[Editor’s note: The following post contains spoilers for “Uncharted.”]
Packed with the star power of Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, a massive $120 million budget, and a generous array of video games (and more!) to pull from for future outings, it seems like there’s nothing Sony and director Ruben Fleischer would love more than to build a globe-trotting, treasure-hunting cinematic franchise out of their first “Uncharted” film. After more than a decade in development, the immensely popular Naughty Dog video game is finally making its big screen debut in the form of an ostensible origin story, all the better to delight old fans and snag new ones. And, yes, to quite clearly set up for more films to come.
While a sequel to the film has not yet been announced, the film’s final moments sure behave like the start of a brand-new cinematic franchise, complete with a pair of post-credits scenes, typically reserved for superhero features and the like. As Fleischer told IndieWire, these scenes are “essential to the film,” and they both firmly nod at future adventures to come.
[One more time: Spoilers ahead for both “Uncharted” and its post-credits scenes.]
Fleischer’s film opens with a sequence following the early (we’re talking teenage) years of Nathan Drake (Tiernan Jones in a few scenes) and his beloved older brother Sam (Rudy Pankow), two intensely bonded history nerds who spend their time a) trying to survive a seemingly uptight orphanage and b) dabbling in the kind of treasure-stealing exploits that Nathan will later make his stock and trade. After being caught yet again trying to rob a museum (boys, come on), Sam skips out on the orphanage and his baby brother, lest he be carted off to jail.
Sam’s absence hangs over the entire rest of the film. It’s Sam, we later learn, who teamed up with Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Wahlberg) and tried to find Juan Sebastian Elcano’s diary, believed to provide instructions for how to reach a massive cache of stolen treasure. It’s Sam who (allegedly) died in pursuit of both the diary and the treasure. And it’s Sam who sent now-twentysomething Nathan (Holland) scads of postcards that provide their own secret map to riches untold.
But is Sam really dead? Not according to the first post-credits scene, which finds a filthy, bearded adult Sam stuck in a clearly far-flung prison cell, where’s he surrounded by other baddies and somehow still scribbling postcards to his brother, who has now teamed up with Sully on his own.
Fleischer noted that it was “really important” to him “that we keep the possibility of Sam being alive at the end of this film, because in the video game franchise, he comes back later in the games and he is a character that’s part of the adventure.”
Mostly, the director said, he didn’t want to have to resort to any silly resurrection tricks in a possible sequel. “Because I feel like audiences would just be like, ‘What reality are we living in that this person we thought was dead, we can just summon?'” he said. “So I thought it was important that even though Nate doesn’t know that Sam’s alive, that audiences know that there’s a possibility of him returning in future films, if we’re lucky enough to get to make a sequel.”
Oh, and who exactly is playing elder Sam? Fleischer is keeping that one close to the vest. “It’s a bit of a mystery,” he said. “I’m not even sure he’s credited.” (He’s not.)
Setting up more adventures is also the driving force behind the second post-credits scene, which lays on the kind of Easter egg–laden narrative that will make “Uncharted” fans cheer while likely forcing neophytes straight to a Wikipedia page.
Set sometime after the events of the film proper (you can tell, because Wahlberg is suddenly sporting a bushy mustache, a signature of the video game version of Sully), the scene finds the swashbuckling pair in a tropical locale, clearly attempting to track down some new treasure. Nathan is meeting with Gage (“Game of Thrones” star Pilou Asbæk), who mentions that he’s working for someone named Roman. We’ll save you the Wikipedia search: It’s likely Gabriel Roman, the baddie of the first video game in the series, 2007’s “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune,” which sees Nathan and Sully looking for no less than El Dorado.
Nathan and Gage’s chat soon turns tense, which is when Sully, mustache and all, comes bursting in. That might seem small to newbies, but Fleischer expects it will sit well with longtime fans. “It allowed Sully to achieve his signature mustache,” Fleischer said with a smile. “I think it’s important for gamers to know that we didn’t just shave Mark wantonly, but we were hyper-aware that the character that he will evolve to become will have a mustache.”
As Nathan and Sully attempt to escape from their soured chats with Gage, another character appears offscreen, shocking both of them in the process. With all the nods to “Drake’s Fortune,” it seems likely to be Elena Fisher, who does not appear in Fleischer’s film but has long been Nathan’s love interest and a major character in the video game series.
And while a sequel is not yet assured, Fleischer emphasized how important it was to him that audiences know that the adventures of Nathan and Sully (and, apparently, a vibrant mustache) are not over just yet.
“Beyond just facial hair, I wanted to make sure audiences knew that this is a team that was going to go on additional adventures together, and that the movie didn’t just end with them flying literally off into the sunset, but that there was more adventure to come,” he said. “So the suggestion of them together in another exotic locale, and it ends with kind of a cliffhanger, I wanted it to be something where we don’t know what’s going to happen next to these guys, but we know that they’re going to be continuing on this journey.”
A Sony Pictures release, “Uncharted” is in theaters now.