Though not the conventional choice, Fillion would make for a particularly entertaining interpretation of one of gaming’s most iconic heroes.
Hollywood is missing the mark with its Tom Holland Uncharted prequel. Or at least, I think so. To be fair, I’d probably go watch any Uncharted adaptation, but the recent fan short film starring Nathan Fillion as the witty, sarcastic Nathan Drake immediately made me envision what that movie could be, and it’s a lot more exciting.
But first, if you haven’t seen the film yet, please, do yourself a favor.
Directed by Allan Ungar; starring Nathan Fillion, Stephen Lang, Mircea Monroe, Geno Segers, and Ernie Reyes Jr.
While the film certainly has its shortcomings, there is so much potential it’s not even funny (okay, maybe it’s a little funny). While watching some of the reaction videos, however, I noticed some trends that I feel are worth pointing out.
Nathan Fillion is too old to star in a new franchise.
Let’s address this properly. Fillion is 47. He’s no spring chicken, certainly, but he’s far from out of his prime. Male actors typically are in their “prime” between 35 and 60 (Liam Neeson is 66 and still kicking ass). Realistically, you could (and should) probably only get 2–3 Uncharted movies with Fillion if you started development right now (so he’d be 50 or so when the first one hits screens), but that’s a respectable number.
The fixation seems to be on the idea that Hollywood won’t cast him because of age which is then totally ignoring his potential for the role. 2–3 movies is a healthy little franchise (and of course, you can easily expand past that with other actors carrying on the franchise, like Drake’s daughter whom we meet at the end of Uncharted 4 after they skip ahead a bunch of years), but people are pretending that Hollywood is only interested in 5+ movie franchises. While I’m sure Hollywood would prefer someone who could do a 5+ movie franchise, they would be pretty happy with Fillion’s franchise if those 2–3 movies were really good. After all, that’s what would draw people to the theater.
Further, the timeline actually makes sense. Nathan Drake is 38/39 in Uncharted 4, so Fillion would be the right age for Drake’s last couple adventures before he retires for good. We all know that Hollywood can easily make you +- 15 years old which would mean Fillion could stretch as young as 32 right now which seems reasonable. Technically, they could even start sometime between Uncharted 2 and 3 or between 3 and 4.
Plus, when you’re going to be making 7 figures on a major movie deal, you’re going to get in really great shape for it. I’m sure Fillion would be up for the challenge.
Fillion isn’t a box-office draw.
Once the naysayers are done with their ageism, they usually move onto yet another doubt about my main man Fillion which is that he isn’t a box-office draw. And they’re actually right about this one, but it isn’t a good reason not to make the movie.
Fillion is a TV actor for the most part. He certainly has a fan base, but it would be fair to say that he alone will not likely get many people to come to see the movie except for those in the nerd community.
But that doesn’t matter.
Uncharted is the box office draw. This is like saying “why cast Tom Holland (who was relatively unknown) as Spiderman?” They casted Holland as Spiderman, because he’s a good actor, and Spiderman was the box office draw, not Holland. Plus, Fillion would likely be a great deal cheaper than other more well-known film names.
Similarly, Fillion is a great actor, with the perfect kind of charm for a character like Drake. The games are immensely popular, selling millions of copies, and a good adaptation of the franchise would bring potentially millions of people to see the movie in the theater (not counting any new faces who hadn’t seen or played the games). So Fillion doesn’t need to carry the movie on his back; his character and the series will do that for him. He just needs to kill it in the role, and if we’re being honest, he probably would (call me opinionated).
Video game movies always suck.
This one is probably the most relevant critique, but that’s down to the quality of the adaptation rather than the quality of the source material. Yes, it’s entirely possible that Hollywood might screw up an Uncharted movie with Fillion, but it’s equally possible that Hollywood might screw up the Tom Holland Uncharted prequel.
This is a topic that I actually want to write another article on, something like “Why Can’t Hollywood Make a Good Video Game Movie?” Look for that coming soon.
So what would a Fillion Uncharted movie look like?
Ungar’s fan film lays out some really interesting aspects that shed light on what a good Fillion Uncharted might look like.
Fillion’s interpretation of Drake
The most obvious thing in the short film is Fillion’s take on Drake. It’s clearly the focal point of the short film, as most of the runtime is spent on his interactions with other characters, from the antagonists to Sully and Elena.
Now, admittedly, I’ve only seen the most recent Uncharted games (though I plan to play all of them once I can afford a PS4). But from what I’ve seen, Fillion does a great job translating Drake’s mannerisms and dialogue from the game to the screen, and that was based on a script that didn’t get any feedback from anyone at Naughty Dog. Also, apparently Nathan Drake’s personality and appearance were at least partially based on Nathan Fillion.
And of course, Fillion has a reputation for being charming. Just look at Castle.
Nathan Drake is known as a charming, sarcastic, and irreverent character which is a natural fit for Fillion.
