Mark Boal is, frankly, a fantastic choice for "Uncharted."
Boal's screenplays for "The Hurt Locker" and "Zero Dark Thirty" are both strong, lean examples of how to tell some very tough stories in a way that both kinetic and intelligent. Boal's got a knack for writing scenes involving military units that make the audience feel like they're on the inside of that very private brotherhood, and I can see how his skill set so far would play directly into "Uncharted."
For those of you who are not familiar with the Playstation game series that is the inspiration for the films, think modern-day Indiana Jones. The games could have very easily been just a shabby and obvious lift from Jones if the action was good… gamers are often satisfied by the mere attempt at narrative… but it turned out to be more than that, with a central character named Nathan Drake.
In the first game, Drake is determined to find a long-lost treasure that was allegedly discovered by his ancestor, Sir Francis Drake. The game play owed just as much to Lara Croft as it did Indiana Jones, and it was a blast to play the game's big set pieces. Since then, each of the "Uncharted" games has been just as much fun, just as good at making Drake into a genuine character and not just an avatar for the player. When fans seem nervous and possessive of "Uncharted" whenever there is news about the movie, it's because this has been such a consistently enjoyable series so far. Naughty Dog has pulled off the trick that Hollywood is always chasing, making a franchise where fans actually seem happy with each new installment.
It sounds like Boal's been brought in to give the film a final polish, with the heavy lifting on the script having been done by David Guggenheim, who wrote "Safe House." I'm really curious to see what Seth Gordon does with big action scenes and the overall tone of adventure. There's nothing on Gordon's filmography that even hints at this kind of material, but that certainly doesn't mean he's incapable of pulling it off. It's just going to be interesting to see what his approach is.
There's no firm release date yet, but "Uncharted" is a major priority for Sony, a studio desperately in search of franchises that work, and if they're so close that they're bringing Boal on for a production polish, then we should expect casting news soon. Mark Wahlberg had been attached at one point, and the studio also offered the part to Chris Pratt, but right now, there's no one signed to play Drake.
Might I suggest Jake Johnson?
Sure, it's a little different than what he's done before, but he's the star of one of this year's quietest hits, and he's in next summer's "Jurassic Park 4." What he's got that I think is essential for this kind of a movie is a sort of world-weary sense of humor. If the action is credible, his sense of humor is what's going to make those sequences really work.
Here's hoping Sony really has cracked this. "Uncharted" could make a successful jump from game to movie, something that still seems elusive, and hiring a guy like Boal to finesse the project sounds like a step in the right direction.