“Lost, not gone. There’s a difference. If something’s lost, it can be found.”
The first feature from PlayStation Productions was the obvious choice and yet also perhaps the most misguided — Naughty Dog’s Uncharted videogame franchise was designed as a cinematic experience, drawing inspiration from the likes of Indiana Jones, but this also means there is little more for a live action production to offer. Practical effects might have provided more grounded, visceral action; instead the action is so obviously green-screened — with videogamey CGI (particularly in aerial sequences) and conspicuous cutting around stunt performers — that the non-interactive experience offers no discernible benefit. Time has also diminished the film’s relevance, as Drake’s videogame journey concluded six years ago. In fact, Uncharted was stuck in pre-production for so long that Mark Wahlberg aged out of consideration for Nathan Drake and into the role of his mentor. Casting a further shadow is how perfect Nathan Fillion would have been for the role of Drake (as demonstrated in a wonderful little fan film — over the intervening four years it became a running joke that I would bring it up as the “real” Uncharted film). Tom Holland provides the requisite charm but not quite enough swagger, and his young Drake feels ill-formed as a character, whilst the rest of the cast is a rogue’s gallery of predictable and shallow caricatures. The story of hunting for the lost gold of Magellan is serviceable with a few moments of intrigue, like Drake learning to test his companion’s trustworthiness, but there is no soul to this adventure. Perhaps it is only lost; I fear it is gone.
“When you love something, you protect it. It’s the most natural thing in the world.”
A millenia-spanning epic about immortal beings sent to Earth to shepherd humanity and the growth of civilisation, Eternals is one of the most experimental films within the MCU to date, handed to critically acclaimed independent film director Chloé Zhao. Although it is a flawed film, I think it is unfairly maligned by those who criticise the limited plot, when Eternals is deliberately written in a more thematic manner. The greater structural flaws are in pacing and in the manner that characters are introduced: the bulk of the film occurs as the Eternals reunite in present day, but these reunions are robbed of weight when we have to guess at the relationships which existed before, helped little by disjointed jumps through the ages to flesh out their familial conflicts. Time is spread thinly across the large ensemble cast. Eternals may be the most visually cohesive Marvel film to date, with its intricate golden art design and costuming, complementary visual effects for their powers, and beautiful cinematography — cinematographer Ben Davis was also responsible for the previous title holder, Doctor Strange. This extends to compellingly choreographed fight scenes — when the Eternals fight it often feels like a physical manifestation of differences of opinion. The most compelling concept is the idea of ageless beings searching for purpose amongst mortals, yet we see only glimpses through where they have ended up, some prioritising a dynastic career or family, whilst others find themselves inescapably isolated. Eternals‘ timing closely following the Infinity Saga is unfortunate in that it retreads Thanos’ quandary as to the justification of sacrificing life in order to allow more to flourish. I cannot help but feel that the film would have fared better unshackled from the expectations of fitting into a shared universe, particularly one in which they drastically escalate the power level as street level heroes become increasingly inconsequential against the likes of Celestials.
“For orcs, there is no other life but war, but with the humans, there could be.”
Warcraft seemed like a fitting way to kick off my mini-break around the E3 gaming convention. Where it succeeds is in bringing Blizzard’s chunky character design to life. The Orcs in particular are stunningly rendered, their actors unrecognisable yet able to convey a range of emotion. Sadly the script attempts far too much in convoluted plotting, at the expense of worldbuilding and character moments. Many gamers may be familiar with Azeroth but newcomers will see nothing more than a generic fantasy world. Whilst the $160 million budget allows a real sense of scale to the battles, the stakes are only ever as high as our investment in the characters, and there is scant opportunity for this to develop. This is a particular shame as some of those quieter moments are the film’s best.