Nathan: “Holy shit, Sully, do you know what this means?”
Sully: “Kid, whenever you start doing this, nobody knows what you mean.”
The script obviously wasn’t perfect, but it gave us enough nuggets that pay homage to the games and enough original lines that are true to Drake’s character that we can get a really good idea of what Nathan Fillion’s Drake would be like. And I for one, am pretty stoked about that idea.
The character dynamics
Of course, Uncharted isn’t just about Drake. It’s also got a pretty great cast of side-characters and villains. This short film doesn’t really have much in the way of villains, as the main antagonist is just the “muscle” for a much more important character, so I won’t go into that aspect.
But this short film does have Sully and Elena in it. I saw a lot of conflicting opinions on Stephen Lang’s Sully. I thought he did an admirable job as Sully, and he’s the right age for Sully post-Uncharted 4. It’s implied in an earlier Uncharted that Sully is 25 years older than Drake, which would make him almost 65 years old at the time of Uncharted 4, so Stephen Lang looks the part, certainly. And he has the gravitas that Sully requires as a character, with the ability to be a little humorous.
The other guy I heard multiple times for Sully’s role is Bruce Campbell, and he would be great too. I’m a huge fan of Campbell, and his role on Burn Notice as Sam is actually pretty similar to Sully’s role in Uncharted. So in that way, it actually feels like a very natural choice, and to be honest, if a movie, ANY movie, came out starring both Fillion and Campbell, I’d be first in line to watch it.
Then there’s Elena, played by Mircea Monroe in the short film. I wasn’t wholly convinced by her in the role, though she certainly didn’t do a bad job. I saw a number of comments suggest that Emily Rose, the voice/mocap actor for Elena in Uncharted, could easily play the role in a feature film. While I certainly agree that she could, and would probably do a good job, I think Elena represents an opportunity to pick up a more mainstream film star to complement Fillion.
In fact, I think the smart thing would be to cast two film stars in the roles of Sully and Elena in order to offset Fillion a bit, kind of like how Sony casted Michael Keaton and Marissa Tomei in Spiderman: Homecoming to add some film stars alongside the relatively unknown Tom Holland.
As for who I would pick, I’m not sure. You can let me know in the comments who you’d cast as Elena.
The action sequences
This is the one thing that the short film couldn’t really accomplish at a proper scale, cause, you know, it’s a small-budget short film. However, we did get a glimpse into what the action would be like with the fist-fight between Drake and the goons post-interrogation.
I actually have to give a lot of props to this section. The fighting style is fun, frenetic, and very Uncharted, particularly Uncharted 4 (which really upped the melee fighting systems).
There’s a healthy mix of using enemies against each other, grabbing Drake to hold him down while another goon tries to punch him (huge part of Uncharted 4), and some signature Uncharted moves. The only thing we’re missing here is a dual-protagonist fight (like Drake and Sully fighting guys at the same time) which makes sense cause the filmmakers were on a limited budget.
But the haymaker punches, big sweeping kicks, grabs, and Drake’s reaction to it all are so on-point.
Paying homage to the gameplay
Perhaps the moment that’s most strongly reacted to, the unique and interesting cinematic-to-gameplay transition in the final fight of the film shed light on what kind of unique elements could be brought to an Uncharted movie to really set it apart from all the other movies out there.
This moment screams Uncharted. I could be wrong, but I’m fairly certain that Uncharted was the game that popularized the seamless transition from cutscene to gameplay like this moment depicts. It’s damn near iconic for the franchise:
Drake does some crazy ridiculous thing (like jumping out of the second story window), the camera goes out of the third person viewpoint to show the audience more context to what’s going on, and he manages to face-plant. Then, as he’s getting up and saying some pithy response, the camera comes around and seamlessly transitions back to the third-person camera position.
Almost every reaction video I watched had people in awe of this moment
And even more interesting than this shot is that it’s also blended with another camera move out to see the car coming in, followed by moving back to third-person, then cutting to a really epic shot of Drake winding up his punch and back to third-person as his fist impacts the goon and he lands on the ground. It’s a really great way to blend the third-person viewpoint with more cinematic shots in a way that’s really unique and would stand to set the Uncharted movie apart from all the other action movies if they used it.
As you can tell, this short film really hyped me up for what a Nathan Fillion Uncharted movie could be and for what it could look like in paying homage to the games. These are the most critical things, to my mind, to making a great Uncharted adaptation: telling a story that hasn’t been explored in the games, incorporating action elements and world elements from the games, and, of course, Nathan Fillion.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Considering giving it a couple claps and following me here on Medium, or on Twitter. There’s more commentary and content like this coming. Sneak peak at some future articles: What Happened to Mirror’s Edge?, Why Can’t Hollywood Make a Good Video Game Movie?, and My Pitch for a Fillion Uncharted Movie.
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