Review – Tomb Raiding A National Treasure (“Uncharted”)

Indiana Jones, National Treasure, Sahara, Tomb Raider, King Solomon’s Mines, The Adventures of Tintin, and about a dozen other action/adventure movies are all ripped-off for this latest video game-to-film adaptation starring the MCU’s Tom Holland.

I’m not a gamer, but I hear this Playstation game is extremely popular and generated quite the angry buzz over a mustache. Apparently, Mark Wahlberg’s character, Victor “Sully” Sullivan, was supposed to bear his signature big, bushy ‘stache from the game in this movie and doesn’t. Oh, well. Anyway, Holland plays hero Nathan Drake whose big-brother Sam is both estranged and MIA, but that doesn’t stop this super-smart kid from his dreams. No, not being a bartender in NYC or being a petty thief, but a world explorer looking for the long-lost treasure of Magellan. He’s given the chance when Sully offers him the deal of a lifetime: help him steal a precious jeweled cross at an auction. A cross that belongs to villain Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas).

After stealing the cross (super-easy; barely an inconvenience), they jet off to Barcelona, Spain to meet Chloe Frazer (Sophie Ali), another untrustworthy fortune hunter. Together they, like in National Treasure, hunt for the hidden gold, only to find another clue (a secret map!) and Santiago’s killer henchwoman, Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle). The map leads everyone to the Philippines where, naturally, there are double-crosses, betrayals, and a wild plane ride that would have killed any normal human being. . . but not Nathan or Chloe! More clues lead Nathan and Sully to a hidden grotto and two abandoned 18th Century ships (like in Goonies) containing One-Eyed Willy’s gold stash. Yaay! But Braddock and her bad guys find it! Boo!

The third act is clearly the most ridiculous and stupid, and yet the most fun as the two massive wooden ships are flown away with helicopters (like in 2011’s The Three Musketeers) and used like a child’s plaything, as Sully takes over a copter! It’s unbelievable, corny, silly, LOL dumb, and I loved every minute of it. The major problem with the script by first-time screenwriter Rafe Lee Judkins (only TV shows like Chuck and Agents of SHIELD), and Art Marcum & Matt Hollway (Iron Man, Punisher: War Zone) is that, take away all big action set pieces and intriguing treasure hunts, the rest of the movie is kinda tedious and boring. It’s a case of “been there, seen that”, especially with the treasure searches.

And I won’t even list all the glaring plot holes, inconsistencies, gaping WTH moments, and apparent ‘magic’ that this movie has in abundance. At least director Ruben Fleischer (Venom, Zombieland: Double Tap) delivers some nice whiz-bang moments, but sadly, not enough in this two-hour slog to make it as clever, funny, or exciting as it should have been. Another problem was the lack of any chemistry between Holland and Wahlberg, (or Holland and Ali) who are supposed to be likable frenemies. They are just two-dimensional characters that you care little about. Even Red Notice, as silly as that was, had more appeal and watchablility than this.

Holland looks uncomfortable, as if he knows he’s in the wrong role, and Wahlberg is pretty much just playing himself. Ali as the femme fatale is trying to fill the Lara Croft role here, but isn’t given much of a chance. Gabrielle as the evil Braddock was wasted and should have been fleshed out more, and Banderas? Well, his role is just an extended cameo with one good scene. Tragic. With a few tweaks in the script and some editing, this could have been a decent action yarn. Hint: if you have to steal a lot from other movies to make your own, something’s wrong.

**Now showing only in theaters 

The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

Based on a Belgian cartoon strip by Hergé, this mo-cap CGI animated feature film took a risk: take a serialized comic strip, but give it a wild Raiders of the Lost Ark action-adventure beat AND make it look real enough for both kids and adults to enjoy!

The teenager’s name is Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell) and not only is he a budding journalist, but he’s got an insatiable thirst for adventure, crime stories, and action! One day, while browsing in a street fair, Tintin and his pet dog, Snowy, purchase a miniature ship model called the Unicorn, but he’s accosted by two men who unsuccessfully attempt to steal the model. After Tintin takes the model ship home, it’s accidentally broken by Snowy, revealing a secret metal tube. Meanwhile, bumbling twin police detectives, Thompson & Thompson (Nick Frost & Simon Pegg) are on the trail of a pickpocket.

Tintin soon learns that there are two Unicorn models, the other belonging to villain Ivan Sakharine (Daniel Craig). This sets off a chain of events where Tintin finds his Unicorn model stolen, that strange metal tube containing an odd parchment scroll inside, and an undercover FBI agent being shot by assassins outside Tintin’s apartment door! The games afoot as Tintin goes after Sakharine, hiding aboard his boat and eventually forming an alliance with the perpetually drunk kidnapped captain, Archibald Haddock (Andy Serkis).

They escape, via a stolen seaplane, crash in the Moroccan desert, and are later saved by French soldiers. While Thompson & Thompson are on the trail of Tintin, he and Haddock learn a vital clue: Haddock’s pirate ancestors sank the Unicorn, along with most of its treasure. The model ships (and their hidden scrolls) are clues to the location of the sunken Unicorn and its vast treasure. Tintin has one scroll, Sakharine has the other, and the third belongs to wealthy Omar Ben Salaad, who’s throwing a huge party.

In a crazy, outrageous, and eye-popping third-act chase scene, Tintin, Haddock, and a bunch of bad guys are after that third scroll all over and through the city. With help from Thompson & Thompson, Tintin and Haddock track Sakharine back to Antwerp and set up a trap. When his cronies fail to save him, Sakharine challenges Haddock to a fight using the cranes at the dock. You got your requisite fight, uniting of the three scrolls, and happy finale. Yaay!

You have three top-tier screenwriters like Steven Moffat (the Dr. Who BBC series), Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Baby Driver), and Joe Cornish (Ant-Man) who wrote a pretty exciting, yet standard Young Indiana Jones adventure with many computer game elements that translated to the screen with film director guru, Steven Spielberg, cranking out some wildly imaginative action sequences. Yes, this could have worked as a live-actioner, but using the mo-cap CGI was a better idea since these characters were pulled directly from a comic strip. They look oddly realistic, yet oddly not. Somewhere in between the creepy CGI of The Polar Express and the hyper-realistic CGI of Disney’s ‘live-action’, The Lion King.

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