Movies

Ruben Fleischer Is Not Even Trying To Hide The Fact His ‘Uncharted’ Is Heavily, Heavily Influenced By Indiana Jones

David O. Russell, Neil Burger, Seth Gordon, Shawn Levy, Dan Trachtenberg, Travis Knight. Those are the names of the directors who, reportedly, over the last 12 years, had been attached to direct the film adaptation of, the very successful adventure game, Uncharted, before the job eventually landed with Ruben Fleischer – who is coming off the massive success of the first Venom film and the mild success of the second Zombieland film. For Fleischer, he doesn’t quite understand why this was so difficult. After he read the script, it popped out at him that this was basically an Indiana Jones movie, just set in modern times. And the fun thing for Fleischer is, strangely, no one makes Indiana Jones-type movies anymore. (Except, technically, James Mangold.) And he was very excited to do just that and does not at all try to hide the, many, many references to Indiana Jones in his Uncharted film.

Fans of the game seem to know it’s basically just a modern Indiana Jones. (I have never played Uncharted, but when people try to get me to play it, this is always how it’s sold to me.) Tom Holland, who, as you might know, just had a movie come out less than two months ago, plays Nate Drake. When we meet Nate he’s a talented bartender and also a talented pickpocket, but going basically nowhere. One day, Sully (played by Mark Wahlberg), a friend of his long-lost brother shows up with information on how to find a considerable amount of gold. And off the two go and that’s basically it. As far as video game adaptations go, this is, refreshingly, very straightforward and easily accessible for people who never played the game.

Ahead, Fleischer admits his favorite movie is Raiders of the Lost Ark and is not at all trying to hide the fact that he’s made his own version of Raiders here. We also get into Fleischer’s past two films. The rumors persist that Tom Hardy and Fleischer, let’s say, didn’t see eye to eye during the making of Venom. When I ask Fleischer about this, he has that look on his face that there’s some stuff he’d like to say, but stays … diplomatic. What’s interesting about his Zombieland sequel is that it performed better than the first movie, yet Fleischer felt it didn’t have the same role in the zeitgeist that the first one did. Which, he’s right. But we try to figure out why.

Ruben Fleischer: I was just kind of checking out all the characters that you have back there. The MUSCLE Men, I particularly appreciate it. I haven’t seen those guys for a minute.

So what you’re saying is, when the MUSCLE Men movie comes out…

I’m ready.

You’re going to bring all these literally thousands of characters to life.

It’s surprising. I mean, that must be in development somewhere. I can’t believe it’s not.

It’s the last thing left.

Yeah…

Before I saw this I knew nothing about Uncharted. I’ve never played the game.

Says the guy with the Excitebike sweatshirt? I would’ve thought you were big gamer who would know everything there is to know about Uncharted.

I’m making my way. I’ve just upgraded from Atari 2600.

SO you’re getting to the ’90s. You have yet to hit 2000 in your gaming.

Yes, I’m thinking about getting a Super Nintendo. Then after I’ll get to Uncharted.

I hear it might be eight-bit.

But seriously, I’m assuming you want people who just want to see an action-adventure movie to come see this, too.

I mean, Raiders is my all-time favorite movie.

Oh, you don’t say? Yeah, I noticed quite a few references.

Well, my point being is that it’s a genre that they just don’t make that much anymore. So, I approach this more as somebody who got to make a treasure-hunting, globe-trotting adventure, more than a video game adaptation. And while it was based on a game that, lucky for us, it was incredible source material with a great sense of humor and some of the best action set pieces in all of video games. But, at the end of the day, I knew I had to make a movie that would be entertaining for people, whether or not they’ve heard of the game or anybody else.

I’ll admit, I’m always wary with video game movies where I haven’t played the game. Like the Assassin’s Creed movie, people who play that game seem to enjoy the adaptation of it. But I don’t know anything about that world. But with this, it was just like, oh, this is an Indiana Jones type-movie.

To me, if you’re doing an adaptation, you have to assume four out of five people probably have never heard of what it’s based upon. So it just has to work for its intended format, which for us was theatrical feature films. And having great characters, a lot of humor and giant action set pieces are the makings of any great action tent-pole movie. So, whether or not it’s based on a video game doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, we have to satisfy that same audience. But I think that’s in large part because the video game itself was inspired by those same movies that I grew up loving and is I think, admittedly, derivative of that genre.

I was trying to count the Indiana Jones references until Tom Holland just mentions Indiana Jones by name and kind of pulls the rug under that. You’re obviously doing that on purpose and wanting people to know.

Yeah, very much so. I mean, I hope we didn’t gild the lily too much. But yeah. I mean, it’s my favorite movie. And so, I wanted pay it tribute and also let the audiences know we get it. There is overlap and we’re not doing it to be derivative. We’re doing it to honor something that we love.

It is weird they don’t make those movies anymore. Why is that? People love these kinds of movies.

You tell me. I mean, National Treasure was, I think, the last one.

And people love that movie now. There’s nostalgia for that movie, which is kind of nuts.

Well, hopefully we’ll be able to capitalize on that. But yeah, I couldn’t answer you. But when I read the script, I was just thrilled because it felt like a childhood dream come true to get to make this kind of very Indy-inspired movie that I think that has a lot of the same aspects. The biggest distinction obviously is that their movie is set in the 1940s, and our movie is contemporary. And I think that’s the key distinction as well as the specifics of the characters and the adventure…

Well, now you’re going to get us in trouble. Indiana Jones is set in the ’30s. So I want to make sure everyone doesn’t start yelling at us for that.

