What Makes Treasure Hunt Movies Great

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Oh boy, do I like video game movies. They’re not always good, but they’re usually fun (unless it’s Mario Bros.). Fortunately, Unexplored is both. Directed by Ruben Fleischer, the film has a screenplay by Rafe Judkins, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (with screen story by Judkins, Jon Hanley Rosenberg and Mark D. Walker). Unexplored stars Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Tati Gabrielle, Sophia Ali and Antonio Banderas, and is based on the iconic Naughty Dog game franchise of the same name.

In Unexplored, Nathan Drake is a bartender in New York City, who gets by on his drink-throwing skills and, well, a bit of pocket money from his trust fund patrons. Until he is recruited by veteran treasure hunter Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) to recover a fortune lost by Ferdinand Magellan and his crew 500 years ago. While Nate is worried at first, Sully’s connection to his missing brother makes it an offer he absolutely cannot refuse.

What begins as a heist job for the duo becomes a globetrotting race to reach the prize before the ruthless Moncada (Antonio Banderas), who believes he and his family are the rightful heirs. With Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) and Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali) also in the mix, the duo have their work cut out for them to decipher clues and solve one of the world’s oldest mysteries and find a $5 billion treasure. .

To start things off, Unexplored is based on the video game franchise of the same name, but it changes the characters a lot, namely aging them. Holland’s Drake suffers a bit as his most famous role as a teenager slips through, in little clues. Also, the dialogue doesn’t do much to ensure that we see him as someone who is an adult in this setting until the second half of the film. But despite that, Holland is a great Nathan Drake for this story. He might not be the one you’ve spent hours playing with, but he’s a character I want to see more of and I want to see him grow. That’s because Holland is completely dedicated to becoming a smart treasure hunter with a heart of gold in a way that takes full advantage of his physique and charm.

Holland’s Nate fully owns the film, but never overpowers another actor. Instead, its incredible chemistry with characters like Sully and Chloe makes for an interesting story, one you can fully sink into. Plus, the extended cast does a great job playing their roles as treasure hunters. Sully is the mentor you can’t trust who has to learn that some things are more important than gold. Chloe is the suspicious collaborator who keeps the two on their toes. And more specifically, Gabrielle is great as the intimidating Braddock, standing out in her action moments.

These action sequences work because of capable actors, but also because of how they honor certain video game mechanics and moments. More importantly, however, the settings are outstanding and the puzzles that lead our characters there, while simple, are intriguing. Ultimately, everything about this adventure reminds me why I love treasure hunting adventures. Like Jungle Cruise Last year, Unexplored shows the formula is a roaring good time.

Unexplored is the little engine that could. After long delays, IP fans (myself included) feared that what would come out on the other side would be a mess. But this is not the case. In fact, it’s exciting and fun, if oddly paced at times. Globetrotting, wisecracking, double-crossing and of course action come together for one great movie. Unexplored captures its genre while honoring the spirit of the gaming franchise. And while franchise accuracy is something important, sometimes a movie can succeed on its own merits, sticking the landing that makes you look away from the weird moments that just don’t match who you know the characters.

All in all, there’s a lot to like Unexplored. Even with a few moments that resonate with fans never forgetting the IP’s new audiences, making this an extremely approachable and fun introduction to Nathan Drake. It’s not perfect, but it’s a world of fun for a genre that I’m extremely happy to return to.

Unexplored opens in theaters nationwide on February 18, 2022.

Unexplored

7.5/10

TL;DR

All in all, there’s a lot to like Unexplored. Even with a few moments that resonate with fans never forgetting the IP’s new audiences, making this an extremely approachable and fun introduction to Nathan Drake. It’s not perfect, but it’s a world of fun for a genre that I’m extremely happy to return to.

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