The real root of “Uncharted’s” tonal shift lies in its two lead protagonists. Both Nate and Sully have very different motivations in the film than they do in the game, and that completely changes the nature of their quest.
Let’s start with Sully. In the movie, he’s motivated by one thing — money. He wants Magellan’s treasure because he wants to be rich, even though he’s already wealthy enough to afford a massive apartment in Manhattan. Until he saves Nate at the very end of the movie, the only thing he seems to care about is money, and it’s still his main motivation by the time the credits roll. In the “Uncharted” games, by contrast, Sully doesn’t really care about money. Okay, yes, he does care about money, but that’s not his obsession. Every time he gets a big payday, he blows most of it on gambling and luxurious living. He has an easy-come, easy-go mentality, not the hoarder’s mindset that seems to possess Mark Wahlberg’s character. Video game Sully is really motivated by the thrill of the chase — he loves outwitting the competition, living lavishly, and not playing by society’s rules. That’s why he’s willing to throw himself into danger well into his 60s.
Tom Holland’s Drake experiences a similar change in motivation. The only reason he embarks on the Magellan quest is to find his brother, and the only reason he completes the mission is to fulfill his brother’s dream. In the games, Nate is motivated by ego more than anything else. He truly loves history, but he also wants to prove that he’s smarter and more daring than anyone else. He gets a rush out of near-death experiences, and that fixation ultimately leads him to some pretty dark places.