‘Uncharted’ director explains how to beat the video game curse

Video games are the most popular form of entertainment on the planet, with their revenue eclipsing movies and music combined. All of which makes it a head-scratcher that no studio has managed to make a truly successful movie adaptation of a hit game. Contenders have tried and failed to break the curse, with World of Warcraft, Mortal Kombat, and Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City all ending up as — at best — mediocre movies.

Venom director Ruben Fleischer wanted to change all that with Uncharted. This is the debut movie of PlayStation Productions and adapts one of Sony’s most popular franchises. It hits theaters this week, and Fleischer explained in an interview with Screen Rant his strategy for success:

“For me, when you’re adapting any piece of material, whether it be a comic book or a video game, it’s really important that it work on its own and stand on its own two feet as a feature film, which is what the audiences are paying to see. So while it may be based on this super popular video game franchise, if it doesn’t work as a film, then it doesn’t work for audiences.”

He went on to explain how putting characters first was important, saying that the great source material gave him a lot to work with:

“So for me, the most important thing was just making sure that it was an entertaining, globe-trotting adventure with a great relationship at its center, which is the Nate and Sully relationship. In my case, I was super lucky that the source material of Uncharted establishes incredible tone, in terms of the comedy that’s inherent to the franchise, as well as setting the bar super high for all the action set pieces that we’re trying to do. Uncharted is known for having some of the most incredible action of any video game.

So we were really lucky to have those as our two guiding principles in making the film, that it honor and respect the Nate and Sully relationship, and that the action be completely original and death-defying, and exciting, and everything that you look for in a great action film. I felt really lucky that we had such an incredible video game franchise to base the movie on.”

Whether Fleischer succeeded seems to be in doubt. Uncharted is out in many international territories and sits at a disappointing 42% on the Tomatometer. Fortunately for Sony, audiences seem to be responding more positively than critics, with the film predicted to have a healthy box office run.

Even so, Uncharted isn’t going to go down in cinematic history as the movie that broke the curse of the video game adaptation. Perhaps it’s best to look elsewhere for success: Netflix’s League of Legends‘ show Arcane has been a smash-hit and is one of the network’s highest-rated shows ever.

Maybe boiling down 20-30-hour stories into two hours simply isn’t a good idea? Fingers crossed HBO’s The Last of Us proves that longer-form TV is the smart way to go when translating video game stories to live-action.

Uncharted hits theaters this Friday, Feb. 18.