Those trying to keep the multiplexes alive must view Tom Holland, aka Spider-Man, as a god. There are surely projector-room shrines across the globe, in which candles flicker beneath posters of Holland’s ruefully perky little face. Is his new Sony blockbuster as glorious as No Way Home? No way. But in that it’s bound to put many bums on seats, it will answer a lot of prayers.
Uncharted is based on the super-successful PlayStation series. Movies inspired by video games have a terrible track record, though Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog (accessible to outsiders, adored by fans) have partly broken the curse. Uncharted’s director, Ruben Fleischer, ensures there are no obstacles for the uninitiated - you don’t need to be a gamer to love Uncharted. You just need to have a very soft spot for buddy movies, maps, puzzles, pirate ships and Holland’s chest. That’s right. The chest of gold, here, is the 25 year old actor’s torso. I was expecting off-the-chart silliness. I wasn’t expecting Tomb Raider-with-pecs. But more of that later.
Holland plays Nathan Drake, a jaunty, sticky-fingered barman living in New York, who longs to be reunited with his treasure-hunting brother, Sam. Nathan gets involved with a grizzled scavenger, Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), and Sully’s bad-ass, Australian-Indian frenemy, Chloe (Sophia Ali). Apparently two ornate crosses and a church in Barcelona hold the key to finding $5 billion worth of buried gold. Will Sam be at the end of this rainbow? Either way, entitled tycoon, Moncada (Antonio Banderas), and his side kick, Braddock (Tati Gabrielle), aim to get their hands on the loot first.
Holland, even when delivering lines like, “We’re in some kind of ruined antechamber!” is adorable. He’s sparky with Gabrielle (Nathan and the sexily vicious Braddock lock eyes early on, and even the way our hero then tries to steer clear of her is cute) and with Ali - dancing together in a packed nightclub, they’re such a good fit. He and Banderas have a great connection, and, of course, Holland and Wahlberg (in my humble opinion, a comic genius) make the best of the banter.
Still, the way the leading man is fetishised by the camera is surreal. It’s like someone behind it is shouting, “Tom, take your shirt off!”; “Tom, it’s time to get wet!” Thanks to a variety of oceans/lagoons/malfunctioning fountains, Nathan gets wet a lot. Which means his shirts cling. Despite being coy on the subject of sex (Chloe and Nathan share a bed but aren’t seen doing anything in it) Uncharted is destined to be both a gay classic and a hen night favourite. It’s also guaranteed to boost gym membership.
Might this experience, though, be what prompted Holland to consider taking a break from acting? After the shoot, he aired doubts about the quality of his performance, wondering if he’d put too much energy into trying to “look good”. But it’s the film, not him, whose priorities are askew.
Just to be clear. Though elements of the plot grate (what fuels Braddock’s fury is that she was dumped by Sully; ah, of course, she’s a woman scorned) Uncharted is not hateful. And though Chloe is much more interesting in the PlayStation game, Ali is a talented actor and puts a nice spin on even the most robotic lines. And yet.
Chloe tells Nathan, “You’re a good man. Too good.”
The same goes for Holland. He’s too good for this would-be franchise. It’s hard to talk away from this kind of money, but it’s time for him to skedaddle.