David O. Russell’s last film was I Heart Huckabees, an “existential comedy.” While his next film, The Fighter, is due out in theaters this year, 24 Frames reports that he’s on the shortlist to helm an adaptation of the PlayStation 3 video game Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. So to be clear: existential comedy…to adaptation of action-adventure video game. And yes, O. Russell is also attached to direct Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but I can’t see that having the price tag of a film like Uncharted and the director’s filmography shows he gravitates to off-kilter stories. “Off-kilter” is not one of the terms I’d used to describe Uncharted.
For those unfamiliar with the game, Uncharted follows treasure-hunter Nathan Drake (descendant of Sir Francis Drake) and his search to find the lost city of El Dorado. Some have deemed it “Dude Raider” due to the premise’s similarity to the video game series Tomb Raider. However, Uncharted has yet to wear out its welcome and the games are well-made and fun (Even the first Tomb Raider games kind of suck). That’s why it’s a bad idea to make it into a movie. Hit the jump for my explanation why.
Before, I explain why Uncharted (as well as most video games) shouldn’t be adapted into movies, I will say that O. Russell is at least an interesting choice. 24 Frames compares his consideration to the hiring of Rob Marshall (Chicago) for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Bill Condon (Kinsey) for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. But I think O. Russell is in a different camp from those two directors. Unlike Marshall and Condon, O. Russell has never had a blockbuster hit or made a film with mainstream appeal. It’s ballsy of Sony to consider hanging what they want to be a major franchise on his shoulders. And if I thought adapting the game into a movie was a good idea, I would happily take O. Russell over the assorted hacks who have more experience directing mainstream action flicks.
But they shouldn’t adapt Uncharted or really any modern video game with a heavy reliance on narrative and character. These games are trying to emulate movies but they add an interactive element. Uncharted wears its influences on its sleeve as the wise-cracking Drake always has a quip even when scrambling away from a grenade. He’s Indiana Jones for the gamer crowd mixed with pulp heroes like Doc Savage and action-movie heroes like John McClane. I just started playing the game and I’d highly recommend it (I’m told Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is even better) due in part to Drake being a fun character who’s well-written and well voice-acted.
But I also like the gameplay. It’s challenging without being frustrating, simple and addicting, and really takes advantage of the PlayStation 3’s processing power. A movie would copy the narrative and the characters, but take away the interactive element. I’m sure you’ve sat down and watched someone play a video game. Is it more fun to watch or to play it yourself?
So if you’re shuddering about the prospect of O. Russell “ruining” the movie of Uncharted, ask yourself why you even want a movie of it in the first place. Unless you’re Sony or the film’s producers, I don’t think you’ll have a very good reason.