Director: Roar Uthaug
Screenwriter: Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Alastair Siddons
Story By: Evan Daugherty, Geneva Robertson-Dworet
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Rated PG-13 | 118 Minutes
Release Date: March 16, 2018
The quality of the video game gameplaying experience continues to progress at an impressive rate. More and more games are weaving a cinematic feel that gives the player a more fulfilling and entertaining play. But it’s not the same for films based on video games. Most, if not all, are dead on arrival. The frustrating part of all of it is that these films take away the interactive experience and leaves them with something they could have enjoyed more at home.
Tomb Raider is a lot like that. On certain levels, it is one of the most physically demanding roles for Alicia Vikander, who takes up the title role. On others, it is yet another film adaptation of a video game franchise that repeats the same mistakes of its predecessors by failing to engage its audience with at least a decent story and relies too much on the video game elements to keep things interesting. Check out my full review here below.
In this Tomb Raider reboot, we see a new and younger Lara Croft step out of the shadows of her wealthy father, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West). The patriarch loved Lara deeply and wished nothing but the best for her. However, he suddenly goes missing on one of his overseas expeditions, leaving his daughter a wealthy orphan.
It’s a sentimental story, one that grounds the title character and makes her more relatable. Even though she has an inheritance, she refuses to sign it, which would acknowledge that her father is truly gone. So she makes a living on her own, which is very admirable. Still, she is mocked and ridiculed. She is unable to make payments on her gym membership because the cycling snack delivery service she works for barely pays.
She doesn’t really get the respect she deserves even at the place she works. Despite the fact that she is smarter than everyone in the entire room, and can quote Shakespeare, Lara seems to hide all of it, as if she is ashamed. But given that the culture of the workplace calls for more physicality than book smarts, it’s easy to see why she would want to prove herself with her brawn.
So the young would-be adventurer isn’t afraid to man-up and she offers herself to be the “fox” in a mass bicycle chase that spreads across London. If she can escape her pursuers, she walks away with the winnings. So she weaves through the busy London traffic effortlessly, makes tight corners, and hides in plain sight. From there, it, quite literally, goes downhill.
Despite the very limited material she is given, Vikander is great as Lara Croft. She is absolutely fearless and is not afraid to take a beating. And does she ever take a beating. The trouble is how she gets from point A to point B. It’s your basic “I am leaving you clues that will allow you find me” scenario. Using all the material that had been locked away, material that she was advised to burn, she goes off to look for her father.
So Lara finds herself in China, searching for a sea captain that may know about her father’s last location. Unfortunately, she is met by some rather unpleasant locals who put on a freerunning show. Not to be outclassed, Lara also shows her skills, and manages to retrieve her bag and find the sea captain’s son, Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), who is your typical out-of-work drunk sea captain.
But the two share a common bond: they were both orphaned at a very young age, and together, they embark on this very dangerous journey that could get them both killed. And guess what? They nearly do get killed as they find themselves on the frightening island of death.
The two finally make it to their destination. But they have a run-in with the nefarious Trinity, who is seeking the tomb of an ancient queen, whose history tells us that her touch could kill in an instant. Enter Matthis Vogel (Walton Goggins), who says he cannot return home to his daughter unless he brings the package off the island. Photographs of his daughter can be seen in the shot, but the guy seems to be more frustrated that he’s been on the island for the better part of seven years, unable to find this item that his group is so desperate to find. He doesn’t fully believe the myth behind the legend, even if the film stresses that these myths are rooted in reality.
Even Lara isn’t fully convinced why she is on the island as well. It’s not clear what the threat is, but everyone wants to get off the island just as much as everyone watching wants to get out of the theater.
And these characters are doing things for unexplained reasons without thinking things through. But that irrational thinking does allow the film to transition to the more exciting parts, which sees Lara take such a beating it will leave her bloodied, broken, and on the edge of death.
This is where the film feels more like a video game. As Lara escapes by jumping into a dangerous river, she finds herself with only two options: grab on to a decayed seaplane or go off the towering waterfall. She chooses the former, but her weight crushes the weakened structure, so she has to grab the parachute to stay alive. These moments feel like the reaction gameplay you would see in video games like Tomb Raider, where players must press a command on screen, otherwise their player would take damage or die.
As she defies death, she puts herself in a new dangerous situation, each of them is more physically demanding than the next. Since this is based on a video game, you have to suspend some disbelief. Lara takes on Matthis’ heavily armed mercenaries with nothing more than a bow and arrow. But not only does Lara display a physical prowess, but she also has her wits. She is the only one who solves those deadly temple puzzles at high-stress moments, moments that are reminiscent of some of the great temple films of the past. Again, there’s nearly not enough of this in the film.
Weighed down by poor dialogue and some shoddy effects, Tomb Raider is a real bore, offering audiences next to nothing to keep them entertained or otherwise engaged. The film can be suspenseful whenever it throws Lara into the action. That’s where the film’s strength lies, and Vikander proves that she can be a badass who can take more than a few punches. The problem is, it takes too long for Lara to get into the action, and that just leaves us with nothing more than just another generic film adaptation of a video game that we would have otherwise been better playing on our own.