Tomb Raider (2018) Review
Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she finds herself on the island where her father disappeared.
After years of really bad movies based on video game properties, ranging from Uwe Ball messes to the sub-par Assassins Creed in 2016, we haven't had a decent movie based on a game franchise yet... til now. I'm relieved to announce that although not great, Tomb Raider is indeed an enjoyable action film, with a fantastic Lara Croft.
Heavily inspired by the highly-acclaimed 2013 reboot of the franchise, this isn't the version of Lara Croft you may have seen in the early 2000's portrayed by Angelina Jolie. Here, Lara Croft portrayed by Alicia Vikander is 21 years old and living poorly as a bike messenger. Her father, Lord Richard Croft, went missing 7 years prior and has been pronounced dead after such time. Lara refuses to let go of hope though and turns her back on any of the family-fortune that awaits her, instead attempting to make her life on her own merits. She discovers a clue in her father's belongings and learns he went to investigate a dangerous and isolated island off the coast of Japan, and so she goes to find what trail he may have left, crashing head-first both figuratively and literally into the island and its mysteries.
The island's mystery is handled well and I appreciated the pay-off. A lot of the lore and reasoning for why Richard Croft went there is covered in V.O from tapes Lara finds, but they come across heavy handed. One tape plays in the opening off the film, and then again when Lara finds it, as if the audience isn't smart enough to keep up when Lara listens to it inside the context of the story.
Alicia Vikander embodies Lara Croft better than anyone has managed to bring a video game character to life before her. The Academy Award winner carries the film through its mediocre paint-by-numbers script, and she does so with a powerful physical performance. Lara takes a beating this film, both emotionally and physically, and Vikander brings those moments through the screen with a passion and fury. Tomb Raider would have fallen apart without an impressive and believable performance to carry it, and Vikander more than delivers on all fronts.
On the island, we are quickly introduced to Mathias Vogel, played by an under-utilised Walton Goggins filling the a-typical bad-guy trope. After a creepy line about how he "has two pretty daughters," that look just like Lara and the murder of an innocent man we are left to hate Vogel -- maybe feel sorry for him being stuck on the island for so long? I wasn't sure, he was a bore though. The island proves to be the bigger challenge for Lara and makes you wonder why its really necessary to introduce a character like Vogel if you're not going to do anything interesting with him. This is not the video game, you don't need mindless goons on the island for the sake of gameplay.
The island is photographed wonderfully by George Richmond, and director Roar Uthaug puts together some impressive visuals, especially a memorable, intense river scene ripped straight from the 2013 video game.
The final third enters into very stereotypical territory for the genre film this ultimately is as Tomb Raider becomes a poor man's Raiders of The Lost Ark with influences of the Brendan Fraiser lead Mummy franchise. When I think about my feelings for the 2013 video game however, I recall not liking the side-characters or the plot much either. The final third of that game also dragged for me and I ultimately did not like the finale of the game -- this film has a better ending -- so in that respect, it's got a lot of the same criticisms and praises. The 2013 game is fantastic and primarily praised for its character, Lara Croft, and the emotional roller coaster she goes through in the events of that game. Similarly I praise Tomb Raider and Alicia Vikander for bringing a version of that character to the big screen.
Tomb Raider is held back by its script and characters beside Lara, but with Alicia Vikander leading the film's front line and some great action sequences, Tomb Raider proves to be a good action/thriller, and the first good movie based on a video game property. Now I hope Warner Bros spend more time working on the script and give Vikander a project worthy of her performance.
Directors: Roar Uthaug
Writers: Geneva Robertson-Dworet (sceenplay and story by), Alastair Siddons (screenplay by), Evan Daugherty (story by),
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas