Whether or not you like the new video game adaptation, you’ll want to watch these movies that came before it.
By Christopher Campbell Published 19 February 2022
Welcome to Movie DNA, a column that recognizes the direct and indirect cinematic roots of new and classic films. Learn the history of cinema, become a more well-rounded viewer, and enjoy like-minded works from the past. This entry highlights what to watch after the Uncharted movie.
When it comes to video game movies, the first influence is obviously the video game they are based on. But many video games are themselves inspired by movies. Unexploreda game-now-movie about treasure hunters in search of historical artifacts and riches, clearly owes a lot to The Raiders of the Lost Ark. Of course, it’s just one of the most influential action movies of all time. So, it’s understandable, Unexplored also seems linked to more recent films which themselves owe much to The Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I decided to leave Raiders from this list of recommendations because there is another Indiana Jones movie that I think fits the plot of the Unexplored movie. I also left out all the James Bond movies despite how Tom Hollandis sinking Unexplored came after he pitched Sony to him as a young 007 (you can still watch the cartoon james bond jr to get an idea of what it might be). And finally, I tried not to repeat myself and to include anything in the DNA of the film to Jungle Cruise.
Here are a dozen films, all made since The Raiders of the Lost Arkto look after Unexplored.
Detective Story (1985)
During the robbery of the auction house in Unexplored, Nathan Drake of Holland attempts to escape heavyweights by jumping from the second floor railing to a huge chandelier. The move looks like a messy homage to one of Jackie Chan’s most famous stunts of all time. In the classic Hong Kong action movie Police Story, during a climactic sequence set in a luxury mall, Chan leaps from an even higher floor to a pole and a display of wires and lights descending from the ceiling. And he performed the stunt himself, receiving burns and other injuries along the way. Most likely, Holland suffered no pain and faced no real danger.
Police Story airs on HBO Max and The Criterion Channel.
When you look at the waterfalls in Unexplored, you wish someone like Jackie Chan or Tom Cruise was on board to pull off the action for real. But maybe it’s appropriate Unexplored often looks like a video game? Either way, Holland managed to emulate one of Cruise’s skills: bartending. Specifically, the kind of bottle juggling seen in Cocktail. Holland apparently went undercover as a bartender in London while honing the service industry talents he exhibits at the start of the film. But did he want to emulate Cruise, or did he even see Cocktail? It’s unknown, but Unexplored director Ruben Fleischer recognized the link with Forbes:
“One of the jokes that didn’t make it into the final cut is about the bar manager who appears in the opening scene. There’s a moment where the character of Tom is spinning bottles, and the bar manager walk up to him and say, “Tom Cruise wants his bottles back. That was a funny joke, and I’m sad to date you, but not everyone gets that reference. I think you and I we definitely do, but younger audiences might be a little lost. But yeah, there’s definitely some ‘Cocktail’ vibes in the bar scene.
Cocktail is also about a younger character and his older mentor (Bryan Brown), and the two end up in a tropical location. Unlike the duo of Unexplored, however, the treasure they seek is a job in heaven. Okay, maybe that narrative connection isn’t quite as clear as the image of the spinning bottles, but it comes to mind even more in the Forbes maintenance. Writer Simon Thompson begins to talk about his idea of a Cocktail sequel, and Fleischer elaborates, with reference to The color of moneyrecounting how Cruise would now mentor (and unknowingly father) a young bartender.
The cocktail is available to rent or purchase from any VOD service.
Midnight Race (1988)
In the same Forbes interview, while discussing the films that inspired Unexplored, Fleischer tackles specific titles with links to the couple Nathan and Sully, for him. One of them is star warswhich I don’t really need to emphasize here, as it compares the duo’s dynamic to that of Luke Skywalker (“a younger, eager, slightly more naive guy”) and Han Solo (“that older, jaded , self-interested guy”). Another movie that Fleischer cites that should definitely be recommended (for some reason), is midnight race. And the reference is all the more interesting because robert deniro was attached to a previous attempt to Unexplored movie. Fleisher says:
“It’s not quite as obvious, but the buddy pairing invokes ‘Midnight Run,’ which is probably my favorite buddy pairing in a movie. While Charles Grodin and Robert De Niro are definitely a different dynamic to Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, I love those road trip movies.
Midnight Run airs on Peacock.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
While The Raiders of the Lost Ark is the best and most influential of all the Indiana Jones movies (and it’s Fleischer’s favorite movie of all time), this third installment comes to mind most often when watching Unexplored. The main characters solve puzzles in a church in Barcelona and find themselves in old tunnels, similar to a sequence in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Additionally, this sequel is about the Holy Grail and how it was sought during the Crusades. Unexplored involves treasure unrelated to the Crusades, but one of its villains, played by Antonio Banderas, is the last surviving member of a family that allegedly helped fund the Crusades.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is available to rent or purchase from any VOD service.
Three Kings (1999)
Long before he was even supposed to star as Nathan Drake in a previous attempt at Unexplored movie, Mark Wahlberg did another movie where he plays a character looking for buried treasure. by David O. Russell three kings is set at the end of the Gulf War and follows a trio of American soldiers (Wahlberg, George Clooney and Spike Jonze) who learn the location of a large stash of gold bars (not those little cubes that make soup), which Iraq stole from Kuwait. More geopolitical comedy than straight-action, it’s an underrated mashup of war movie and heist genres that delves into a specific conflict that’s rarely depicted in Hollywood pictures.
Three Kings is streaming on Hoopla.
While watching Unexplored, I kept wondering if Hollywood had ever made a movie about the Magellan Expedition. Surprisingly, there isn’t. The closest thing is a 2019 Spanish animated feature film called Elcano & Magellan: the first trip around the world. It’s not supposed to be very good, partly because of its imperialist outlook. On the other hand, the story of the time of the expedition to the Philippines, where Ferdinand Magellan is told (at least in Unexplored) for stealing tons of gold and also being killed, has been depicted in Filipino cinema, but focused on the national legend of Lapu-Lapu.
In an eponymous 1955 film and this 2002 release of the same name, Lapu-Lapu is portrayed as a heroic leader in the Battle of Mactan. He and his fellow warriors defeated Magellan’s forces and the explorer died during the conflict. Unfortunately, the Philippines was still colonized by Spain decades later, but Lapu-Lapu remained a legendary figure to the locals. And when you think about the story on the Filipino side, like these movies do, the end of Unexplored where ships full of gold become the property of the Philippines, you see why there is justice in this turn of events. Sure, Unexplored doesn’t really set up such a gain at all.
Lapu-Lapu streams without subtitles on a bootleg video site linked to its IMDb page.
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Christopher Campbell started writing movie reviews and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He is now an editor at FSR and a founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He is also a regular contributor to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is president of the documentary branch of the Critics Choice Association.