After 15 years since Lara Croft’s last appearance on film, Warner Bros. Pictures has resurrected the action hero for a new generation with 2018’s Tomb Raider. With the game series rebooting in 2013, it seemed studios felt it was time to revisit the Croft story, with a controversial but well-respected actress leading the way. With that said, having three writers and a largely unknown director behind the wheel didn’t bode well for Croft’s supposedly triumphant return to film. However, despite missteps from director Roar Uthaug and the writing trio, star Alicia Vikander and the supporting cast managed to create an engaging, albeit middling, experience that elevates it above the first two Tomb Raider movie attempts.
The film takes a departure from Paramount Pictures’ previous campy takes on the game series, which starred Angelina Jolie in both films, by pulling most of its inspiration from Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix’s 2013 reboot game, Tomb Raider. In the new movie, a tough and spirited delivery driver, Lara Croft (played by Academy Award-winner Alicia Vikander), is forced to come to grips with the disappearance of her father. While no one has seen or heard from Richard Croft in years, his thriving business and estate are in jeopardy unless Lara steps up to the plate and claims her inheritance, which she has worked hard to distance herself from. However, a puzzle left behind by her father sends her into a wild chase that uncovers her father’s final expedition to the island Yamatai, which could hold the answer to his disappearance. With a mystery quickly unfolding before her, Lara sets out to find the island, discover the truth behind Richard’s notes on a mythical queen, and bring purpose back to her life.
Tomb Raider provides a grittier character study of Lara Croft than what gamers and moviegoers have seen before from the overall franchise. In fact, Uthaug’s take on the story feels less like a video game adaptation and more like a gender swap of Indiana Jones. While mythical and spiritual elements are introduced into the plot, a majority of the story beats and revelations are grounded in reality, making Lara’s overall journey feel believable. To accent this, Lara is put through the ringer physically, from an opening scene of her in a kickboxing ring to a thrilling sequence of her traversing a decrepit airplane on a waterfall. While the various moments feel like set pieces, Vikander and the quick cutting action bring a sense of tension and realism to them. In fact, it’s in these instances that the reasons behind casting Vikander become clear, as she is able to pull in the viewer emotionally. As action films tend to pit their heroes against insurmountable odds, actors often let the action drive the enjoyment of the scene, but with Vikander’s nuanced performance, Lara becomes a character we care about and want to see succeed.
While not present in the reboot game, this latest film version takes the emotional beats a step further by closely tying Lara’s goals to her relationship with her father. Richard’s presence looms largely over Lara, and each time he is mentioned, Vikander chooses to take a beat and show through a pained look or sly smile that her eagerness to learn more about Richard will push her to face any obstacle. In turn, we no longer have just an all-out action spectacle, but also a father-daughter story that works fairly well throughout most of the film. Of course, the majority of the success falls on Vikander’s shoulders, as the script and directing don’t make full use of the characterizations and emotional depth that they could. This leaves several emotional moments feeling hollow and unexplored, but again, Vikander does what she can with the material. The other lead actors, including Dominic West as Richard, Daniel Wu as Lara’s trusted friend and ship captain, and Walton Goggins as Richard’s rival archeologist, all also bring a depth to an otherwise so-so plot.
Sadly, the entirety of Tomb Raider doesn’t maintain the strengths seen in its casting. While there are several twists and turns in the story, even up until the very end, many plot threads feel rushed to just get to the next action scene. It isn’t until the final act that the slow-paced puzzle-solving scenes pace well with the moments of action, which makes the first half of the film feel disjointed and ultimately headed toward a wreck. In fact, a major turn occurs at the end of the film, and while Vikander and the other actors play it well as a shocking revelation, it’s difficult to understand how the script got to that point, as liberties are clearly taken to end up at an ultimate twist. Along with that, the CGI isn’t always as top-notch as one would hope for a modern blockbuster, which can pull viewers out of the experience.
In all, while Tomb Raider succeeds at properly adapting a video game to film, it doesn’t elevate itself much farther than okay. It’s a movie that most audiences will likely enjoy, largely due to the charisma of Vikander, but she can’t transform every poorly structured scene or action set piece into award worthy. However, the film does stand out as an example of how these adaptations can work when given the right casting and overall story concept, it just needed a little more attention to become the great action mystery it clearly wanted to be.
|Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures • Producer: MGM, Warner Bros. Pictures, GK Films • MPAA Rating: PG-13 • Release Date: 03.16.18|
As a new film take on the long-running game series starring Lara Croft, Tomb Raider brings a legitimacy to video game adaptations. Thanks in large part to the woman behind the titular hero, Alicia Vikander, this 2018 film brings a healthy dose of heart and solid tension to audiences. Unfortunately, not every aspect works, including an underdeveloped story and sometimes awkward CGI job, but the negatives don’t overwhelm the positives.
|The Good||Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft is the casting the iconic character deserved.|
|The Bad||A hollow and often meandering emotional script doesn’t develop itself enough.|
|The Ugly||Don’t touch old mummies unless you have a death wish.|
|EGM attended an advanced screening of Tomb Raider for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews movies like it reviews games, on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|