Shawn Levy has recently discussed his upcoming Uncharted movie adaptation, comparing it to Indiana Jones. Naughty Dog’s video game series of the same name is considered one of the best action-adventure titles in modern gaming history, and the studio’s cinematic approach to the story and gameplay make it the perfect choice for a movie adaptation. Stranger Things director and producer Shawn Levy signed on to helm the project last year, with The Grey director Joe Carnahan writing the script.
Carnahan turned in his draft earlier this year, with filming originally scheduled to begin this past spring. However, Sony Pictures recently decided to alter the story after discussing the project with Spider-Man actor Tom Holland, who suggested they make an origin story instead. Holland is now attached to play a young Nathan Drake in the upcoming Uncharted video game adaptation, with Levy still attached to direct. There’s currently no word on when the movie will go into production, especially with Holland’s schedule booked for the foreseeable future, but Levy has an idea of the type of movie that he wants to make.
In an interview with Nerdist, Levy discussed the cinematic potential for the Uncharted franchise and its draw to modern-day audiences, as well as why an origin story works better than a straight video game adaptation that they initially had planned.
“So, for me, it was a fact that the game is awesome; the spirit of the game, with its action set pieces, it’s imaginative setting, and above all, the kind of rogue swagger of Nathan. Those are things that I think make for a great movie. And, for me, the kind of the big, like the aha moment, if you want to call it that, was I met with Tom Holland and he kind of put it really succinctly and saying, if we do the origin of Drake, that is something that we haven’t seen as the plot of games 1, 2, 3, 4; we’ve seen a snippet of an origin of Sully and Drake meeting in the past, but here’s maybe an opportunity to do a treasure-hunting action movie with attitude, with a protagonist — and chapter of the protagonist’s life — that you can’t get for free, at home, by just playing the game.
“So, we’re trying to kind of take the spirit and the tone and the attitude of the game — and the crazy, visual spectacle of it — but apply it to this Drake chapter that you haven’t seen told. Hopefully, if we can get that right, what you’re doing is: you’re doing right by Uncharted, and you’re also giving an Indiana Jones-type franchise to an audience that didn’t grow up on Indiana Jones.”
The comparison between the Uncharted franchise and Indiana Jones films is something that people have discussed in great detail before, and it’s a comparison that will come up once again when the film hits theaters. However, differentiating itself from Lucasfilm’s beloved treasure-hunting franchise isn’t the only thing that plagues the upcoming video game movie. Levy understands that past video game movies have failed to achieve critical and commercial success, and he believes that he has identified the key elements in making video game movies work.
“Well, for one thing, as I think we’ve all seen as fans — for 15 years at least — straight adaptations of games. I don’t know that any have ever worked. Either they’re bad, or they’re decent but still unsuccessful. …I don’t want to just do a live-action version of action sequences we’ve seen in the game; I want action sequences that are equal in audacity but aren’t what you played. Secondly, I think the only thing you can make sure you do, to differentiate, is a deeper dive into character. So, whether it’s Sully, whether it’s Drake, whether it’s Elena or Chloe, or whoever the characters are — I’m not saying who’s in this movie — I think as a film director, the onus is on me to take a deeper, more nuanced dive into character, because that’s kind of what a movie needs to be truly cinematic. It needs visuals and it needs that nuanced dive in character.”
It’s no secret that movie studios have struggled with video game movie adaptations in the past, and not all of them have been direct adaptations of their source material. However, Uncharted has the potential to start fresh with a concept that appeals to general audiences, especially now that Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider are coming back into the fold with new installments releasing over the next few years. We’ll just have to see Uncharted can break the ever-present video game movie curse.
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