The film industry’s kind of fascinating when you stop and think about it. Some stories, like The Lord of the Rings, are far better suited to the big screen than the page. Others, like Game of Thrones, need more room to breath and wind up on television. Countless others, Nine Lives with Kevin Spacey is the first to come to mind, have no business being made at all, yet still find studios willing to throw tens of millions of dollars at them (if not hundreds of millions of dollars) when anybody who’s actually seen a movie before could have told you that you’d never get that money back in a million years.
Uncharted has always been the kind of property that simply begged for a movie adaptation. I mean, its basically Indiana Jones by way of Tomb Raider, and they’ve already made six movies between those. It’s an incredibly popular game series, each installment of which has the kind of streamlined story that makes sense for Hollywood’s particular brand of linearity. Bing, bang, boom. It should be a done deal, certainly by now.
And yet it isn’t. Despite all the ingredients being there, despite being a proven franchise in a proven genre following in the footsteps of giants, its halting progress toward filming – never mind completion – seems to get itself nowhere, no matter how hard those working on it try.
Pretty much since the first game hit shelves, some kind of adaptation has been in some state of production, with studio executives eager to capitalize on its popularity and broad, mainstream appeal. Various names were attached to director or star in it over the course of its hellish production, including Nathan Fillion and Mark Whalberg, but somehow the studio settled on Tom Holland: an incredibly young actor who just recently made a name for himself by playing Marvel’s Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
The idea, now, is that the movie won’t be a direct adaptation of the first game: or really any game for that matter. Instead, they’ve decided to go with a young version of the character, doubtless in response to the direction of the latest Tomb Raider, based on the popular game reboot that reimagined its protagonist as a young up-and-coming adventurer. That in mind, coupled with Holland’s intense popularity, must have made it seem like an obvious choice to executives who always want to give the people what they want (other than, you know, a straight-forward adaptation of a popular gaming property that would doubtless do well without all of the copycat de-aging).
Now the production, which was supposed to be on its way to filming soon, is facing another setback. Clearly unsatisfied with the script as-is, the studio has ordered that a new one be written, taking the entire production back to zero. Then again, if it means that we get a no-frills adaptation of the game, it might be worth it.
Rafe Judkins, a writer-producer for the Marvel series Agents of SHIELD, is the one in charge of this current version. Shawn Levy, who has directed Stranger Things, Night at the Museum and Real Steel, is currently set to direct it. Recently, producer Charles Roven revealed in an interview that:
“We’ve come up with a wonderful origin story but it’s still based on the Uncharted video game. It doesn’t take place during any of the time periods of any of the Uncharted video games. It actually takes place when Nathan Drake and Sully, I guess you’d call him his surrogate father, were much younger. It’s an origin story that evolves out of the game but is not from the game. Shawn Levy is going to be directing it and a young writer Rafe Judkins is currently writing the screenplay.”
We’ll see what comes of these latest developments, but the film’s track record isn’t making it look too good. It was originally supposed to start filming last year for a 2018 debut. When they revamped it as a prequel to the games, the hope was to get it out by next year. As things stand right now, they’ll be lucky to release it in 2020: of course, assuming that the film is hit with no further delays.