Why The Movie Couldn’t Directly Adapt The Games

Though the Uncharted movie was criticized for not being faithful enough to the source material, there’s a good reason that it couldn’t directly adapt the video games’ story. After the massive success of the Uncharted video game franchise, a movie adaptation always seemed inevitable. The action-adventure nature of Uncharted‘s story and the globe-trotting stories of the games felt like a cinematic experience from the very beginning, making it appear as though Nathan Drake was always destined for the big screen. However, even as the game franchise went from strength to strength, the development of an Uncharted movie adaptation repeatedly stalled.


Over the years, many actors were attached to play Uncharted‘s Nathan Drake, but Tom Holland was eventually cast in the leading role alongside Mark Wahlberg’s Victor “Sully” Sullivan. The Uncharted movie’s story also underwent a significant number of changes, and over time, it came to tell an original story set years before the events of the first game. As well as telling a globe-trotting, treasure-hunting adventure reminiscent of the video games, the Uncharted movie re-imagined how Sully and Nate first met, establishing the pair’s friendship while also telling a story that borrowed elements from each of the games in turn.

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The fact that the movie retooled elements of the games’ respective stories to better fit its narrative led to criticisms that it was an unfaithful adaptation. However, due to the way the Uncharted games told Nate and Sully’s story, this was always inevitable: the games had rewritten the characters’ history in a major way already, and the movie attempted to find a middle ground between being a faithful adaptation and capturing the essence of the Uncharted franchise as a whole. In addition, the fact that the Uncharted movie was intended as a franchise starter in its own right meant that the movie couldn’t directly adapt any of the Uncharted game stories – and that was actually the best course of action, despite the criticism.

The Games Already Rewrote Drake’s Backstory (So The Movie Also Had To)

The first Uncharted game introduced treasure hunter Nathan Drake and his best friend Sully, a pair with a long unseen history. Subsequent games revealed that Sully took Nate in as a teen after discovering him living on the streets of Cartagena, Columbia. However, Uncharted 4 introduced Sam Drake, Nathan’s brother – previously unmentioned and assumed dead – subtly rewriting Nathan’s past by incorporating a long-lost brother into the mix. This enriched the character’s backstory, but it also meant that Uncharted 4‘s flashback scenes acted as a prequel to the rest of the games’ stories.

Much of this backstory was used to inspire the plot of the Uncharted movie. As the film acts as an origin story for Tom Holland’s Nathan Drake, it was important to use his history with Sam as well as Sully, and this was reworked slightly to better fit the film’s story. In order to condense four games’ worth of backstory into a single film, the Uncharted movie made some changes, but the nature of the games’ storytelling made this an inevitability. The only major difference in the established story is that the movie’s Nathan Drake meets Sully approximately 10 years later than the games’ version, with the movie acting as their first adventure together.

An Original Story Is Better For An Uncharted Movie Franchise

The fact that the Uncharted movie tells an original story independent of the games is actually the best way to establish a separate franchise. Though the movie could simply have adapted the story of the first game, it technically wouldn’t have been the start of Drake’s story, as subsequent games later explored his interesting origins. The timeline of the Uncharted game franchise isn’t set out in a way that would translate neatly to single film adaptations, particularly in its approach to Drake’s origins.

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By starting a potential Uncharted movie franchise with an original story, a certain amount of freedom is afforded to future adaptations. Changes to Drake’s backstory can allow for greater creative freedom moving forward, which is actually more promising for a movie franchise. Rather than simply adapting each of the games’ respective stories in turn, the Uncharted movie franchise is free to explore other stories thanks to the precedent established by the first Uncharted movie.

Uncharted Is A More Faithful Adaptation Than It Seems

Though the Uncharted movie has been criticized for its apparent lack of faithfulness to the source material, it’s actually far more faithful than it seems. While it tells an original story, the Uncharted movie borrows elements from each of the games, meaning that it captures the essence of the video game franchise perfectly. This is evidenced in the sequences the Uncharted movie lifted from the games directly, but also in the broader strokes of its original story.

Characters from various Uncharted games make appearances, and certain action set pieces were clearly inspired by different game moments. There are a number of scenes reminiscent of Uncharted 4, but the plane scene is lifted directly from Uncharted 3, making it abundantly clear that the movie isn’t based on any one game. Although the Uncharted movie isn’t a direct adaptation of a single story, it’s filled with Easter eggs, cameos, and references to the games that make it far more faithful than it gets credit for.

Future Uncharted Movies Can Be More Faithful (But Probably Shouldn’t Be)

If the Uncharted movie is successful in establishing a franchise, it’s possible that future movies will directly adapt the stories of the games, although it would actually be better if they didn’t. As numerous Uncharted game characters appeared in the movie, potential sequels are free to better explore other stories within the movie’s world, with Nate’s associates joining him on future adventures. Uncharted‘s post-credits scene set up the story of the first Uncharted game, which sees Drake and Sully searching for El Dorado, so it’s entirely possible that a sequel will be a more direct adaptation. However, after the original origin story of the movie, it might be better for sequels to branch out further.

Related: Which Video Game Is The Uncharted Movie Based On

Directly adapting established Uncharted stories would inevitably lead to comparisons between the movies and the games, and they’d also rob the movies of creative freedom and originality. As the Uncharted movie introduces a slightly different backstory for Nathan, it would actually be a better idea to further explore the implications of that, as well as potentially reuniting Nathan and Sam for an adventure together. Regardless of the approach, Uncharted 2 may have a video game problem if it opts to directly adapt the story of an Uncharted game, meaning that it would do better to follow Uncharted‘s lead: capture the spirit of the franchise while telling an original Nathan Drake story.

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