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Tomb Raider Review

March 16, 2018 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Tomb Raider
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Tomb Raider Review  

Directed By: Roar Uthaug
Written By: Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Alastair Siddons and Evan Daugherty
Runtime: 118 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and for some language

Alicia Vikander – Lara Croft
Dominic West – Richard Croft
Walton Goggins – Mathias Vogel
Daniel Wu – Lu Ren
Kristin Scott Thomas – Anna Miller
Derek Jacobi – Mr. Yaffe
Hannah John-Kamen – Sophie

The planned reboot of the Tomb Raider film franchise goes back even further than the reboot of the video game series, which started with the stunning 2013 game Tomb Raider from Crystal Dynamics. Conveniently enough, the more gritty and grounded version of Lara Croft depicted in the newest game fit in with Hollywood’s idea for another big-screen translation of the video game icon, Lara Croft. Unfortunately, the new Tomb Raider film is nothing more than a dumbed down version of the aforementioned 2013 game reboot.

The 2018 Tomb Raider film resets Lara Croft (Vikander) as a free-spirited, wayward youth. Unable to let go of her father, who went missing on an archaeological expedition seven years earlier, Lara takes out her frustrations by training in mixed martial arts and taking part in adrenaline-fueled, illegal bicycle races around London. Lara’s a highschool dropout as well.

Eventually, Lara is persuaded by one of the corporate tycoons who used to work for her father, Anna Miller (Scott Thomas), to sign the papers confirming her father’s death in order to accept his vast inheritance. Instead, Lara finds a clue that might offer hints of her father’s final whereabouts.

Lara pieces together that her father was in search of an ancient Japanese empress, Himiko, who apparently had deadly powers. This Himiko was later imprisoned on an uncharted island that’s been lost to history. Richard Croft (West) more than likely perished in search of her. After selling off a precious family heirloom, Lara manages to convince the hard luck sailor, Lu Ren (Wu), to get her through the treacherous waters in search of the lost island.

Of course, the two are eventually shipwrecked and taken prisoner by a stoic military leader, Mathias Vogel (Goggins), who claims he killed Richard Croft while they were in search of Himiko. It’s up to Lara Croft to fight her way off the island and stop Vogel and his mercenary army from uncovering Himiko’s remains and unleashing her curse on the world.

The plot is fairly simple, run-of-the-mill action-adventure material. That’s not really a bad thing. What’s disappointing is that Tomb Raider is nothing more than a dumbed down version of the 2013 video game. This also serves in dumbing down the new cinematic take of Lara Croft.

Vikander is actually inspired casting as Lara. She has the physicality and charismatic elements for Lara down pat. She might not be the alluring presence that Angelina Jolie brought to the table when she portrayed the role, but her accent is definitely more convincing. Jolie definitely brought an iconic, larger-than-life sensibility to the previous cinematic iteration of Lara Croft. Considering this is a more grounded and realistic take on the character, Vikander’s performance doesn’t need those qualities. She’s believable where it counts.

The main problem is that a weak script constantly fails Vikander at every turn. The plot focuses around Lara Croft’s connection with her father. As a result, Lara loses a lot of her own agency and independence to truly come into her own. There’s a big plot twist about midway through the film that majorly hinders Lara Croft’s growth.

The 2013 game took Lara Croft and put her in a sink-or-swim, fight-or-flight situation. She was left stranded on her own with no one to help her but herself. It was Lara that was thrown into a pit and had to dig her own way out. Here, she gets a lot of shortcuts and help from someone else. Making Lara Croft’s connection with her father the central focus of this film was a major misstep. As a result, the film never takes enough time to truly establish Lara Croft and allow her to grow into the whole “Tomb Raider” role.

All the writers and director did here was take that 2013 video game, mine essential plot and some of the characters, stripped it down bare, and we’re left with a lame cinematic interpretation. The film is semi-serviceable. It’s watchable as a disposable adventure film, but the new Tomb Raider doesn’t really serve to prove that video games can be translated into great films.

Once again, Tomb Raider shows that boiling down an exceptional game into a two-hour feature is close to an impossible task. Even for seemingly simple action-adventure material, a two-hour time frame is not enough time to boil down what really worked about the game. A large part of that is the fact that the player is empowered to control the character and make things happen. That element of gaming is something that a movie cannot adapt for the audience.

Credit where credit is due, the film does have its fair share of decent action set-pieces, including an exciting one that’s taken right out of the game with a wrecked plane hanging precariously over a waterfall. The writers did obviously think a lot about taking game puzzles and mechanics and adapting them into the film. There’s a pretty blatant scene gamers will recognize. Some might find it awkward, but others will likely find the scene amusing.

Additionally, the film just seems to go more for the franchise and sequel bait over making the first movie stronger, trying to take cues out of the Marvel Studios playbook without figuring why those strategies work in the first place. As a result, Tomb Raider is a rather dumbed down mess. This could work as a servicable adventure or “video game” movie to some.

Tomb Raider is far from terrible. However, just because it’s not terrible and based on a video game, doesn’t mean the new Lara Croft action romp is some exceptional achievement either.

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
Tomb Raider isn't terrible or disaster, but it is decidedly lacking. Alicia Vikander is an inspired casting choice as the new Lara Croft. However, the script and direction are incredibly weak and severely dumb down both the film and Lara's character. Focusing on the boring relationship with Lara and her father was a major mistake as it keeps Lara Croft from growing into a more independent and well-rounded character. If this film series does continue, hopefully it happens with stronger direction and writers who will let the new Lara Croft shine.

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Tomb Raider, Jeffrey Harris