Allan Ungar first discovered Uncharted ten years ago in his second year as a film student at York University. He has stated that, at the time, he was mesmerised by the game and what it could mean for the medium of storytelling in the videogames medium. Since that time, Ungar has already released a film on Netflix called Gridlocked so the man knows what he is doing. Ten years after first discovering Nathan Drake, Ungar created his unofficial fan-made film for Uncharted. It runs at just under fifteen minutes, was shot entirely in just five days and has no affiliation whatsoever with Naughty Dog or Sony. In the few days since its release on YouTube, Ungar’s Uncharted has received over two million views and is receiving praise from both gamers and non-gamers alike. It’s just as well it’s so good as, instead of getting trademark and copyright claims in his inbox, Ungar is reportedly receiving emails from interested parties to keep this production going in some way.
What Allen Ungar’s Uncharted Gets Right Where So Many Other Videogame Movies Go Wrong
It is generally accepted in the videogames community that a movie of a beloved game never quite bangs the nail on the head. From Resident Evil to Hitman. From Prince of Persia to Tomb Raider. These are all passable films on the whole, but to the gaming audience, intimately familiar with these worlds and the characters within them, they are mediocre at best.
According to Allan Ungar, the reason for this is simply “lack of heart.” These films are missing their versions of Nathan Fillion’s striking resemblance to Drake when performing certain poses. The way he unholsters his weapon. The way he holds it and the way he fights are all micromanaged to the point of ensuring as close a mirror image to Nathan Drake as possible. These tiny little repeated nods to the game are instantly recognised by the fanbase and, as such, a fifteen minute short has done more for videogames in film than an entire backlog of passionless cash grabs. This is the difference a gamer director makes. A director that cares for the finer details. The end result, be it in our videogames or our films is the ultimate “feel” of the medium which is composed entirely by those finer details. Their presence in Ungar’s short makes it “feel” right.
How It All Came Together
Gaming news publications all over have reported updates on the life of the official Uncharted movie for years now. Mark Wahlberg was originally set to play Drake, followed by a change-over to Chris Pratt and the latest – Tom Holland as a young Drake for an origins story. For many fans, including Allan Ungar, this stop / start tiptoeing around the project was frustrating and worst of all, Nathan Fillion had never been mentioned in any of these processes. It’s not just Ungar that felt Nathan Fillion IS Nathan Drake. He would soon discover from Fillion himself that the hunger for a Drake / Fillion movie appearance was widespread.
A mutual friend between Fillion and Ungar was able to get the two to meet up so the Uncharted fan film could pitched over lunch. Nathan Fillion would soon inform Ungar that he was more than aware that many fans of Uncharted wanted him to play Drake. Fortunately for Ungar, the pitch was a success. “His dream role as a kid was Indiana Jones. This has been sitting with him for a long time.”
Prior to the fateful meeting, there were some concerns about whether or not to bother making the short film at all. Ungar felt out of his depth pitching an actor as big as Nathan Fillion on a project based on what the film industry now considers reserved for actors at the middle ground between amateur and pro – videogames. However, Ungar would go on to discover director Joseph Kahn’s short film about Power Rangers. It was dark, gritty… it brought something fresh to the table on a legitimate platform. “When that came out, I was like ‘Oh my God. I’m onto something.’”
What Could This Mean For Sony’s Official Uncharted Film?
Movies of the highest-profile videogames seem to have a really hard time coming into existence. We were supposed to get a Halo movie years ago but its director, Neill Blomkamp would eventually abandon ship to create the admittedly fantastic District 9. Even something as big as Uncharted, a franchise bound to bring in a massive audience, is in film developmental hell.
Free from the demands and instructions of a massive Hollywood studio, Allen Ungar just went ahead and did what they could not. Pure, unfiltered homage. Something massive film studios have been afraid to commit to since making films of games has been a thing. What he has achieved is showing these film studios there’s nothing to be wary of as it’s specifically the accurate homage to Uncharted that has made this short film the success that it is. He has also proven that a low level director can still show up the big film studios when they know what they’re doing.
The problem now facing Sony, is that the publicity of this short will likely force their hand into yet another new direction for the Uncharted film licence. Not only is Nathan Fillion more than willing to play Nathan Drake but almost every Uncharted fan in existence wants him to as well. Anyone else taking the reins on an official basis will surely make for bad PR in the lead up to release. Allan Ungar could well have set up a harbinger for a deal between Sony and Fillion that will define his acting career. That is – if Sony can swallow their pride and accept that THIS is what we want and how it should be done.