Was it the ’30s?

Yeah. 1936, 1935, and 1938 for the first three. And then the 1950s for Crystal Skull.

That which shall not be mentioned.

Fair enough.

I appreciate you saving me there.

There’s been a long list of directors attached to this, going back around 12 years now. Were you wary about that? Seeing this long list of people who couldn’t get it made for whatever reason and finally gave up? I don’t know why it was so difficult to get made.

Yeah, me neither. Because as soon as I read the script, I was like, I want to make this movie. So I can’t really speak to what came before me. But all I know is that when I read the script and imagined the way it would look on film and just how great those action sequences would play and how great that central relationship at the core of the film was to me, I jumped in with both feet.

So, ten years ago Mark Wahlberg was supposed to play the lead role originally. How does that work? Do you go to him and be like, “Hey, we want you to play Sully now.” Or was he always all in?

Mark was really happy to play the older wiser guy and give Tom the space to shine. He, I think kind of appropriately, felt like he’d graduated from that role, just due to time, and really embraced the idea of being the older more experienced character. And it played true to life, just in that you had Mark, who’s had a 20-some-year career, and Tom, who’s a newer kid on the block. But their relationship both on-screen and off was very true to the Nate-Sully relationship at the core of the franchise.

So, No Way Home comes out and becomes one of the biggest movies of all time. Is that good for this movie? In that there are two big Tom Holland movies coming out in such a short amount of time.

I think it’s great. Because more than anything else, it said that audiences are ready to return to the theaters, as long as there’s a movie that they’re excited to go see. So our job now is just to make sure that Uncharted is a movie that they want to go see. My bigger concern, less so than the specifics of Spidey, or Tom, or anything else, is just in this day and age, due to the pandemic and streaming and everything else, movies aren’t being seen in theaters where they’re intended as much as they should be. And so, what was really exciting for me and everyone else in the industry was just that Spidey said, audiences still love going to the theater to see a movie. I think that’s really important.

I mean, for me, it’s the pandemic. When Spider-Man came out, it was right before Omicron. And then it got bad in New York again, but now rates here are back down and I have been going back.

Great.

So that’s good news.

Terrific news. I mean, I really hope that Uncharted will be something that people feel like they need to go see in the theater. I mean, the action is at such a scale, it’d be a shame if everybody ended up watching it on their phones.

Just talking to you about it, your messaging is very much, “Hey, this is an action-adventure movie,” as opposed to leaning in to the video game aspect.

Without a doubt. I mean, which is true, and it has great characters, great performances, a lot of humor. The other thing that I think is fun for audience, I mean, it’s just escapist entertainment at the end of the day. And it has this expansive globetrotting feeling. Which if you’ve been stuck in your apartment for two years, there is an escapist quality to the film, in being able to see the South Pacific, or Barcelona, or even New York, for people who aren’t from there. It provides a sense of adventure and travel, just inherent to the film. So I really hope it gets people out of their houses and out to the movie theater.

So how many more years until your tell-all book about the making of Venom will come out? Because I would read that in a heartbeat.

I don’t know that there’s that much to tell, honestly.

Yeah, I bet there is. I bet there’s a lot that went on behind the scenes of that movie.

Well, that’s…

I bet you have some stories.

Maybe some time we can meet up for a drink and I’ll download them for you, Mike.

Did you see the second Venom? Do you care? I don’t know if I would if I were you, which is why I’m asking.

I’m just really happy that the movie performed and that people are still investing in Eddie’s story and journey. And I think seeing the teaser at the end of No Way Home is really exciting at the possibility of those two characters colliding in their paths.

Your line you keep saying is every 10 years you want to do a Zombieland movie. Is that still on?

Call Emma.

Yeah, okay, I’ll do that.

Yeah, that is my line. It’s true to the day. So we’ll just have to see where things are at in 2029, but I’d be lucky to get to go back to that world.

Were you happy with everything with that second movie? I enjoyed it quite a bit. It made money and it seemed to do pretty well for a movie that had been 10 years since we had seen the first one.

I mean, I was thrilled with the movie. I’m really, really proud of it. It was 100 percent what I wanted it to be like. I really got to make the movie that I wanted to make in every detail. I honestly wish more people had gone and seen it in the theater. Just being totally transparent and honest. But at the end of the day, I was incredibly proud of the film. And I think it stands up to the first one. And I just love the new characters that we introduced. Yeah, I mean, I’m very proud of the movie.

Looking at the numbers, it looks like it did fairly well?

Yeah, it did better than the first one, which was an accomplishment. But yeah, you always want it to do better. I don’t know if this is appropriate to say out loud, but the truth is, I just didn’t feel like it had the resonance of the first one, but maybe that’s just the challenge of a sequel.

I think it’s the challenge of putting movies out today versus 2009. It just feels like it’s so hard to break through now for any substantial amount of time, if that makes sense.

There’s just so much stuff. Yeah. That’s probably true. Yeah, because it didn’t have that zeitgeist feeling. I mean, more people saw it arguably, based in the box office, than the first one…

When Zombieland came out in 2009 there were only two MCU movies at that point and none that year. And no Star Wars.

Yeah. I guess that’s true.

‘Uncharted’ will be in theaters February 18th. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

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