Home Entertainment Joe Carnahan wants UNCHARTED to be an anti-Indiana Jones film

Joe Carnahan wants UNCHARTED to be an anti-Indiana Jones film

9 min read

January 29th, 2011 @ 19:11:28

The Uncharted movie adaptation is finally starting to show some promise. We recently reported that Shawn Levy (Real Steel, Night At the Museum: Secret of the Tomb ) is now going to take on the directing challenge for this film from Joe Carnahan, and fortunately enough Joe Carnahan was able to complete his script for the film and try and impart his vision onto it before the project was handed over.

Carnahan definitely has a strong history of creating some solid, compelling action films such as Narc, Smokin’ Aces, The A-Team, The Grey, and Stretch. However, one of the big concerns about the Uncharted film is the type of tone they are going to give the film adaptation, especially as many compare the character and action in the game as similar to that of Indiana Jones. So,  a big challenge for him would be to try and write something that is faithful to he game series without seeming a clone to the Indiana Jones movies.

Fortunately enough this is a challenge he was all too aware of and set out to try and differentiate the film from the beginning to stand on its own. In speaking with Collider, the Uncharted writer had the following to say:

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 dump 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.


And its obviously not just a challenge of trying to not make a film that is too similar to another popular movie franchise. It’s the challenge of making a movie based off a video game, an area which most movies fail miserably at. This is something that Carnahan also tried to address in his script:

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.

We gotta sometimes cut loose of those, because it shackles you. You’re gonna have Nate do this and you’re gonna say Kitty got wet and gonna do this, and you say, “Listen, we’re gonna do as much of it as we can,” but I remember the late great Stephen Cannell [creator of The A-Team] say to me, listen, if you wanna make B.A. Baracus a white woman, you should do that. He didn’t have this sense of, no I think that’d probably have exploded in my face, but this is the guy that created him and he understood that you need to break with tradition sometimes to tell compelling stories. It’s just making a great movie and trying to put as much of the game in as you can and the sensibilities of making Drake and Sullivan and so on, and beyond that, just do something original and fun. Roll the dice, like we have to do on anything. There are no assurances, and there certainly are very few hedging your bets when it comes to making movies. So I really believe that. Just be original. Do your best. Try to check the boxes you can, but beyond that don’t get wrapped up.


So it clearly comes across that Carnahan is a huge fan of the game series and I love how he has taken a very collaborative approach with the game developers and even Nolan North himself. I also agree that film studios shouldn’t put too much effort to pander to the needs of overzealous fan boys who are likely never to be pleased regardless. The focus should be firstly on making a great movie and if it means deviating here and there, that should be acceptable.

Exactly what boxes he is determined to check for the movie that will still keep some of these passionate fans happy though:

Certainly the signet ring. The harvest magnet, the whole Francis Drake legend, and his parentage, his lineage. I thought that was important. You’re dealing with a guy who’s an orphan, and I came at it that way—what’s some of the things that are important to someone who’s an orphan? In the fourth game they dispelled all that, but I thought it’s still kind of an interesting. What excuses would you make about your character if you held to this notion that you were the heir to this great explorer? Your ancestor’s this great dubious, nefarious explorer? If you believed somehow that was your birthright. Were you conning yourself? There’s some interesting character stuff you can do there. That and the insane, the big action stuff. I kept some characters I like and kind of reset them within that world so there’ll be names and familiar faces and so on, but they won’t necessarily be what they were in the game, which I think is important, you have to do that, create amalgams. I can’t imagine fans of Uncharted will be unhappy, at least with the screenplay. And I do think there’s some interesting, again, anti-Indiana Jones stuff going on, looting and pillaging these UNESCO sites and world heritage sites and also these uncharted realms. There’s 3 million shipwrecks all over the world that have never been seen. That to me is fascinating. So there’s a lot of that stuff, and a lot of that’s kinda new and improved, for lack of a better phrase. I think people will dig it, but I can’t imagine. But I’m sure someone’ll hate my guts, but that’s okay, a lot of people hate my guts.


And I think lastly the big question on everyone minds is around casting, who is going to play the role of Nathan Drake. And while it is something they are looking at intently, he feels there is more to this that they need to look at before determining the actor or jumping to secure a big name star for the film:

Shawn and I have talked about a couple of guys, but it’s pointless to mention them now because we don’t know where everybody’s gonna be. In a perfect world it’d be Nolan North! [laughing] That’s who I’d like to see play Nathan Drake, that’d be the perfect casting, but I don’t know. I think that’s gonna be, again man, sheer economics. Who’s worth what, when, where, how. What gets us this, what gets us that. What’s the foreign side of things, international things. Mark’s great, Wahlberg’s great, but it just depends how young we wanna make Nate and then ultimately how young we wanna make Sully. Is Sully in his 50s and Nate in his late 30s? Is Nate in his late 20s and Sully’s in his early 40s? Who knows. It really is gonna depend on that process because if X gets excited and says “Oh, I want to play that,” then it means Sully’s gonna have to be this age, and that changes things. And if you’re talking about making three, four films, what’s ideal for that.

So, Nolan North has been ruled out already. That’s a pity. Either way, it seems this film is finally starting to shape up into something that sounds promising. I’m still skeptical on whether it will be any good, but let’s hope that with the passion the writer has for the games that this could turn out to be a good video game adaptation for a change.

Last Updated: November 3, 2016

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