Welcome to Movie DNA, a column that recognizes the direct and indirect cinematic roots of both new and classic movies. Learn some film history, become a more well-rounded viewer, and enjoy like-minded works of the past. This entry highlights what to watch after the Uncharted movie.
When it comes to video game movies, the first influence is obviously the video game they’re based on. But a lot of video games are themselves inspired by movies. Uncharted, a game-now-movie about treasure hunters seeking historical artifacts and riches, clearly owes a lot to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Of course, that’s only one of the most influential action movies of all time. So, understandably, Uncharted also seems related to more recent films that themselves owe a lot to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I’ve decided to leave Raiders off this list of recommendations because there’s another Indiana Jones movie I think fits better with the plot of the Uncharted movie. I’ve also left off all James Bond movies despite how Tom Holland‘s casting in Uncharted came about after he pitched Sony on him starring as a young 007 (you could always watch the cartoon James Bond Jr. to get a sense of what that might be like). And finally, I’ve tried not to repeat myself and include anything on the Movie DNA for Jungle Cruise.
Here are a dozen movies, all of them made since Raiders of the Lost Ark, to watch after Uncharted.
Police Story (1985)
During the auction-house heist in Uncharted, Holland’s Nathan Drake attempts to escape some heavies by jumping from the second-floor guardrail to a massive chandelier installment. The move looks like a messy tribute to one of Jackie Chan’s most famous stunts of all time. In the classic Hong Kong action movie Police Story, during a climactic sequence set in a luxury shopping mall, Chan leaps from an even higher floor to a pole and a display of wires and lights descending from the ceiling. And he performed the stunt himself, receiving burns and other injuries along the way. Very likely, Holland suffered no pain and faced no real danger.
Police Story is streaming on HBO Max and The Criterion Channel.
When you watch the stunts in Uncharted, you wish someone like Jackie Chan or Tom Cruise was on board performing the action for real. But maybe it’s fitting that Uncharted often looks like a video game? Anyway, Holland did manage to ape one of Cruise’s skills: bartending. Specifically, the sort of bottle juggling seen in Cocktail. Holland apparently went undercover as a bartender in London while honing the service industry talents he exhibits at the start of the movie. But did he mean to be mimicking Cruise, or has he even seen Cocktail? That’s unknown, but Uncharted director Ruben Fleischer acknowledged the connection to Forbes:
“One of the jokes that didn’t make it to the final cut involves the bar manager who appears in the opening scene. There’s a moment where Tom’s character is spinning bottles, and the bar manager comes up to him and says, ‘Tom Cruise wants his bottles back.’ It was a funny joke, and I’m sad to date you, but not everybody gets that reference. I think that you and I certainly do, but a younger audience might be a little lost. But yeah, there are definitely ‘Cocktail’ vibes in the bar scene.”
Cocktail is also about a younger hotshot character and his older mentor (Bryan Brown), and the two wind up in a tropical location. Unlike the duo in Uncharted, though, the treasure they seek is a job in paradise. Okay, maybe that narrative link isn’t as clear as the image of spinning bottles, but it does come to mind even more from the Forbes interview. Writer Simon Thompson starts talking about his idea for a Cocktail sequel, and Fleischer elaborates, with reference to The Color of Money, talking about how Cruise would now become the mentor (and unknowingly the father) to a younger bartender.
Cocktail is available to rent or buy from any VOD service.
Midnight Run (1988)
In the same Forbes interview, while discussing movies that inspired Uncharted, Fleischer addresses specific titles with links to the Nathan and Sully pairing, for him. One of them is Star Wars, which I don’t really need to highlight here, as he compares the duo’s dynamic to that of Luke Skywalker (“a younger, eager, and a little bit more naive guy”) and Han Solo (“this older, jaded, self-interested guy”). Another movie Fleischer cites that definitely should be recommended (for any reason), is Midnight Run. And the reference is all the more interesting considering Robert De Niro was attached to an earlier attempt at an Uncharted movie. Fleischer says:
“It’s not as obvious, but the buddy pairing invokes ‘Midnight Run,’ which is probably my favorite buddy pairing in a movie. While Charles Grodin and Robert De Niro are certainly a different dynamic from Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, I love those road trip movies.”
Midnight Run is streaming on Peacock.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
While Raiders of the Lost Ark is the best and most influential of all the Indiana Jones movies (and it’s Fleischer’s favorite movie of all time), this third installment comes to mind more often while watching Uncharted. The main characters solve clues in a church in Barcelona and wind up in old tunnels, similar to a sequence in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Also, this sequel concerns the Holy Grail and how it was sought during the Crusades. Uncharted involves a treasure unrelated to the Crusades, but one of its villains, played by Antonio Banderas, is the last surviving member of a family that is said to have helped finance the Crusades.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is available to rent or buy from any VOD service.
Three Kings (1999)
Long before he was even meant to star as Nathan Drake in an earlier attempt at an Uncharted movie, Mark Wahlberg made another movie where he plays a character searching for buried treasure. David O. Russell’s Three Kings takes place at the end of the Gulf War and follows a trio of US soldiers (Wahlberg, George Clooney, and Spike Jonze) who learn of the location of a major stash of gold bullion (not them little cubes that make soup), which Iraq has stolen from Kuwait. More geopolitical comedy than straight action fare, it’s an underrated mix of war and heist film genres that looks at a specific conflict that’s rarely represented in Hollywood pictures.
Three Kings is streaming on Hoopla.
While watching Uncharted, I kept wondering if Hollywood ever made a movie about the Magellan expedition. Surprisingly, there isn’t. The closest thing is a 2019 animated feature from Spain called Elcano & Magellan: The First Voyage Around the World. It’s not supposed to be very good, in part because of its imperialist perspective. On the other hand, the story of the expedition’s time in the Phillipines, where Ferdinand Magellan is said (at least in Uncharted) to have stolen tons of gold and also been killed, has been depicted in Filipino cinema, but focused on the national legend of Lapu-Lapu.
In an eponymously titled film from 1955 and this same-named 2002 release, Lapu-Lapu is portrayed as a heroic leader in the Battle of Mactan. He and his fellow warriors defeated Magellan’s forces, and the explorer died during the conflict. Unfortunately, the Phillipines were still colonized by Spain a few decades later, but Lapu-Lapu remained a legendary figure for locals. And when you think about the history from the Filipino side, as these films do, the ending of Uncharted where the ships full of gold become property of the Phillipines, you get why there’s justice in that turn of events. Of course, Uncharted doesn’t really set up such a payoff at all.
Lapu-Lapu is streaming without subtitles on a bootleg video site linked out from its IMDb page.
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