UNCHARTED action-adventure movie review

The Goonies meets Raiders of the Lost Ark in the moderately entertaining movie adaptation of the hit Uncharted video game series. Of course, therein lies a tonal problem: the movie is never quite sure what tone it wants to strike. Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg star in the Ruben Fleischer helmed high-flying action-adventure movie that hopes you haven’t played or know much about the video game. Fortunately for me, I wouldn’t even know the cover art of the game, let alone anything about it other than the title. And that is probably why I enjoyed it as much as I did–but that isn’t saying much. #FilmTwitter was up in arms about the boyish Holland playing the grizzled Nathan Drake when the casting was announced. And while I cannot comment on his particular interpretation of the main character from the video game, I can comment on an inability to buy him as the character, as written, for the movie. It’s indicative of the trend of endowing teens and young adult actors (and by extension, characters) with the same qualities and experiences that come with age and experience. I’ll give him this, he is a charismatic actor. The slapdash storytelling comes across as a movie that feels more like a curation of cut-scenes from a video game, a problem that plagues most video game movie adaptations.

Nathan Drake and his wisecracking partner Victor “Sully” Sullivan embark on a dangerous quest to find the greatest treasure never found while also tracking clues that may lead to Nate’s long-lost brother.

What ultimately keeps this movie afloat is the witty, quippy dialogue, completely devoid of any subtext, but will elicit periodic laughter throughout the movie. While I know next to nothing about the video game, I did learn from a fan of the video game that there is a major element from the game that is completely absent from the movie. I won’t mention what that is in order to avoid spoilers. Be sure to wait around for the mid and post credit scenes that setup a sequel. If you do plan to see it, you’ll definitely want to watch it in the biggest premium format in your area. Many of the scenes, especially in the third act, deliver immense size and scope that are best appreciated and experiences on the biggest screen possible.

While I am unsure of the plot of the video game, the movie sets up an emotionally-driven subplot of the Nathan’s search for his long-lost (or gone) brother. But, it never feels that is plays any significant role in the main action plot. In fact, you can remove the whole search for his brother and the movie plays out the same. This is a movie that could have been a nice hybrid between The Goonies and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it tries to be both of them instead of finding its own expression. Perhaps this is yet another example of how most video game adaptations simply don’t translate to the screen well, because the interactive element is missing.

At the end of the day, it’s a decent popcorn flick to experience in IMAX that is a perfectly fine way to pass the time on an afternoon.

Ryan teaches Film Studies and Digital Citizenship at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.

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“Tomb Raider” (2018) review PLUS exploring the “video game movie” problem

Strives to put cinematic storytelling first and video game representation second, but still comes across as tropey and borrows heavily from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade. However, in all fairness, it does provide this generation with a moderately good action-adventure film based on a best-selling video game series. Alicia Vikander’s Lara Croft differs from that of Angelina Jolie’s in that she comes across to audiences as someone who’s impulsive, reckless, and experiencing difficulty in managing her life. Furthermore, she does not excel at everything she is trying to do to survive life and make ends meat. Those qualities give this Lara Croft a level of humanity that allows her to connect more with audiences. Moreover, she is a believable character–she feels real. In fact, that is probably the best element that this reboot has going for it–the realness of the adventure. Not that the film is without exaggerations and fantasy elements; but, the story almost feels like an adventure that could take place under the right circumstances and with the right tools. The realness might have been increased by not feeling like, at times, you were sitting there playing the video game version. Although this initial return to the video game turned motion picture adaptation is frocked with predictable plot beats and turning points, it does show promise for a solid franchise if tweaked. Moving forward, the stories need to be stronger, original, and leave room for SUBTEXT.

Lara Croft is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer who vanished years earlier. Hoping to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance, Croft embarks on a perilous journey to his last-known destination — a fabled tomb on a mythical island that might be somewhere off the coast of Japan. The stakes couldn’t be higher as Lara must rely on her sharp mind, blind faith and stubborn spirit to venture into the unknown. (IMDb)

Video games turned motion pictures aren’t anything new. From Super Mario Bros to Mortal Kombat to Resident Evil to this year’s Tomb Raider, there have been many attempts to adapt interactive media (video games) for scripted/narrative cinematic storytelling. Ultimately, it has proven to be nearly impossible to create a successful motion picture from a video game. In short, Hollywood simply cannot seem to crack the code for a movie adaptation of a video game. There has yet to be a video game to film adaptation that has even encroached upon the fresh threshold of Rotten Tomatoes. But why is that? Often, movie adaptations of video games fail because their is more emphasis placed upon video game brand representation than the art of cinematic storytelling. In its defense, 2018’s Tomb Raider shows an effort to overcome that obstacle. Today’s Tomb Raider made a solid effort to spend time worrying about it’s quality as a film, but still fell victim to being too grounded in its interactive media roots. If studios who either own or license a video game intellectual property (IP) can spend time analyzing the source material for purposes of tapping into what makes the story itself work, then perhaps a successful video game movie can be produced.

