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SYFY WIRE Uncharted

How does the ‘Uncharted’ movie connect to the video game series? Our 3 biggest questions

What does Sony’s first look at Uncharted tell us about the film’s connection to the PlayStation games?

By Benjamin Bullard

After five years since the final installment in Naughty Dog’s epic video game series, it’s good to see Nathan and Sully together again — even if the sight of Tom Holland as Nathan Drake takes a minute or two to sink in. Sony’s first trailer for Uncharted, the live action film adaptation of the iconic PlayStation franchise, is finally out in the wild — and while it’s got us more amped than ever to see the finished movie, it definitely dials up plenty of intriguing new questions.

Sony has said the long-awaited, oft-delayed Uncharted movie, directed by Zombieland series veteran Ruben Fleischer, will put Holland’s youthfulness to good use in a story that’s meant to serve as a prequel to the games. But as longtime fans have probably figured out from the trailer, the movie appears to be packing in some of the games’ big set-piece moment vibes… even if those events originally unfolded much later in the older Nathan Drake’s adventuring timeline.

Now that we’ve finally gotten our first proper tease of how Uncharted on the big screen will treat its video game source material (Big news! Sully lost the mustache!), it’s time to go treasure-diving in search of answers to all the fresh questions the trailer raises.

In no particular order, here are three of the biggest Uncharted movie mysteries the new clip already has us chasing, and how they might share the same franchise DNA with the games.

How will Sam fit in?

Uncharted 2

The short answer is: We don’t really know. In the games, Nathan Drake’s older brother Sam was believed to have died in a treasure hunt gone sour, but he eventually turned up in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End to urge Nathan out of retirement and toward one final adventure.

In the movie trailer, Sam gets a pair of super-brief mentions. “I think you’re here because of your brother,” says Mark Wahlberg’s mustache-free Sully — a comment that gets Nathan’s attention fast. “What, you know my brother Sam?” he optimistically fires back. Later on on the clip, there’s one more Sam reference. “My brother Sam left one final clue,” says Nathan in an apparent moment of discovery while examining an old postcard.

Interestingly, there’s no casting credit we can find to indicate that Sam shows up in the movie as an on-screen character — though of course Sony could surprise us. What does seem clear is that even in this young-Nathan timeline, Sam plays a big role that the movie acknowledges…even if we never get to see him in the film.

Can they recapture that action magic?

Naughty Dog broke new video game ground with the release of the first Uncharted game in 2007, harnessing the power of the then-new PlayStation 3 to create an action-packed series of explosive story set pieces in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. That game’s mix of cinematic presentation and frantic, heat-of-battle gameplay spawned an enduring lineup of video game imitators, even as Naughty Dog continued to refine the Uncharted formula across the series’ eventual sequels.

Even without its gaming pedigree, the movie trailer feels like it captures the kinetic spirit of the high-flying action genre, teasing wild stunt and VFX spectacles that wouldn’t look out of place in a Mission: Impossible or James Bond film. But some of that eye candy does appear to be drawn straight from the Uncharted games themselves, even though it doesn’t seem to be too concerned about checking off the games' set-piece highlight reel in any particular chronological order.

Probably the biggest slice of mayhem comes in the trailer’s cargo plane stunt, as Nathan crate-hops in midair in a scene obviously inspired by a memorable, similar moment from Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. But that game was set two years after the events of its predecessor — or, in other words, well into Nathan Drake’s maturing career as a globetrotting treasure seeker. Whatever young Nate and Sully are getting up to in the movie, it’s bound to fit differently in the overall story — no matter how closely the action mimics what we’ve seen in the games that’ve come before.

Who is the bad guy?

Uncharted 3

A suave, sophisticated, and dangerous-looking Antonio Banderas steals attention in the movie trailer, though Sony hasn’t yet teased his character identity. But he’s by far the most menacing presence in the clip, verbally sparring with Nate in a way that feels like a master manipulator toying with a naive upstart who’s probably in over his head.

“I don’t dabble” in treasure hunting, Banderas’ unnamed bad guy hisses at our affable hero. “My family has been looking for this fortune for a very long time.” But wait a minute — how can we even even be sure he’s a bad guy if he hasn’t yet been given a name? Because Nathan’s reaction all but says so. “I’m pretty sure he just threatened to kill me!” he gulps awkwardly to Sully.

In one other scene, a burly thug giving off big henchman vibes pledges to take Nate down in a hilariously unintelligible rant that threatens Drake with a “Scottish welcome.” Nate ends up on the short end of that quick scuffle, though the funny scene feels like less of a high-stakes encounter than you’d expect from a final boss-level villain. Until Sony confirms it, we’ll just go ahead and declare Banderas the movie’s big baddie for now — while delving back into the games for clues about which PlayStation enemy (or enemies) might have served as inspiration for his character.

One thing’s for sure: Despite all its nods to the video games, Uncharted is taking us to a part of Nathan Drake’s past that we’ve never seen. Starring Holland, Wahlberg, and Banderas alongside Sophia Ali (Chloe Frazer) and Tati Gabrielle as new character Braddock, Uncharted is set to ramble on into theaters on Feb. 18 of next year.