Development on Sony Pictures' movie adaptation of the Uncharted video game franchise has gone through a rinse/watch/repeat cycle of moving forward with a new director, losing said director and then having to start over from scratch a number of times over these last five to six years. Things are finally starting to look up for the project though, now that Joe Carnahan (writer/director of Smokin' Aces, The A-Team and The Grey) is writing the script and Shawn Levy (director of the Night at the Museum movies, Real Steel, and multiple episodes of Stranger Things season 1) is attached to oversee Nathan Drake's first globe-trotting adventure on the big screen.
Carnahan, who is not directing Uncharted due to his commitment to directing Bad Boys for Life (aka Bad Boys 3) next year, has already let it be known that he is working closely on the video game movie's script with the developer of the Uncharted gaming property, Naughty Dog. The filmmaker has since clarified that while he intends to keep the creative minds behind the original Uncharted games happy with his adapted screenplay, that doesn't mean that Levy's movie is going to be a slavishly faithful interpretation of the games - nor do the people at Naughty Dog expect it to be.
Collider spoke with Carnahan about the Uncharted movie and brought up the obvious comparison to the Indiana Jones franchise: a property that, much like Uncharted, revolves around a archaeology-savvy adventurer who, with the help of his sidekicks, goes searching for ancient treasures and remnants of long-lost civilizations around the world. Carnahan both praised Levy and expressed his confidence in what the director has in mind for Uncharted; at the same time, offering the following with regard to why he sees Indiana Jones and Nathan Drake as very different variations on the same archetype:
I can tell you that Shawn Levy and I sat down last weekend, he has fantastic knowledge. Here’s the thing, Shawn is an incredibly bright, incredibly skilled, talented guy, and you sit with him for five minutes and you know and understand why he has the level of success he’s had. I think he understands, we both have tremendous fondness for [Raiders of the Lost Ark], and he wants to, I think Shawn’s capable of doing a lot of things. I can tell you this: what I’ve written is very anti-Indy in the sense of the guy that loves museums and wants to preserve these artifacts. He’s not! He’s a thief and he’s a grifter, and he’s a scourge. He and [his sidekick] Sully are not good guys but they’re better than the bad guys. It’s a game, you know, they’re certainly rogues, and certainly don’t have a problem, even in the first game he just kind of [dumps journalist Elena Fisher] and it’s interesting. I think it’s gonna be, I honestly think this one’s got a real shot. And I was really glad when Shawn came on because I’m too deep into Bad Boys and I really wanna see that through. Too much sweat equity in that one; years of trying to do Uncharted. I’m flattered that these guys wanted me to write it. It’s a hell of a responsibility and hell of an opportunity and I don’t want to squander it now.
Anti-heroes are very much something that lie in Carnahan's wheelhouse as a screenwriter (something illustrated by the characters featured in his previous work), so it's only fitting that his script for an Uncharted movie would play up that aspect of the Nathan Drake character. It's also a quality that isn't always found in the most famous big screen protagonists who specialize in ancient history and tracking mysterious cultural landmarks as, their other faults aside, characters such as Indiana Jones and National Treasure's Benjamin Gates generally try to protect and preserve the artifacts they're searching for. (How successful they tend to be at doing that, well, that's another story...) Hence, making Nathan Drake more of a morally-ambiguous protagonist in the vein of, say, Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies should help to better distinguish Uncharted from its predecessors.
As for how many of Drake's other qualities from the Uncharted games will be carried over into the live-action movie adaptation: Carnahan told Collider that he has already discussed how the film will differ from the original games with such people as Amy Hening and Neil Druckman (the director and writer, respectively, of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune). He didn't offer too many specifics on what, exactly, those differences are, but did clarify that they've met Hening and Druckman's approval. He also talked a bit more in-depth about what other elements in the Uncharted games will make the cut in the movie:
Certainly the signet ring. The harvest magnet, the whole Francis Drake legend, and his parentage, his lineage. I thought that was important. You’re dealing with a guy who’s an orphan, and I came at it that way—what’s some of the things that are important to someone who’s an orphan? In the fourth game they dispelled all that, but I thought it’s still kind of an interesting. What excuses would you make about your character if you held to this notion that you were the heir to this great explorer? Your ancestor’s this great dubious, nefarious explorer? If you believed somehow that was your birthright. Were you conning yourself? There’s some interesting character stuff you can do there. That and the insane, the big action stuff. I kept some characters I like and kind of reset them within that world so there’ll be names and familiar faces and so on, but they won’t necessarily be what they were in the game, which I think is important, you have to do that, create amalgams. I can’t imagine fans of Uncharted will be unhappy, at least with the screenplay. And I do think there’s some interesting, again, anti-Indiana Jones stuff going on, looting and pillaging these UNESCO sites and world heritage sites and also these uncharted realms. There’s 3 million shipwrecks all over the world that have never been seen. That to me is fascinating. So there’s a lot of that stuff, and a lot of that’s kinda new and improved, for lack of a better phrase. I think people will dig it, but I can’t imagine. But I’m sure someone’ll hate my guts, but that’s okay, a lot of people hate my guts.
In addition, Carnahan told Collider that he and Levy have discussed the matter of who will play Nathan Drake in the Uncharted movie - with Carnahan saying that right now scheduling needs to be figured out, before the pair even know which of their actor picks will even be available to work on the video game film next year. There are different directions that Uncharted could take in this respect too; the film could conceivably cast a 20-something actor to play a fresh-faced Nathan Drake or go with an older 30-40 something actor, possibly taking some cues from this year's Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (where Drake is a retired fortune hunter, pulled back into action). Expect to learn more on this matter in the foreseeable future, what with Uncharted now aiming to start production at long last - and sooner, rather than later, next year.
Uncharted is currently without an official release date, but appears to be moving on-course to reach theaters in 2018. We'll bring you more details as the story develops.