Not just limited to interactive media –>film adaptations, but anytime there is a well-established franchise, the writers and director struggle to find where the happy medium is in satisfying the core of the fan base and translating the story between two forms of media. As much as modern interactive media has in common with films (referring to the cut scenes), there is still the human component that cannot be translated for the screen because there is no “choose your own adventure;” it’s this disconnect that often contributes to the poorly written plot for the screen. Much in the same way that movies based on comic books struggled for a long time until Iron Man, with the brilliant exceptions of Tim Burton’s Batman (a Barman movie directed by Burton) and Batman Returns (a Tim Burton movie that happens to have Batman characters), interactive media based movies will eventually find the sweet spot. I feel that this sweet spot will be found when writers and directors take the characters from a video game IP and place them in an original cinematic story that skews more towards the focus being on the cinematic storytelling than adhering to brand recognition and the existing story that can be played, and has been played, on the console or computer. Take Burton’s approach to Batman Returns. Create a story that works for the screen that happens to have the characters from the video game.

Movies aren’t the only adaptations of interactive media; themed entertainment has also spent time adapting a game for an entire attraction. According to Theme Park Tourist (2014), popular seasonally operating Paramount’s Kings Island (purchased by Cedar Fair in 2007 and all Paramount property removed) spent $20MIL on a ride that lasted a mere five years. Based on the hit video game and blockbuster action movie Tomb Raider: The Ride was on par with Disney and Universal in respect to story, setting, and special audio/visual effects; however, after Paramount sold off its theme park investments to Cedar Fair, the ride got rebranded as The Crypt, a generic theme, and all direct associations with the movie and game Tomb Raider were removed following the 2007 operating year. Interestingly, the ride attendance continually dropped following the rebranding, and the ride was eventually moved to Kings Dominion in Virginia in 2012. Although there may be other reasons as to why the ride became less popular and eventually moved to another park, it is conceivable to conclude that there is a special relationship between the characters and story of the game and a themed entertainment attraction. Both the attraction and the game have the advantage of the human component–the ability to truly experience the elements of the game. 

Over all, I found the new Tomb Raider to be a fun watch! Certainly don’t feel that my time or money was wasted. I remember playing Tomb Raider on the original Playstation and Playstation II (it was soon after that, that I lost interest in gaming), and as a mild fan, I feel that this film did the characters and story justice. By the end of the movie, it is obvious that MGM’s intention is to attempt to produce a blockbuster franchise. And to the film’s credit, this first installment had a satisfying ending plus it quickly setup the next movie. If you like action-adventure movies or even a fan of the video game series, I feel that you will enjoy Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider!

Theme Parks’ Newest Attraction: Pokemon GO!

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 9.14.37 AM“Gotta Catch ‘Em All,” and catching’em in the theme parks adds a whole new level of fun! In many ways, as the record breaking app from Niantic continues to develop and attract new players, an unofficial attraction is being added to many theme parks, if not all of them at this point. In Florida, the park that has taken the lead in attracting Pokémon trainers is Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. But catching common and rare Pokémon is not limited to Busch Gardens, but SeaWorldDisney, and Universal are also hotbeds of PokéHunting! Although catching Pokémon is possible in all the Theme Parks, to the best of my knowledge, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay launched continual lurethons in July and August to capitalize on the summer crowds. A lure is an item earned or purchased in the game that can be placed at a PokéStop to draw Pokémon to that area for 30 mins and a PokéStop is a landmark or location that offers you items like Pokéballs and potions when you are in close range of said stop. These lurethons are also highly effective for luring in locals after work during the week and on weekends. As I have been catching Pokémon in the parks over the last couple of weeks, I have made some anecdotal observations that I’d like to share. The most important one being, better invest in a portable charger!

Safety Note: Please remember to always look where you’re walking, do not trespass, cut lines or run. There’s tons of Pokémon out there!

If you have been to the theme parks, whether in Florida, California, or pretty much anywhere for the matter, you have likely noticed many park guests with their respective faces glued to their phones–more than usual that is. Or, you may have been behind someone briskly walking and then all of a sudden slows down, if not stops. Most likely, those park guests are playing Pokémon GO. Perhaps YOU are that park guest–I know I am. Haha. One of the first observations I’ve made as I have played in the parks is the social element. There is already a social element to the game in general, but it appears to be amplified in the parks. While walking around the parks, it was not uncommon for other Pokémon GO players to ask me what team I was on (Mystic, btw) or what I was trying to catch. A security guard at Hollywood Studios asked me how many Pokéballs I had lost while catching three Pokémon near his post. We then proceeded to talk Pokémon for several minutes. I greatly appreciate this new dynamic to the theme park experience. As I seem to be perpetually caught in the single life (ugh), I normally go to the parks alone. Knowing that this app provides a great platform for starting conversations with others who may be by themselves or with other Pokémon Trainers is really encouraging! Perhaps you and your friends love to take over gyms together. If gym battling is of great importance to you, then you will find some great gyms in the parks, especially if you’re looking for level 3+.

