Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
USA/Spain, 2022. Columbia Pictures, Atlas Entertainment, Arad Productions, PlayStation Productions, Ayuntamiento de Madrid, Naughty Dog, Sony Computer Entertainment America. Screen story by Rafe Judkins, Jon Hanley Rosenberg, Mark D. Walker, Screenplay by Rafe Judkins, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway. Cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung. Produced by Ari Arad, Avi Arad, Alex Gartner, Charles Roven. Music by Ramin Djawadi. Production Design by Shepherd Frankel. Costume Design by Anthony Franco, Marlene Stewart. Film Editing by Chris Lebenzon, Richard Pearson.
A combination of Indiana Jones adventures and The Goonies results in this diverting if not unforgettable treasure hunt caper based on the Sony Playstation video game, in which a formula is given no new life but is at least treated with a light and breezy touch.
Tom Holland, as always inspiring the adoration of pedophiles with his face of a terrified ten year-old confusingly combined with the body of a grown Marine, once again performs an American accent that mainly involves sounding like he’s always chewing on straw as a boy who has grown up in an orphanage and is now a New York City bartender with a side gig as a highly skilled pickpocket. His character’s love of collecting ancient, valuable artifacts is held over from the relationship he had with his perpetual troublemaker older brother who vanished without a trace when he was a kid and is presumed dead.
Holland is pulled into the world of international relic hunting when a stranger in the form of Mark Wahlberg shows up and claims to be his brother’s former colleague, telling our pint-sized hero that he’s searching for Ferdinand Magellan’s lost gold, which was the real reason that the sixteenth-century Portuguese explorer once attempted a global circumnavigation before dying in the Philippines at the ripe old age of 41. The search begins with finding two jewel-encrusted gold crucifixes containing the secrets that unlock further clues (it’s never not obvious that this is based on a video game), and one of these crosses is coming up at auction and they need to work together to steal it.
Once that is accomplished, the two of them head to Barcelona where they team up with fellow treasure hunter Sophia Ali and search the city’s mysterious underground in the hopes of finding the gold, but this only prompts them onwards to a mysterious island in the South Pacific where their search comes to its climax.
Of course, there have to be bad people on their tail or it wouldn’t be a true adventure, which are here represented by the centuries-old Moncada family, who once funded Magellan’s voyage and now, in the form of current heir Antonio Banderas, have kept relentless assassin Tati Gabrielle one step behind the team’s every move.
Loyalties are never to be trusted between any of these characters, Wahlberg always reminds plucky young Holland that it’s not a game that allows for partnerships, and everyone must take care of themselves, but nothing in this film is hard to predict and you can assume that, at the moment that it truly counts, the love between bros will conquer the lust for lucre. There’s absolutely nothing you won’t see coming, there are no twists that shock or surprise, the humour is hammy, the dialogue trite and neither of the lead performances seem all that motivated, but for all these drawbacks the film is a good-natured good time, particularly blessed with good action sequences and, unlike many green-screened adventures being made around the same time, a convincing sense of place.
The problem is that a movie with this much effort and money put into production and promotion should be ashamed of being little more than just okay. The attempt to complicate the plot with a crisis of familial succession in the Moncada family is a waste of time, as is getting someone with Banderas’ charisma to even fill such a thankless role, but the film has none of the self-importance of the Marvel movies that it provides a healthy break from, nor does it lean so hard on endless computer graphic effects that any human interaction gets lost in a sea of plastic imagery. It’s a shame the experience doesn’t feel fresher, particularly unfortunate that the leads have such non-existent chemistry, but you could do a lot worse.