Despite having an enjoyable action-adventure orchestral style and even a halfway decent main theme, Ramin Djawadi’s Uncharted simply treads water for much of its runtime, and when it finally seems like it’s about to get going… the score then ends. And don’t even get me started on Nate’s Theme.
When it comes to the music for the Uncharted movie, the one question that was asked above all others naturally was; will Greg Edmonson’s main theme from the video game series (or Nate’s Theme if using its proper title) appear in the film? The answer – surprisingly, and oddly – is yes, it does in the film (though very sparingly), but notably, not at all on the soundtrack album. As such, the way a “main theme” has been approached for this movie is a little peculiar, as it basically has two; Nate’s Theme from the game series, and a brand new theme composed by Ramin Djawadi as… another main theme for Uncharted.
The latter piece does appear a lot more frequently however, and acts as the centrepiece for the actual score album (as you would expect from a main theme). It makes its debut in opening cue Uncharted, and so it’s there that we’ll begin; loud, heroic brass makes the motif known right in the first few seconds, with additional brass, strings and percussion rapidly building in the background to elevate the new theme up and up to particularly dramatic, grandiose levels. Now, credit where credit is due here, the theme itself is actually not half bad – it’s short, catchy, rousing and adventurous, and sticks in your head pretty damned quickly after hearing it. That being said though, if it was just a new theme for a new adventure movie then it would be pretty much spot on, but for Uncharted you have to wonder what the point is, especially given that they use Nate’s Theme from the games in the actual movie. Like, the new theme is good sure, but what’s the point of it?
Anyway, we’ll lay that particular issue to rest for the moment, and check out the rest of the score. A burst of loud, worrisome brass opens Parachute, with action then leaping into the fray on tense, propelling percussion. An electric guitar also makes itself known here, taking the musical lead for much of the track’s runtime until the orchestra comes to an abrupt finish at just over the ninety second mark. Brothers then slows things right down, with a gentle, sombre piano and melancholic strings setting a particularly mournful tone. This solemnity doesn’t last for long though as Hey, Kid introduces playful electronics and upbeat percussion, which then segues into the even more upbeat I’m All In; here the electronics become much louder and more optimistic, with the new main theme making a quick appearance on hopeful strings before the cue then comes to a quiet close. The electronics then become a tad darker in the subsequent Only One Rule In This Game, leaning into an almost heist-esque musical style for the opening minute or so before worrisome strings start to play, followed swiftly by a tense rendition of the new main theme which then kicks off a particularly frenetic final two minutes of orchestral action. Heart Of Gold briefly returns the score to its slower, more solemn side (a la Brothers) before Cross Purposes leaps right back into action territory with rapid strings, imposing percussion and a heavy emphasis on the electric guitar, all while holding the new theme enthusiastically high.
The main theme plays lightly on strings in the rather hopeful Clockwise Keys, with ethereal-sounding vocals helping to elevate the already gentle tone before the orchestra then segues into the subsequent and similarly optimistic Skeleton With Angel Wings, this time with the main theme held heroically high. It isn’t long though before tense action retakes the stage, with the particularly edge-of-your-seat Give Me The Cross charging in with loud, imposing brass notes, frantic percussion and some near horror-like high-pitched strings, which all then builds dramatically to crescendo at the three minute mark. Moody, ominous drums then open the short Ready To Make History, setting a rather villainous tone in the opening few seconds which is then emphasized by rising brass and strings in the back half. The more playful side of the score returns in Have Some Respect, with cheerful electronic beats setting a rather relaxed tone for much of the cue’s minute long runtime and hopeful strings rising up toward the end. The moody atmosphere then briefly retakes the forefront in House Of Moncada on tense, aggressive strings before Postcards interjects with the heroic electric guitar from earlier in the score, and the orchestra slowly builds in bold, dramatic form until enthusiastic strings end the cue on a loudly hopeful note.
I have to say, I am finding the score overall a little… bland so far. The orchestra sounds nice and the new main theme is memorable enough, but the action is a bit uninteresting, no tracks other than the main title cue are really standing out, and the theme itself has yet to make any kind of big appearance outside of said title piece. Perhaps the score is simply building up to a big, grand orchestral finale, but so far… so dull.
A Whole World You Haven’t Seen though is where things finally feel like they’re starting to pick up. The dramatic electric guitar from earlier cues returns in unapologetically loud form, proudly playing the first few notes of the main theme in a rather upbeat manner until the full orchestra then fully kicks in, with wondrous brass and exuberant strings building the music up to crescendo in the track’s final minute. Flying Galleons then kicks off the action finale of the album, opening with the now typical electric guitar and gradually upping the pace with increasingly frenetic percussion and strings. This then segues into standout action piece Cannonball, where the main theme is finally unleashed in loud, heroic glory for the first time since its debut track, and credit where credit is due, it does sound great – for the thirty seconds or so that it appears for in this four minute setpiece. The orchestra, the style, it all sounds pretty fantastic in this otherwise excellent action cue, it’s just a bit of a shame that the main theme just doesn’t really feature all that much in it, especially given how pivotal a musical moment it sounds like. This is also sadly where the action comes to an end, as Lost Not Gone slows things down into strings-based solemnity for much of its runtime, though it does start to edge back towards hope in the last sixty seconds or so. With the score rapidly approaching the finish line, The Biggest Treasure Never Found builds dramatically over the course of its four minute runtime, ending the score on a loudly wondrous orchestral note (though curiously one that is sans main theme).
Overall then, Ramin Djawadi’s Uncharted isn’t a particularly bad score, but one can’t help but feel that it could have been so much more than it is. The first oddity is of course the main theme; while Djawadi’s new piece is genuinely quite good (quite catchy and very heroic, not to mention fitting for the film), Greg Edmonson’s Nate’s Theme from the games already fills that role pretty well, and the weirdest thing is that it does actually appear in the film. So Tom Holland’s Nathan Drake has… two main themes? Why? Especially considering they both fill the same role (loud, heroic action theme) and are quite similar in style, one does wonder what the point is. Why not just use Nate’s Theme all the way through? Perhaps start it off fragmented, then build it up over the course of the score and play it in full heroic form right as Holland’s young Nathan Drake fully becomes the character we all know and love (as presumably he does).
Let’s put the oddity of the main themes aside for a moment though, and look at the rest of the album, which overall I have to say is decidedly… fine. The grand, wondrous moments of uplifting orchestra are enjoyable while they last, but to be honest that statement is kind of symbolic for the entire score – the action music is good when it gets loud and heroic, but it rarely does. Djawadi’s new main theme is a genuinely decent piece of music… when it bothers to actually show up. Even right towards the end of the score when it feels things are finally going somewhere, the theme appears for thirty seconds of fist-pumpingly epic action (see Cannonball) before then just disappearing again. All-in, Djawadi’s Uncharted feels like its building up to something amazing throughout its hour long runtime, but it just never quite hits that epic crescendo, which is a big shame considering that the orchestral style and new main theme aren’t actually half bad.
It’s like the world’s longest build-up, but with none of the payoff.
Standout Cue: 1. Uncharted
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