Tomb Raider: A Review
There are few video game protagonists that are more widely known than the Tomb Raider, Lara Croft. The space has generally dominated by characters more suited for younger audiences, Mario, Pac-Man and Spyro to name a few. The scene has changed a bit over the last decade or so and video games have drifted more toward the center, being made for both children and adults, and Lara Croft has survived through it all.
The recent releases in the Tomb Raider video game series have been more grounded in reality and show Lara as less of a video game character and more like a real person. She gets beat up pretty good in these games and the brutal scenes that play out when you die in game are so intense I actually found myself avoiding death just so I would not have to see Lara smashed to bits by an ancient bolder or ripped to shreds by some rapids.
Where the previous Tomb Raider movies used the older games as inspiration, the reboot uses the new series as it's model and even ditches Lara's signature dual pistols for the bow and arrow. I have not played every single Tomb Raider game, but I have played a few including the two recent releases and they are easily the best in the franchise in my opinion. Would the movie be able to match the quality of the games it is based on, or would this Tomb Raider fall into a pit of spikes? Spoiler, it's the second one.
Like the recent games, this version of Tomb Raider looks to paint Lara in more of a human light than the previous installments. This is not peak Tomb Raider, Lara begins the movie as a courier in London struggling for money. She has a sizable inheritance but she refuses to believe that her father died 7 years earlier while on a business trip to China. Until she signs his death papers, the fortune, along with Croft Manor, stay in the family trust and if Lara does not accept her fathers death the estate will be sold off.
When Lara finds a tryptech that her Papa Croft left her in the event of his death, she discovers that her father was more than just a wealthy business man. He was an adventurer in search of the legend of Queen of Yamatai who was said to control life and death. Lara then sets out on a quest to both find her missing father and uncover the secret resting place of the Queen of Yamatai
Tomb Raider relies heavily on two main facets, it's action sequences and it's lead actor. Everything else and I mean EVERYTHING else is kicked to the curb. The movie starts off well, building the foundation for the character showing her as hero in the making. It's once the plot really gets going that things begin to fall apart.
There are huge plot holes in almost every scene and you can see pretty much every turn from a mile away. I don't think the Tomb Raider movie needs big twists and surprises but when every single plot point is spelled out so that even a monkey could follow along there is a severe drop off in interest.
Onto brighter subjects, Alicia Vikander is an absolute force in the lead role. She is a big part of why the character comes off so strong so quickly and thank goodness because this movie would have been absolutely lost without her. Even when she is forced to plow through unexciting dialogue or bone headed exposition she lifts the movie, and we have not even gotten to her physical accomplishments.
It has been rumored that Vikander did all of her own stunts in this movie and I can certainly believe that. Like the video game, Lara is almost constantly getting beat up whether in a shipwreck, jumping off an impossibly high cliff or even just some good old fashioned hand to hand combat.
Vikander is present for all of it, well that is the parts of it that were real anyway. Most of the big action set pieces are covered with fake backdrops and even the mighty and powerful Vikander can't fix that. For a movie that as I said before relies heavily on big action set pieces, it is disappointing that more effort did not go into making them look as good as they sound on paper.
That is not the only thing that is severely lacking in effort, aside from Lara almost all of the characters are either shameless role fillers or severely under developed. Walton Goggins shows up and plays a villain that is unfortunately completely lacking of anything that would draw the viewer in. His motivations are uninspired and his personality is that of a wet cardboard box who never does anything surprising or unexpected.
I could spend this whole review on characters not named Lara and how poorly they are handled but lets get straight to the point. Warner Brothers decided to make this movie with as little overhead as humanly possible. They got a top name to lead and skimped on everything else. I'm sure Roar Uthaug (must be a fake name) is a capable director but he had no business taking the reins of a massive blockbuster featuring a major character and lead actor.
I mean I have never even hear of Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons who wrote the screenplay, which does not mean they cannot write a good movie, but I would have thought a movie with franchise aspirations would have at least attempted to put out a better product than this.
For about the first half hour of Tomb Raider I was very excited. The groundwork was being laid for a fantastic character with an even better lead actor and I could see how well this would work as a huge franchise. Every minute that passed after that seemed to destroy my dream more and more and by the end the vision had all but disappeared.
It's honestly a surprise that this movie is even as good as it is. There is potential here, Vikander is so game for the role and her performance alone makes me want at least one sequel. Everything else around her being as bad as it is makes me wonder if we ever will get to see that sequel, but with a legitimate director, someone who does not just want to make a Tomb Raider movie but the best Tomb Raider movie possible, the pieces or rather just a piece is in place.