Video game adaptations don’t have the best track record when it comes to critical assessment, but some overcome that hurdle to deliver entertainment to fans. Uncharted is one such example as it overcame a drubbing to become a hit with moviegoers. The film is new to home video now, and one of the special features on the Blu-ray is a commentary track by director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, Gangster Squad).
Keep reading to see what we heard on the commentary for Uncharted!
Commentator: Ruben Fleischer (director)
1. He opens the commentary by thanking anyone who listens to these tracks (you’re welcome, Ruben!) as “director’s commentaries, with DVDs going away, are not as popular as they once were.” He adds that he’s learned as a filmmaker by listening to other filmmakers.
2. Uncharted was shot in the summer of 2020 with the opening sequence — Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) thousands of feet in the air trailing behind a cargo plane — being shot in the parking lot of a film studio in Germany.
3. The young actors playing Nathan and his brother as kids are actually the same height so they had to use camera angles, apple boxes, and more to make Sam (Rudy Pankow) look taller than Nate (Tiernan Jones).
4. The early sequence where Nate uses a lighter to make a hidden message appear was done practically with lemon juice the way kids have been doing it for decades.
5. “We don’t ever learn its true history or lineage,” he says regarding the ring that Nate/Nathan wears around his neck, but it’s something he’s excited to explore in sequels.
6. The neon “Kitty Got Wet” sign at 8:45 is a nod to a saying from the games.
7. Uncharted is Fleischer’s second collaboration with cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon as they previously worked together on 2019’s Zombieland: Double Tap.
8. He spends over a minute praising Mark Wahlberg — “he’s a Swiss Army Knife in that he can do anything, his action capabilities are as good as anybody’s, he is funnier than most comedians, his improv is incredible, he’s also an incredible dramatic actor, he’s unparalleled in his versatility…” — and adds that his pairing with Holland “evoked Han and Luke” for him.
9. There’s a Naughty Dog sticker at 16:33. They’re the makers of the Uncharted games.
10. This was Fleischer’s first time seeing Tati Gabrielle, and he learned after casting that she had a tight, white hair style during her time on the Sabrina series. Her hair was grown out, curly, and a bit too damaged, so they used a wig to bring her back to that older look.
11. The original script for Uncharted (by Rafe Judkins, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway) didn’t include a face to face meeting between Nathan and the villain, Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas), so Fleischer requested one be added.
12. They were scheduled to begin filming on March 16th, 2020, but Covid threw a wrench into those plans and forced a three-month delay that saw everyone get sent back home from Germany.
13. Holland did his own stunt work for the scene that sees him jump onto a hanging light fixture and hang high up in the air. His double does step in for the fall, though.
14. The tall blond guy at 32:36 is a well-known gamer from Spain, and the two men he’s speaking to are two of the film’s writers.
15. Early versions of Uncharted featured more of a love story between Nathan and Chloe, but it felt “extraneous and gratuitous” to Fleischer, studio executives, and test audiences.
16. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) is Fleischer’s favorite film ever made.
17. Fleischer kept the bejeweled crosses/keys and has them on a shelf at his home.
18. The conversation that kicks off between Nathan and Chloe at 48:15 was part of a reshoot, but Ali was working in Australia at the time so their two halves were filmed separately. Fleischer directed her over an iPad screen from his home in New Jersey.
19. The scene where Nathan and Chloe are trapped in the small chamber that’s slowly being filled with water was filmed by building a set and slowly submerging it into a pool of water. Better for safety and for multiple takes.
20. He points out that while many people think the production is the hardest part of a shoot, it’s actually post-production “where directors spend the bulk of their time.”
21. They filmed several scenes for Uncharted at Babelsberg Studio in Germany. It’s the oldest large-scale film studio in the world and was used for films like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.
22. That’s Nolan North, the voice of Nathan Drake in the games, at 1:18:54. “He’s one of the coolest guys I’ve met.”
23. There’s a brief reshoot insert at 1:29:02 while Nathan and Sully (Wahlberg) are talking in the hull of the ship. It was shot against a green screen while the rest of the scene was shot on location. Wahlberg had gained weight for another movie, so for twenty-five seconds or so here he’s actually twenty-five pounds or so heavier than the rest of the scene/film.
24. Ramin Djawadi’s score offers nods to the game’s score a couple times throughout the film.
25. “That’s a computer-made boat on computer-made water with computer-made sails,” he says. We know, Ruben, we know.
26. The ending originally featured Chloe salvaging some gold on the ocean floor, but they cut that and added a reshoot of Nathan and Sully having some gold instead. It’s unfortunate as the film’s final disregard for its two female leads could have been neutered a bit by allowing Chloe to snag some of the treasure too.
27. Fleischer added the end credits scene revealing that Nathan’s brother is still alive because the character is alive in the games, and if they greenlight a sequel the character will play a bigger role. The other end credits scene was a reshoot, and he loves how it ends on a cliffhanger.
28. “I encourage you to stay through the credits,” he says, moments before signing off nearly five minutes before the credits end.
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“I love the flash forward device for films, generally.”
“Tom is not a trained bartender.”
“Once you kill your father that’s about as bad as it gets.”
“Sometimes you gotta kill babies.”
“We did three scenes in one day, which is a lot.”
“Mark’s always in great shape.”
“I’m of the mind that it’s a movie and you go with it, and if you’re immersed in the story you shouldn’t let physics or gravity hold you back.”
Final Thoughts from the Uncharted Commentary
Fleischer is understandably proud of his cast and crew and the film they produced, and his Uncharted commentary is filled with praise for many of them. He does spend a lot of time pointing out visual effects shots — an odd choice in an f/x-heavy movie — but for aspiring filmmakers there’s value in seeing what can be done seamlessly (and not so seamlessly, as the case may sometimes be). To that point, and per his opening remarks, he does offer up the kind of commentary that upcoming filmmakers might learn from. Fans of the film will enjoy it too.
Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.