From the social to the experiential, this app has you covered while enjoying the parks! Although Florida is nicknamed the sunshine state, summer thunderstorms are no stranger to the typical afternoon. For parks like Busch Gardens and SeaWorld that have many outdoor attractions, the lightning can greatly hinder ride operations. Last week on a PokéHunt at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, a message over the loudspeakers stated something to the effect of “outdoor attractions are temporarily closed due to inclement weather.” Under normal circumstances, I may have been disappointed that I couldn’t ride Cobra’s Curse, Montu, and more, but I was having so much fun catching Pokémon that I didn’t think twice about the coasters being closed. Many times when an announcement like that one is made, it is not uncommon to hear park guests complaining. Despite the closures, I did not hear nearly as many guests complaining about not being able to experience the coasters. Could that be because many of the guests, like me, were also playing Pokémon GO? Perhaps; although, without asking a significant number of guests, there is no way of knowing for sure. Pokémon GO is not unlike other scavenger hunts in the parks. Notably, Disney’s Sorcerers game is a prime example of an interactive scavenger hunt. It is entirely possible that there could be exclusive Pokémon primarily found in the parks if this trend continues. Playing games to pass the time in queue or walking between attractions is definitely not a new concept, but Pokémon GO provides park guests with a game that helps pass the time, provides opportunities to interact with other guests, contains many challenging and strategic elements, and will keep you entertained even when attractions are closed.

There have been many articles written previously on the health benefits of playing Pokémon GO, so I don’t feel the need to explore the required increased physical activity–required, that is, if you want to enjoy all the benefits of the game–that is associated with the app. However, I think it’s important to look at the physical activity element as it relates to playing in the theme parks. It can be quite physically, emotionally, and psychologically draining to walk from attraction to attraction in the summer heat. Fortunately, it appears as though playing Pokémon GO distracts one from negative thoughts or feelings during the endless walking. Now, walking between attractions or around the park, in general, is part of the fun! Racking up kilometers in the parks is a great way to hatch eggs. If you are unfamiliar with the game, one element of it is walking a certain number of kilometers (1.54mi/1K) to hatch the respective egg in the incubator. There are different distances (2km/5km/10km), and the longer the distance the more rare the Pokémon generally. I found myself taking the long way around a park or between attractions just to increase the number of kilometers walked.

Instead of taking away from the park experience, it appears as though playing Pokémon GO adds to the enjoyment of the parks. This is definitely true for those of us who frequent the parks weekly. Playing in the parks on a regular basis may generate a feeling of the theme park feeling like one’s backyard or neighborhood playground. And like with your childhood back yard or neighborhood playground, it forced you to use your imagination to create new adventures for you and your friends. It’s not that the neighborhood park was boring; it’s just that it was a regular part of your life. Being a theme park regular is not unlike the aforementioned. I have thoroughly enjoyed this new experiential element to my time in the parks. It’s like a whole new experience! In addition to enjoying my favorite rides, I can continually enjoy catching Pokémon and spinning the wheel at PokéStops. Oh yeah, there are SO MANY PokéStops in the parks. You may even find yourself having to empty your backpack because it becomes full. Although there have been some concerns about park guests finding themselves venturing into backstage areas, this does not appear to be a common occurrence. I am looking forward to witnessing how this game continues to affect theme park operations, offerings, and special events. Perhaps exclusive Pokémon will be added to the parks or special Disney Pokémon. With Universal acquiring the theme park rights to Nintendo in 2015, it is entirely possible that Pokémon GO may have a strong presence in the Nintendo themed areas even though Nintendo itself does not reserve the theme park rights to Pokémon GO. While Nintendo does own the rights to the regular Pokemon games, Nintendo currently has nothing to do with Pokémon GO; it’s strictly Niantic and The Pokémon Company. If you do not live close to the parks, I definitely want to encourage you not to be glued to the game when you have the opportunity to go; you may miss incredible sights, sounds, and time with family and friends. Playing Pokémon GO in the parks should add to the experience, not take away from valuable time with others. I’m always looking for folks with whom to catch Pokémon, so if you are ever in the Tampa or Orlando area, hit me up!

Find a rare Pokémon in a cool spot!? Tag @ThrillzCo or #Thrillz in your post to have a chance to win a Pokémon GO team decal for FREE! *Contest ends August 20, 2016. Many will play, not all will win.

Thank you Derek Rosenberg from Unmasked On Air for contributing to this article! If you enjoy video games, comic books, and movies, visit their website by clicking the link below.