“Uncharted” is a surprisingly Catholic video game. Why does the film adaptation strip faith?
In the midst of ‘Uncharted’, the new blockbuster movie from Sony Pictures, a group of gold diggers enter Barcelona’s Santa Maria del Pi basilica in search of hidden treasure. Beneath the 15th century church is the supposed resting place of a golden horde hidden by the crew of Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer known for circumnavigating the globe. The intrepid protagonists carry two cross-shaped keys which they hope will give them access to the treasure. They face a series of obstacles: A relief of the Virgin Mary is used to activate a dart trap; the iconography of heaven and hell leads to imminent death by drowning.
Now, you might think that given the layers of Catholic iconography present in this sequence, faith or religion is definitely going to play a role in the film.
Despite all its references to Christianity, “Uncharted” offers us nothing more than a simple treasure hunt.
And you would be wrong. Despite all its references to Christianity, “Uncharted” offers us nothing more than a simple treasure hunt.
This is a problem that comes up over and over again in the film. The protagonist, Nathan Drake, is actually an orphan raised by Catholic nuns who finds himself chasing after lost treasure, hidden by a Catholic explorer, using clues and items found in Catholic locations – yet not once. in the film he does not reflect on any of this.
It’s especially disappointing because the “Uncharted” video game series the movie is adapted from actually has a history of engaging with these themes. The series spends time showing Nathan being raised by Catholic nuns in Boston, which leads to a depth of theological knowledge that helps him in his adventures.
The protagonist, Nathan Drake, is actually an orphan raised by Catholic nuns who finds himself chasing after a lost treasure.
Nathan and his brother Sam’s life at the orphanage is also richly detailed. They are frequently the object of scorn by a nun because of their propensity for getting into trouble, and she wants to kick them out. And while the priest in charge of the orphanage doesn’t think they’re entirely lost, their lack of trust in the orphanage, and specifically this nun, causes Sam and eventually Nathan to leave.
While the film retains the idea that the Drakes grew up in an orphanage, which is named after Saint Francis of Assisi, it strips out all the crucial details that add depth to how the boys found themselves thieves and wanderers.
The film is inspired by the plot of the fourth game in the series, “A Thief’s End”. According to the Gospel of Luke, Christ was crucified alongside two thieves. In some apocryphal writings they are called Gestas and Dismas. Gestas, known as the Unrepentant Thief, joins the crowd gathered to mock Jesus, while Dismas, the Good Thief defends Christ and asks him to remember him once he enters the kingdom of heaven. During “A Thief’s End”, Nathan and Sam acquire a cross depicting St. Dismas as part of their search for the lost treasure of famous pirate Henry Avery, but Sam is shot and presumed killed in the process. Nathan keeps the cross for the next 15 years in remembrance of his brother; When his brother unexpectedly turns up alive, the cross proves to be a crucial piece of the puzzle in their new search for Avery’s treasure.
The “Uncharted” game franchise has collectively sold over 40 million units; why spoil this success?
In the game, Henry Avery considers himself a “good thief” because he is a privateer, that is, a pirate hired by the English government to plunder the ships of rival nations. Nathan and Sam also consider themselves “good thieves” as they have only been stealing from the dead for a long time, and Nathan’s decision to keep the cross for so many years seems to bring him good luck. Saint Dismas, the patron saint of repentant thieves, watches over these “good thieves”.
The game also provides an important quote from St. Dismas which becomes the thematic foundation for the entire narrative. On the reverse of the cross is inscribed the Latin phrase “Digna factis recipimus” – “We receive the just rewards of our deeds.” This is taken from the words of the penitent thief in Luke 23:41 and indicates his repentance. It is after this that Christ replies: “Today you will join me in paradise.”
At the end of “A Thief’s End”, Nathan gives up his thief ways for good, all thanks to St. Dismas, and as a result he is spared the terrible fate that befalls the rival thieves who were also searching for Avery’s treasure.
“Uncharted,” the movie, has almost none of that. It features crosses which are used as keys to the treasure of Ferdinand Magellan, but the crosses do not have numbers on them. And there’s no mention of Saint Dismas or how important this good thief was in Nathan and Sam’s lives either. It’s shocking and also weird. The “Uncharted” game franchise has collectively sold over 40 million units; why spoil this success?
A Bible is not just a book. A cross is not just a key. A statue of the Virgin Mary is not just a trap. And a video game franchise with a vibrant tapestry of Catholic culture and theology woven into it… well, without all of that, “Uncharted” isn’t much of a movie.