Posted on Tuesday, November 1st, 2016 by Jacob Hall
The long-gestating film adaptation of the popular (and for good reason) Uncharted video game series has been a revolving door of talent for years now. Cycle through the /Film archives and you’ll find writers and directors boarding and exiting the project with a frequency that boggles the mind. Despite its inherently cinematic premise, Uncharted has proven itself to be a tough nut to crack.
But maybe this is the point where things start to look up! Maybe this is the point in the timeline where Uncharted stops shuffling around development hell and starts to take shape! And if so, the timing couldn’t be better, because screenwriter Joe Carnahan is saying all of the right things about what he’s trying to do with his script.
Collider spoke with Carnahan shortly after the news broke that Shawn Levy was brought on to helm the film. Carnahan (a filmmaker whose credits include Narc, Smokin’ Aces, The A-Team, and Stretch and a natural raconteur who couldn’t give a bad interview if he tried) explained how Nathan Drake, the artifact-hunting antihero at the heart of the Uncharted series, is the anti-Indiana Jones:
I can tell you that Shawn Levy and I sat down last weekend, he has fantastic knowledge. Here’s the thing, Shawn is an incredibly bright, incredibly skilled, talented guy, and you sit with him for five minutes and you know and understand why he has the level of success he’s had. I think he understands, we both have tremendous fondness for Raiders, and he wants to, I think Shawn’s capable of doing a lot of things. I can tell you this: what I’ve written is very anti-Indy in the sense of the guy that loves museums and wants to preserve these artifacts. He’s not! He’s a thief and he’s a grifter, and he’s a scourge. He and Sully are not good guys but they’re better than the bad guys. It’s a game, you know, they’re certainly rogues, and certainly don’t have a problem, even in the first game he just kind of dumps Elena and it’s interesting. I think it’s gonna be, I honestly think this one’s got a real shot. And I was really glad when Shawn came on because I’m too deep into Bad Boys and I really wanna see that through. Too much sweat equity in that one; years of trying to do Uncharted. I’m flattered that these guys wanted me to write it. It’s a hell of a responsibility and hell of an opportunity and I don’t want to squander it now.
It’s the kind of answer that almost makes you wish Carnahan himself (who has proven himself so adept at blending action and humor in the past) was behind the camera. But he has a third Bad Boys movie to worry about, so it falls to Shawn Levy to get the job done. Levy is a capable filmmaker with his fair share of hits, but much of his career has been focused on family-friendly material like Night at the Museum and The Pink Panther. He has his fingers in a few beloved-by-nerds properties (including Netflix’s Stranger Things), but fans of the video games have every right to feel a little perplexed about his hiring. It’s certainly not the choice everyone was expecting.
And yes, Carnahan has an opinion on fans…namely that they don’t wield as much influence as everyone thinks they do:
I think that, it’s gonna need to be something that exceeds the sum of its parts, you know what I’m saying? It just doesn’t function as a straight lift of the video game. I sat down with Amy [Hening, director of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune] and sat down with [Drake voice actor] Nolan North and sat down with Neil [Druckmann, writer of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune], who created this thing, and took them through what I was doing and what I was thinking of and they loved it. She loved it. She understands too that you can’t be so slavish and devoted to the source material. They could’ve just altered certain things about Watchmen, Zack Snyder’s film. I thought it was so much better than what it was–and I really enjoyed it–I thought God, there’s some really great movie in there that I felt got held back because we gotta check these boxes or these fans are gonna get on our ass. And I’m a big believer that the fanboy element or the fan lobbies are massively overrepresented in Hollywood and don’t have nearly the lobbying power that we think they do.
I find Carnahan’s candor refreshing, especially since he seems to get what makes the Uncharted games tick and has done the proper legwork with the folks behind the original games – he’s a fan who is more than willing to be critical of fandom. I like that he’s not afraid to ruffle the feathers of fanboys in the same interview where he says the kind of things that should reassure them. He’s refreshingly free of canned responses.