How the “Uncharted” film was killed by the “Tomb Raider” film’s failure

The last we heard of the Uncharted film was a report from Deadline that Rafe Judkins was working on the latest screenplay draft. This was in January – two months before the release of the Tomb Raider film. The expectation was that a successful and popular Tomb Raider film would generate hype for Uncharted – this made sense, given that Tomb Raider and Uncharted are both in the action/adventure genre. The Tomb Raider film starred Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft, while the Uncharted film has reportedly cast Tom Holland as a young Nathan Drake, being a prequel to the games. Since then, news on the Uncharted front has been silent. But the significant event: Tomb Raider‘s under-performance. As far as video game films go, Tomb Raider received above-average reviews. But despite that, and being based on a best-selling title, the Tomb Raider film still failed. The final gross of $273M from a $94M budget returned double the investment but was still lower than the two previous Tomb Raider films starring Angelina Jolie. And this isn’t just any title – this is Tomb Raider, a franchise that had the potential to be the next Indiana Jones, just like Uncharted. Except Tomb Raider had much better chances of launching a franchise than Uncharted, because Tomb Raider, apart from anything, has already had two previous films. Uncharted would be going it alone, and for it to be the same genre as Tomb Raider, which has already been a considerable failure, probably isn’t worth risking as far as Sony as is now concerned. If we hear any more about it soon, I’ll be surprised.

This isn’t taking into account the recent fan film starring Nathan Fillion, which is an unlicensed production.

Uncharted is the property of Sony Corporation. Tomb Raider is the property of Square Enix Holdings Co., Ltd..

Timeline of Uncharted:
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (2007)
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (2011)
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (2016)
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (2017)

Timeline of Tomb Raider:
Tomb Raider (2013)
Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015)
Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2018)

This “Uncharted” fan film is amazing

Adapting video games is something that Hollywood is still trying to get right. There’s an Uncharted film currently in development, with Tom Holland attached to star and directed by Shawn Levy from a script by Rafe Judkins, but it doesn’t have a release date. Whether it will even ever be made is the subject of another, upcoming article.

However, director Allan Ungar has posted, to YouTube, his own, not-for-profit Uncharted fan film (from a script co-written by Jesse Wheeler). But what makes it so significant is the actor in the short who portrays Uncharted protagonist Nathan Drake: Nathan Fillion. There’s long been a fan campaign for an Uncharted film starring Fillion as Drake due not only to Drake’s similar look and personality to Fillion’s iconic Malcolm Reynolds character from the TV series Firefly, but also Fillion’s own active interest on social media.

This fan film shows us what that would actually look like. Fillion brings a lot of gravitas to the Drake role, with just the right balance of irony to disarm his enemies while still being able to be taken seriously.

Already, both Inverse and The Verge have christened this short the first good video game film. A particularly impressive sequence sees the cinemascope aspect ratio expand to widescreen during a firefight scene filmed over-the-shoulder in the style of Uncharted‘s third-person shooter style. And somehow, Ungar manages to get away with it. But the expository dialogue stands out a bit and the action is amateur, filmed with shaky cam to distract from the confusing editing and incoherent shot lengths. Would Ungar be able to direct a feature-length version of this that would hold together for that length? What we don’t see here is how well he handles a large-scale climactic action set piece, which would definitely need to happen. That’s why I’m more reserved about this than others, but I still love what this even gives us.

The real Uncharted film (starring Tom Holland) is reportedly a prequel to the games, which makes the possibility of this fan film having any influence on it unlikely. However, there are scenes in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End which feature a younger Drake. Since the film is still in preproduction, perhaps the story could be rewritten to be a sequel to the games – Drake is still alive, after all – with Holland’s scenes becoming flashbacks. That would allow the 47-years-old Fillion to fill the role but not be inconsistent with Drake’s own chronology – Drake is 40 in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and continuity references in the short place it around that time. It would really depend on whether Sony, who own Uncharted developers Naughty Dog, want a young franchise lead like Holland or are prepared to launch with someone older like Fillion. Another problem is The Rookie – the TV series in which Fillion currently stars. If it’s a success, would he be able to take time away from that to film a blockbuster, especially on what could be an annual basis?

Naughty Dog Vice President Neil Druckmann has tweeted his approval of the fan film, and a campaign has started for it to become a fully-fledged feature film, citing the success of the Deadpool franchise, which was inspired by the positive reception to leaked film test footage.

Ungar and Fillion have revealed exclusively to Entertainment Weekly that they’ve been in talks with Sony about the possibility of continuing the story as a web series. That would be able to specifically target Uncharted fans while keeping the budget low, and allowing the Tom Holland-starring film to proceed (if it ever does) without having to alter plans.

Uncharted is property of Sony Corporation.
Franchise timeline:
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (2007)
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (2011)
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (2016)