If Uncharted , mired in development delays for the better part of a decade, becomes a global film franchise for Sony Pictures, the love Tom Holland has for the PlayStation video game console will become the stuff of legend. It was on the PlayStation, between takes on 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming , that Holland immersed himself in the world of Uncharted – and accelerated his desire to portray a globe-trotting adventurer such as Indiana Jones or James Bond. Before video game studio Naughty Dog was known for its linear, story-driven narratives Uncharted and The Last of Us – two properties being adapted for film and TV – it was a production house home to more lighthearted fare, particularly the run-and-jump series Jak and Daxter . Holland cites Jak and Daxter as one of his first video game crushes and talks about meeting Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann the way other actors gush over meeting a legendary director. “He actually worked on Jak and Daxter , which is one of my favourite games. I loved that game as a kid,” Holland says of Druckmann, who started as an intern at Naughty Dog and worked as a programmer, designer, writer, creative director and vice-president at the Santa Monica, California-based studio before he was promoted to co-president in 2020. “We were big gamers as kids,” Holland says of himself and his three brothers. “Our parents were always quite strict. We weren’t allowed to play video games on a school night. So I do remember waking up early on a Saturday morning trying to beat my brothers downstairs so I could get to the PlayStation first.” Sonic the Hedgehog cancels China release due to coronavirus In 2022, video games appear to be the next big intellectual property arena for movie studios and streaming services. Uncharted comes shortly after LA studio Riot Games had a hit with Netflix’s adult animation series Arcane , weeks before a Sonic the Hedgehog sequel and Halo series for Paramount+, and months before HBO, with Druckmann’s heavy involvement, launches a series based on the sombre, traumatic, zombie-inspired game The Last of Us . “It’s a testimony to how good the video game IP is and how robust it is in terms of narrative,” says Alex Gartner, one of the producers on Uncharted . “It’s robust in terms of narrative, and it’s matured. It has created real characters. It’s not just the playability of the games any more. It’s the characters.” For Uncharted , that main character is Nathan Drake, portrayed in the film by Holland, about a decade or so younger than the character seen in the series’ first 2007 instalment. Drake, as written in the games, was a serious-yet-carefree persona who made his living, such as it was, as a not-always-successful thief. Drake’s story arc came to a conclusion with 2016’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End ; a spin-off that did not feature Drake was issued a year later. In the film, released in the US last week, audiences are introduced to a Nathan Drake with a borderline pathological desire for life-threatening adventures, this time following the path of explorer Ferdinand Magellan in an attempt to find a hidden treasure as well as discover what happened to his long-lost brother, Sam. It isn’t trying to bring the video game from the PlayStation to the big screen Uncharted director Ruben Fleischer Holland wasn’t the first actor attached to Uncharted , which has been in development for about 10 years. His desire to play the character, however, awakened his own yearning to see the world. “I didn’t know there was a film in the works, but I did inquire about it with my agents,” Holland says. “They were under the impression that Ryan Reynolds was going to play Nathan Drake. For whatever reason that film was never made.” Asked specifically what drew him to Drake, Holland is blunt and isn’t afraid to say there was a hint of selfishness motivating his push to get this film made. “What intrigued me most about the character was his sense of adventure and where that would take me,” Holland says. “We’re talking about a character that explores the world and I love travelling, so I’m hoping that with this film series of Uncharted we can go to places I would never have normally gone. So far that has been the case.” Holland’s desire for the project to get made is credited as the reason Drake is younger in the film than in the games, where the character is in his 30s and 40s. But Holland does capture Drake’s jovial approach to life; he’s a man who seems to revel in the ridiculous situations he gets himself into, even as there’s a part of him that longs for deeper connection. In Uncharted 4 , recently reissued for the PlayStation 5 , the game plays with Drake’s struggle to settle down and be an honest partner to his wife. In the film, which largely sidesteps romance, Holland’s Drake is missing the father figure of his older brother and finds a thief-going partner, eventually, in Mark Wahlberg ’s Victor “Sully” Sullivan. “We wanted it to be the story of a young boy searching for his family and, in turn, finding a family in Sully,” says Holland. The original Uncharted is a game meant to be a film you can play. Is something lost if a game becomes a movie you can … watch? After all, one of the film’s primary action scenes comes straight from Uncharted 3 , a mid-air jump-and-fight segment amid cargo trailing an aeroplane. It’s unlikely any human would survive such a moment. In the game it works, as we’re in control of the character and see only the exaggerated action for the absurdly embellished set piece that it is. “The joke in the industry was that nobody would survive a Nathan Drake jump,” says Bruce Straley, who co-directed Uncharted 4 with Druckmann and, with Uncharted architect Amy Hennig, had a role in the early development of the franchise “You would literally drop down from any ledge and break a hip and that would be the end of your adventure. But we’re jumping on the sides of trains and grabbing them by the fingernail.” Uncharted director Ruben Fleischer says he had to be aware of how far he could push his characters. What feels real in a game can look downright goofy when actual humans are doing the stunts. “You have to make a movie that works as a movie, that pays tribute to the source material but exists as a conventional feature film. But it isn’t trying to bring the video game from the PlayStation to the big screen,” Fleischer says. Ultimately, Uncharted serves as a prequel to the games, dialling back Drake’s age, keeping him single and not putting a gun in his hands until late in the film. That’s a different tack than Naughty Dog is taking with The Last of Us , a series in development for HBO that is believed to more closely hew to the source material. Druckmann and Straley have long talked up the cinematic influences on the interactive text for The Last of Us , including No Country for Old Men and the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road . “The games, both Uncharted and Last of Us , are so cinematic. They’re scored. They’re acted. It’s unclear how one should adapt them – what to keep and not keep. With Uncharted and Last of Us , we’re taking very different approaches,” Druckmann says. “With Uncharted , it’s telling a whole other story that’s picking and choosing moments from the franchise and giving you an Uncharted flavour. With The Last of Us , we’re trying to tell the same story that’s in the game, deviating in minor ways. “I don’t know if either is wrong or right, but you have to play to the strengths of the medium. You’re taking something out of it that is fundamental to telling its story, which is the interactive part. So you better complement it in other ways.” Druckmann, who directed an episode of The Last of Us , says each shot has to have a single purpose. “You’re not trying to get muddy with too many ideas in one shot. It reflects a lot of our thinking in how we’re approaching games. But it’s just reinforcing the notion of clarity,” he says.