We haven’t had a really good live-action movie based on a video game yet. In hindsight, that’s to be expected from the times and Hollywood. For the longest time, video games were relegated to the realm of geeks and nerds. The hobby was considered to be a children’s pastime, never to be treated with any level of seriousness and, despite video games raking in tons of cash, they were still for kids. So, when Hollywood decided to cash in on the “children’s pastime,” they treated their live-action versions of popular video games like garbage. This is why so many early films based on video games deviated from the original stories and feel. Just bring up old video game movies like Street Fighter, Resident Evil and Super Mario to get a glimpse of how Hollywood has treated video games in the past.
There have been some decent attempts of late that have been decent, such as Warcraft and Tomb Raider but nothing that really lit the cinema world on fire. Maybe what they need is an example. A template to follow, so to speak. Something that Hollywood can look at and see how to properly adapt a video game to the big screen. Well, if they won’t step up, it looks like it’s up to the fans to show the bigwigs at Hollywood how to properly make a film adaptation of a video game. Enter Allan Ungar’s Uncharted fan film starring Nathan Fillion as the prolific Nathan Drake. And it’s everything gamers dreamed it should be.
Naughty Dog’s Uncharted game franchise has been a staple of Sony’s consoles ever since the first game was launched on the PlayStation 3. It was one of those revolutionary games that mixed a whole bunch of genres. There was platforming puzzles, stealth portions, quick-time events, shooting stages and even driving sections and they all meshed well into one cohesive experience. But two elements made the Uncharted franchise start out, the first being the fleshed out characters and the cinematic cutscenes. These two elements really helped the series feel a lot like a movie at times. Come to think of it, why didn’t Sony just get Naughty Dog to just produce a CGI Uncharted movie? They would’ve been great at it!
Anyway, just because the Uncharted games already gave cinematic experiences, that doesn’t mean that making a movie that looks and feels like the games would be an easy task. If anything, that only makes it more difficult as we already expect what we’re going to get in a live-action adaptation. How would they manage to get all the camera angles and action feel like the video games without blowing the budget? Somehow, Allen Ungar made everything work in the fan film for the most part. Obviously, there weren’t any huge setpiece action sequences with Nathan Drake scrambling up crumbling walls or jumping over huge gaps in the floor because of budget constraints. Even the shootouts weren’t marathon affairs like in the games. However, whatever fight sequences and gun battles we did get worked well and made a lot of callbacks to the look of previous Uncharted action sequences and I can really appreciate it.
Uncharted, the games, managed to get all of the gameplay sections right. But what set the games apart for myself and a lot of fans were the colorful cast of characters. Nathan Drake was your likable and suave hero who likes to make a quip here and there. Victor “Sully” Sullivan was your hardnosed mentor who goes along with Nathan. Elena Fisher was the sarcastic love interest but never one willing to be a damsel in distress. They’re all here in Allen Ungar’s 15-minute fan film in one way or another and the man is obviously a fan of the Uncharted games as he managed to capture the personalities of these iconic characters perfectly.
It certainly helped that he managed to get fan favorite Nathan Fillion to play Nathan Drake. Uncharted fans have clamored and even petitioned Sony that, if they ever did make a live-action film based on the game, they cast Nathan Fillion in the part of Nathan Drake. And based on this film, it’s easy to see why this was the case. Nathan Fillion may not be the buffest dude with an action hero bod but so was Nathan Drake. But what Fillion did was bring Drake’s swagger and cockiness to the screen perfectly. His delivery in his lines was done with perfect tone and timing and even the fighting scenes was just like in the video games. A part of me feels kind of sad that Nolan North, the guy who actually plays Nathan Drake in the video games, wasn’t picked or isn’t even on the shortlist but hey! It’s Nathan Fillion!
The other main characters, Sully and Elena, are reliable facsimiles of their video game counterparts. Stephen Lang, who I normally know as playing gruff bad guys, plays Sully and, well, I get why they got him. It did take me a few seconds to get accustomed to seeing him play a “good guy” but he did a respectable job. His chemistry with Fillion was great and very important as the dynamic between Drake and Sully was one of the more memorable things about the games. I still think JK Simmons would be perfect for Sully but Stephen Lang was good enough. Although Elena gets only a few minutes of screentime, the actress that plays her, Mircea Monroe, was likable as the smart and spunky female in the trio. Once again, I do think there was a better person to play Elena and, honestly, they could’ve pulled Emily Rose, the actress who plays Elena in the games, for the fan film. Then again, my opinions regarding the “perfect casting” for these roles are minor nitpicks as both of them managed to capture the personalities of these characters almost perfectly.
However, the best thing I will have to say about the Uncharted fan film is that it manages to capture the essence of the games while still being an enjoyable watch for people who have never experienced the PlayStation games. I actually had my mother watch the Uncharted fan film because she likes Nathan Fillion (she loved him in Castle) and asked her what she thought of the film. And she really enjoyed it! She actually wondered if there was a continuation to it (because they were going to the Philippines, which is where we are) and she was kind of disappointed that there wasn’t going to be any.
While this proves that non-gamers will like the Uncharted fan film, gamers that did play the franchise will get the most out of it as there are some really clever Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout, such as the lead bad guy mentioning Drake’s earlier adventures (from the games) as well as focusing on his ring. The best wink to gamers has to be the aspect ratio change after Drake jumps out of the window and prepares for a shootout. Not only did the aspect ratio change but the action actually follows from behind our hero much like in the video games! Really clever!
However, there was one thing my mother said after watching the Uncharted fan film. She didn’t want it to be a movie. Instead, she said it would work better as a television series. I have to agree with her. I can definitely imagine a company like Netflix picking something like this up and releasing an amazing 13-episode season with Drake, Sully and Elena getting into all sorts of sticky situations and travelling around the world to different exotic locations in order to find some treasure. This would me much more like the games, actually. Still, if Hollywood does decide that it’s finally time to pull the trigger and make a live-action Uncharted film, well, just get this team and run with it. It’s already got a lot of positive buzz and people really love it. All Hollywood has to do is not stand in its way of the creation of the first really great live-action video game movies ever made.
Have you seen the Uncharted fan film starring Nathan Fillion? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!