Warner Bros. Pictures

Tomb Raider: Review

There’s never been a good video game movie adaptation. Sure, you may like Super Mario Bros. ironically, and you may enjoy that second set piece in Assassin’s Creed, but that’s about it. Unfortunately, the latest attempt to make a good video game film with Tomb Raider doesn’t quite work either, but it certainly doesn’t fail as much as previous attempts. I come into this movie fresh, having not seen the Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider movies, and I’ve only played bits of the latest games (the 2013 reboot being a major source of inspiration for this film), but I like what I know about the series and the character. And thankfully after seeing this film, I still do.

The latest attempt to make a good video game film with Tomb Raider doesn’t quite work

So, what’s Tomb Raider actually about, besides raiding tombs? Seven years after her father (Dominic West) disappeared, Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is finally convinced by her guardian (Kristin Scott Thomas) to sign the papers officially declaring him dead. However, before she does, Lara discovers a clue to her father’s disappearance, which leads her to Hong Kong, and then a supposedly mystical island named Yamatai, where a death-queen named Himiko is meant to be entombed. But when she reaches the island, Lara runs into an evil Walton Goggins…I mean an evil member of a cult-like organisation called Trinity (played by Walton Goggins), whose mysterious boss wants to harness Himiko’s deadly powers for their own sinister agenda.

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

Unfortunately, that’s all there really is to the film in terms of plot. There’s a couple of twists that aren’t that surprising along the way, as well as the expected set-pieces, puzzle-solving and climbing that’s a staple of the game series, but the plot itself is very basic, as are the characters. In what feels like an attempt to emulate the gaming experience, there are very few scenes without Lara (I can only recall 2 or 3 that happen during the film’s final action set-piece). As a result, the majority of the supporting characters are thinly sketched-out, so thin it’s difficult to describe them as anything more than stereotypes, or even just bodies.

The plot itself is very basic… as are the characters

All Scott Thomas gets to do is purse her lips, while West plays a loving Dad who can’t be there for his daughter as well as the script allows him to, which isn’t that well, as there is no depth to the character. He is forgiven for abandoning his daughter constantly, and it’s never even questioned whether he was in the wrong or not. Daniel Wu literally plays a drunken sailor, and the writers have no idea what to do with him. He shows a loyalty to Lara that isn’t earned by the cash she has to pay him to take her to Yamatai, but any emotional feelings he may have for her aren’t explored at all. Also, he seems to be quite useless. His sailing skills are never put to any use (because the plot needs the ship to crash, it may have well just had Lara sail it, she’s skilled enough for the audience to buy that she could sail a ship, especially with her upper-class upbringing).

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

And Goggins as the villain? Well, he’s one of the better characters in the film, with motivations beyond wanting to destroy the world, and the film gives him a little depth and sympathy. Yet, despite trying to create sympathy for the character, he is presented as deranged from spending seven years on an island with no one to talk to, despite being surrounded by a team that he constantly talks to. As for Lara herself? She’s fine, and Vikander offers a competent performance, delivering a likeable character from the start, but there’s nothing exceptional about her character, and once again, no real depth.

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

I’ve discussed characters a lot here because they’re the movie’s biggest problem. You don’t care about them, so you don’t care about anything that’s happening in the film. That’s not to say everything in the film is bad. There are a fair few practical effects, which is nice, and the CGI is fine when it’s deployed. However, most of the action is annoyingly difficult to follow due to shoddy editing. It’s a real shame because the action is obviously well choreographed and designed, but the editing ruins it.

Vikander offers a competent performance, delivering a likeable character from the start, but there’s nothing exceptional about her character

Despite the many criticisms I’ve thrown at Tomb Raider in this review, the movie is still fun, and I certainly didn’t regret spending money to see it in a cinema. The second act is the strongest, and there’s a 10-15-minute segment of the film that hurls deadly situation after deadly situation at Lara, and watching her struggle to survive the hostile environment is pure brilliance, and without a doubt the best part of the film. There’s a lot of potential in this movie, and it wouldn’t take much to make it a really good, fun 4-star experience but, in the end, that film doesn’t quite exist.


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