaving entire ancient civilizations in shambles. Every time Nathan leaps for a plank of wood, it needs to break out from under him. A massive stone bridge should crumble behind him as he darts across. You need to look at a set of footholds on a cliff face and time how quickly it takes for one of them to slip out from under him - anything longer than five seconds is too long. Heck, Drake should pick up a coffee cup and instantly drop and shatter it because it scalded his fingers. If the world around Nathan Drake isn't crumbling into the dust from whence it came, it's not Uncharted.

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. A young Sam would be a good shout too, after establishing himself so well in the final instalment. Nate won't have met Elena yet, but a younger Chloe is possible. A fresh baddo is essential though, obviously.

Foreshadowing to events in the games

In focusing on the life of young Nathan Drake, the filmmakers actually give themselves a lot more leeway in what kinds of stories they can tell. I mean, we already know what kind of man Drake is, but how did he get there from his younger days? This offers interesting opportunities to provide all kinds of references - both overt and subtle - to the games themselves. Maybe Nate has to get information from a young Eddy Raja. Or maybe he sees a quick aside to the Cintamani stone made by one of the explorers Drake is chasing down. It's a way to inject a sense of scale and history into the film, while also giving Uncharted superfans something to nudge their bud's shoulder about in the movie theater.

Maintain that sense of serialized, 1930s adventure

One of the biggest tenants of the Uncharted series is that, no matter what happens to our heroes, they make it out the other side alive. They might be changed by the experiences they've seen, they might have a few broken ribs, but the villains always lose, the heroes always win, and everything is generally peachy once the credits roll. That's because Uncharted is pure pulp, taking inspiration from movies like Romancing the Stone, Indiana Jones, and serialized adventure stories from the 1930s. They're about far-flung locales, the wonder of unearthing hidden chambers and priceless artifacts, and the human cost of awakening mysterious forces we can't even begin to understand - and of course, our hero Drake has a perfect quip for every occasion. That's not to say there shouldn't be stakes involved, but an Uncharted movie should focus on the fun and excitement of adventure - the world doesn't need another dark and gritty reboot.

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.

Mike Williams
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.