This article is inspired by the vitriolic hate and incredulity being leveled at David O. Russel for his comments about how he sees a film adaptation of the popular Uncharted videogames. Also, I should thank Devin Faraci, as always, for his sharp analysis and commentary on the subject as it has propelled me to finally write this rather thank think it every time someone brings this shit up.

Unlike Devin, who seems completely dismissive of fans taking issue with an adaptive strategy that seems completely ignorant of the source material, I kind of get it. I understand why people don’t like it when some Hollywood bloke shows up and changes all the memorable or signature details that fans have collated into their general appreciation for a given game, book, whatever. There are words for this: butchering, bastardization, etc. No one wants to see a beloved thing torn apart and cannibalized for financial gain or whatever by people who don’t understand nor care about what makes that thing special in the first place.

So yes, I fucking understand.

But here’s why the people who complain about Russel’s vision for Uncharted are mostly off-base:

1. They don’t know him as a filmmaker.

Russel has not made a bad film. At worst, he’s made a somewhat unremarkable film (only when compared to previous shit). I’ve seen all but one of his films. You’ve probably seen a couple too, or at least heard about them and how this dude can attract talent.

This is the guy who made Three Kings and I ❤ Huckabees (one of my all-time favorite movies). He’s the guy who typically pulls good performances out of Mark Wahlberg who is likable but has very limited range. Oh yeah, and he made The Fighter this year. I think that’s the least of his films and I bet you loved the shit out of it.

In general, Russel is super inventive and good with actors. He is also usually a fairly low-budget director so while he himself mentioned Darren Aranofsky doing an X-men movie as a sly comparison to someone like him doing a vidyagame one… it’s a very astute statement.

2. They are literalists, the kind of people who are “missing the point”.

These are the types of people who got mad at Transformers for having too much focus on Sam and Mikaela or whatever. Yes, Transformers had too many throwaway human characters but this kind of complaint is just silly. You want your $150 million movie about giant robots that transform into cars? Well, there are certain ways to go about making that happen and the most obvious is finding a pitch you can sell the studios without them yawning and asking why this isn’t an animated project.

But the compromises made in order to adapt a given project from existing source material don’t even have to be that obvious. I mean, an adaptation is an adaptation. Michael Bay et al took a look at Transformers and thought “how can we make money off of this”. Spielberg may have had more noble intentions and what comes through of this has a lot to do with why Transformers is so much better than its sequel, and better than it has a right to be. But ultimately that’s a commercial enterprise of titanic proportions.

So basically…

It stands to reason that Russel making Uncharted, which isn’t exactly the epic fucking moneymaker Hasbro’s giant car-confused robots is, won’t be such an enterprise. More likely, considering the people he’s rumored to be getting for this (you lose credibility simply by lamenting any film, no matter the origin, that purports to get De Niro and Pesci together again), we’re gonna get something special even if it is only loosely associated with the core concepts of the Uncharted games. But those games are so cinematic as is that if you’re not interested in something a bit different, you should probably just play them again. I don’t say that to be dismissive, either.

I mean, if this were Yoshi’s Island: The Movie, we’d be having a different article up in here. Nothing overly cinematic about that, but then it’s a game not meant to ape the trappings of modern action films like Uncharted is. If a game exists as a playable film as is, the best argument to make is that a film version is unnecessary and perhaps redundant, and I’d say an Uncharted film is exactly those things unless someone is going to take some core stuff and run with it.

When Russel has gone on record describing his vision of the film, he’s not describing what the games are. He’s being clipped by journalists is my feeling. Or he’s just being unclear and inarticulate about the distinction between the games and what he wants to do with them.

Either way, this is a real filmmaker out to make a real film. He deserves the benefit of the doubt like Devin Faraci says. This will likely not yield another Max Payne and I say that with full knowledge that Wahlberg is involved with both. Russel is Wahlberg’s Billy Walsh (more literally than you might think if you don’t know much about them).

I mean, worst case scenario we get some oddball ridiculous mess like Super Mario Brothers and that can’t be all bad, right?

So there we have it: an appeal for people to calm down and trust a trustable artist with a potentially redundant (though not in his hands from the sounds of it!) project. Rejoice that someone with chops is behind this and not Brett Ratner or Paul WS Anderson. Or fucking Uwe Boll.

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