Earlier this month, there was speculation that eclectic filmmaker David O. Russell might helm a big-screen adaptation of the comic book 2 Guns before tackling the long-gestating Uncharted movie. Despite laying claim to a resume that’s filled with unique and entertaining films (including the Oscar-nominated The Fighter), Russell has always been a controversial choice among fans of the Uncharted video game series.
Though the director’s past work gives little indication that he’s capable of handling a mainstream action epic, his films are so wildly different from one another that there’s nothing to indicate he couldn’t either make a great action film as well. However, Russell got off on the wrong foot with gamers almost immediately by casting Mark Wahlberg as Nathan Drake.
It’s no secret that most Uncharted fans had always hoped Nathan Fillion (Castle) would land the lead role and truth be told, I completely understand their apprehension with Wahlberg. While it felt way too early to write the film off entirely, Russell dug himself into a deeper hole a few weeks later when he revealed his desire to cast Robert DeNiro as Nathan’s father and Joe Pesci as his uncle. His emphasis on their family dynamic seemed at odds with the core concept of Uncharted.
Not long after, one of the developers of the Uncharted: Drake’s Deception video game claimed that everything we’d heard about Russell’s approach to the material was mostly false. If that statement came as a relief to you – I’m afraid we’ve got some bad news today…
Russell recently spoke with IGN and, although there’s no mention of 2 Guns, it’s clear that he’s still very interested in Uncharted – and the family drama angle:
“I think if we take that family dynamic that we have in The Fighter, and put that in terms of a grander stage, with a crime family that metes out justice in the world of art and antiquities. If you’re the head of a museum, or head of state, you’ve got to deal with them, and they’re badass. They’re like the Sopranos in some ways, but they have great taste, and they have a sense of justice. I would love to do that with Mark [Wahlberg], Robert De Niro, and a couple of hot women, it could be very thrilling.”
That’s incredibly similar to what was first reported regarding Russell’s intentions for the film, so at this point it seems clear that, like it or not, this is the direction that the Uncharted movie is headed in. Russell also mentions that while he respects the video game series and its fans, changes to the source material are essentially par for the course when dealing with a movie adaptation:
“I don’t think that you can please everybody, but I will tell you this – I won’t make it unless I can make a great movie. I don’t think there are too many games you can play through that make you go – “Well that’ll make a great movie.” There’s not a lot of references on it, so I don’t think there’s a blueprint that says you must directly translate the game to the screen … I want the gamers to be happy. I have total respect for the game. My kid loves playing it, I love playing it. I just want to create a world that takes it to another level, that’s another amazing world that’s more cinematic.”
I’ve been a huge admirer of Russell’s work for some time now and initially I thought such an unlikely match of director and material might make for something more exciting than a typical video game movie. Now I’m to the point where I’m wondering how much time Russell’s actually spent playing these games.
Quite honestly, this feels a bit like a lose-lose scenario. From the very beginning, one problem with an Uncharted movie has always been that the games are already undeniably cinematic and a strict adaptation of Uncharted might ultimately feel derivative of other movies (particularly the ones the series clearly draws inspiration from).
So it’s easy to understand Russell’s desire to bring something new to the table, but then you’re left with a legion of fans wondering why they even bothered calling the movie Uncharted in the first place. I’m sure you could find a happy medium between those two extremes, but right now it sounds like Russell’s movie could be missing some of the fundamental aspects that have made this series so popular. Then again, if Uncharted is being developed as a major tentpole release, the primary focus is no doubt on appealing to a wide general audience. Alienating hardcore gamers might not be a terribly important concern for the studio or the filmmakers.
I’ve enjoyed all of Russell’s movies to date and I really want Uncharted to work – but it’s becoming obvious that there are going to be some glaring differences between the movie and the games.