When plumbers fail, send in Nathan Drake
By Scott Saffran
For those unfamiliar, Uncharted is a series of action adventure video games based on the exploits of adventurer/thief Nathan Drake and his search for the world’s greatest lost treasures. While the game series is exclusive to the PlayStation platform, it has garnered fans from across the world. All four of the titles of the game have been critically acclaimed and publicly adored, culminating in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and bringing the total sales to over 35 million copies worldwide. I count myself as one of those fanatics, and can lay claim to contributing to those impressive sales numbers. It took some time for me to embrace the series properly, but once I overcame the console barrier, I dove right into the world of Uncharted. I have spent the last year playing and replaying the games out of order and as I completed the third installment few weeks ago, a curious news item came across the wire; Joe Carnahan, director of The Grey, announced, via his social media accounts, that an Uncharted movie script had been completed.
Video game films have become notorious for their lackluster quality from the absolutely abysmal Super Mario Bros. adaptation all the way to the upsetting attempt at an Assassin’s Creed film. There have been glints of hope and we do continue to invest at every new chance (see World of Warcraft), but the door is closing as returns diminish continuously. There will come a point when the store of narratives available in video games cannot justify the almost inevitable collapse at the box office. I see that day on the horizon after the commercial failure of Assassin’s Creed, but it does not mean doomsday cannot be postponed.
Will the impending Uncharted film be the one to buck this terrible trend? Will it finally be the faithful game adaptation that pleases critics and causal moviegoers alike? I do not have an inkling of what the project will entail, so I can’t say. However, I can be positive about its potential. Uncharted is a modern day Indiana Jones with a protagonist in Nathan Drake who is likeable, believable, and relatable. It’s effectively the middle ground between Jones and National Treasure in its balance of history, action, intrigue, gunplay, and a race against a cartel of greedy evildoers. The focus can therefore be on story and the incredible cast of human characters available, not necessarily on innovating an entirely new narrative style or developing intense CGI beasts of myth. There is a tremendous amount of opportunity given to Joe Carnahan in undertaking this project. That, certainly, does not mean the movie will be good, but it does allow for exploration and invention. At the moment, Uncharted is both a very doable genre piece and a chance to craft a blockbuster with emotion and substance.
Still, at the end of the day, we as a community of gaming enthusiasts have to ask ourselves if this will be worth it. Are we setting up for failure by demanding more of a crumbling enterprise? Why do we think Uncharted will be any better or different from past attempts? I blame it on the inherent optimism of a story about a young orphan grown into a man chasing treasure and discovery. I think that we will find El Dorado, that we will see Shambhala. Undoubtedly, it is a risk but no worthwhile fortune was ever discovered without a good gamble.