Sony casts Tom Holland in the Uncharted movie, pushing the definition of “adaptation”
For years now, Sony has been trying to find the perfect recipe that will help to create a successful adaptation of the PlayStation exclusive game series, Uncharted. It has not gone well, and a recent decision to shift the entire tone and style of the project in order to offer it up as a Tom Holland vehicle may not win over a lot of fans.
It’s really not worth recapping the entire roller coaster drama of the Uncharted movie to this point, because it has come so far from what it was originally going to be that it’s essentially a new project altogether that just happens to share the same name and comes from the same source material. It’s been an ongoing drama for years now.
The adaptation chewed up and spit out several filmmakers, including a handful of Oscar winners. There were different reasons for each exit, ranging from a difference of creative opinion to a difference of budget, but whatever the reason the adaptation seemed to be in limbo, teetering ever closer to death until now.
Sony has confirmed that it wants the film to go forward. Shawn Levy is attached to direct, and while the script is still a question mark, the casting of Holland more or less defines the nature of the movie, if not the specific plot.
The game stars the character of Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter with a knack for surviving difficult situations and finding lost cities. In story the character is heavily influenced by Indiana Jones and in action by Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft. He runs, he jumps, he dodges both incoming missiles and ancient bobby traps with ease. He’s also something of a smartass, which – along with stellar voice performances by actor Nolan North – has helped to endear him to a generation of fans.
The film, however, is apparently going in a completely different direction.
The decision to change the tone of the film came after Sony Pictures chief Tom Rothman watched rough cuts of Holland in Sony’s upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming. Rothman liked what he saw so much he decided to jettison the character of an adult Drake, and instead focus on the film as a prequel. The games do feature a young Nathan Drake in a series of flashbacks seen in Uncharted 3 and Uncharted 4, but in both games, he is depicted as much younger – barely a teen.
The shift will mean that the film is essentially a prequel to the games. Sony is hoping that this will be the first movie in a new franchise for Holland – which would make two franchises for the 20-year old, assuming both it and the new Spider-Man series are hits. That also means that fans hoping to see a direct adaptation of the Uncharted games are probably going to be a little disappointed.
It’s a weird choice for Sony, but not a surprising one. Casting Holland – who absolutely may end up being worth all the stardom Sony is heaping on him – makes this a very different type of movie. It is no longer an Indiana Jones-esque adventure for a modern audience, it’s a “kid outwits bad guys” story. That could absolutely work, but it isn’t Uncharted. It just borrows a few names and the most basic concepts.
For Sony it makes sense. The property was languishing, and better to try to do something with it than let it gestate indefinitely, but it is building the would-be franchise on name recognition alone. There may also have been pressure to try something different given that a movie adaption of Tomb Raider – which is very similar in concept – is deep into production and has Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander in the lead.
Regardless, Sony’s Uncharted will garner a fair amount of support from the connection to the game alone – as evidenced by this and many other articles. If the studio simply announced a new treasure hunter movie with Tom Holland it wouldn’t receive nearly as much attention. But will fans accept a property they love being co-opted to help with marketing? Time will tell – assuming, of course, the film actually makes it out of limbo and into production.