Scratching another anticipated film from 2018 off the list. You can see the full list here.
I never saw the prior films with Angelina Jolie in the role so I have nothing to compare with, however, I’ve been looking forward to this new origin story style of Lara Croft especially with the franchise reboot for the game. It feels like it keeps it more real. Let’s start right away and say that I have a much more lenient view towards video game adaptations however, I will discuss why I think video game movies don’t translate so well on the screen, just like how superhero movies can be the same way (as I talked about yesterday in the double feature with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2).
Oh yeah, so before we start, you will like to also factor in that I had a very annoying theatre experience, even besting the Gravity viewing with a dog yelping in the seat behind me where a lady was texting and snapchatting for half the movie until another guy went to tell her to turn off her phone and she then just dimmed the phone. Common theatre etiquette apparently goes right over the head of self-centred people. Sorry if that sounds mean but it wasn’t a very enjoyable experience for more than the first half of the movie.
Enough rambling! Let’s check it out!
Tomb Raider (2018)
Director: Roar Uthaug
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas
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. – IMDB
There’s been fairly mix reviews towards Tomb Raider. Video game adaptations tend to have those feelings. I’m not very well-versed in Lara Croft although I’ve played a fair amount of the games and understand what its about, even though I’ve only started to dive into the game that this movie is based on. However, the director himself had said that he didn’t know squat about the game either so based on that, its suffice to say that whatever he created would be suitable as a movie experience or as the story itself. Whatever it was that he did, for me, he did a fantastic job. I tend to be more lenient on video game adaptations however, this one did tick a lot of the factors that made it work.
Before we get into the nitty gritty bits of the review, perhaps its important to talk about why I think video game adaptations, just like superhero movies, suffer from one factor and that is the lack of a truly dangerous feeling. Sure, we know that Lara Croft or Alice (from Resident Evil) or Iron Man is going to get into danger but will he die? Chances are if a movie is based on a main character and that movie has a chance to be a franchise, they probably won’t and that is why, it takes away from the tension. So for people who don’t even have the video game connection, it becomes nothing but a generic ride through a movie that you already know the ending of. Perhaps its because I play games that I tend to not mind these predictable endings and truly take the ride for what it is. For one, just judging by the story they are basing it on, you probably can’t compare Alicia Vikander’s Lara Croft, which is an origin story versus Angelina Jolie’s version. They are a different era Lara Croft, telling a different time in her life. Maybe she’ll get into some skimpy shorts one day but comparing the Lara here and the Jolie one is like comparing Daniel Craig to Sean Connery’s James Bond. A bit of a contrast but I hope you get what I mean.
With that said, I think Alicia Vikander does a great job at being this intelligent and bad ass female protagonist. Her character had somewhat of a linear character progression as you would expect with a video game character but there’s a bit about her background and how she got dragged into this plus some mystery and puzzles to solve along with some tense action sequences. Honestly, that is all you could ask for because its exactly what defines a Tomb Raider game. We know that she’ll make it out alive but what dangers will she encounter. If you are familiar with video game comparisons, Lara Croft is something like the female version of Uncharted’s Nathan Drake. She has a lot of story to discover and so smart. Of course, this also highlights some of her inexperience as she sometimes does things like go back to get something that she shouldn’t in the middle of a huge storm but we always know that its going to work out in the end. However, it doesn’t stop that fact that she is a compelling character to watch unfold.
I’m not going to lie that while my experience with Alicia Vikander was mostly in Ex Machina (review) and she did a mighty fine job in that role, I was excited and incredibly happy to see that Daniel Wu. Daniel Wu might not be a big deal here because he was in an indie which not a lot of people saw called Europa Report (review) which I personally liked but I know it has some mixed reviews as well. And I’m currently watching Into the Badlands, which is an AMC series which is pretty good also. But Daniel Wu won the Best Actor in the Hong Kong/Asia equivalent of the Oscars and that makes him a big deal over there plus it helps that he has a sexy English accent when he talks and looks fairly handsome also. With that said, even before that in some of the debut roles, I thought he was always really good. As Lu Ren, he adds such a great character. Lu Ren might not have had a whole lot of plot in this one but it was enough to highlight the traits that mattered for his character to exist and as the first movie of what I hope will be a franchise for Tomb Raider, both of these characters along with the back story of Tomb Raider has enough to keep it intriguing to keep discovering her story. I can’t say I’m an expert either even if I’ve played a few of the games but Tomb Raider may have a bigger plot that they want to tell here but Lara Croft herself has so many memorable adventures that she can go on.
I guess the final part here is both the dangers of tomb raiding and our villain here played by Walton Goggins. If Tomb Raider fell apart in anywhere, it had to be in the villain. Now, Walton Goggins did a pretty good job but as a villain, he did feel quite one dimensional. This relates back to what I mentioned in the beginning about video game adaptations and their predictable ending (I should really do a vlog on this topic, what do you think?). Walton Goggins never felt like a threat even if he tried to be ruthless by killing an innocent but the villain felt like he was just going through the motions as his goons had a more menacingly feeling. This character wasn’t smart or particularly badass, he just was there. Luckily for us, Tomb Raider and the dangers that came with the location along with the mystery never stopped long enough for us to deramp from the tension and the entertainment that it was a fun adventurous ride that it needed to be.
Overall, is Tomb Raider anything to call home about? Yes and no. Yes because Tomb Raider is one of the better video game movies to come out in the recent years (but we do have a few coming out this year as well, so who knows) and it does give us an intelligent and bad-ass female protagonist (reiterating that I never watched Angelina Jolie so not comparing the two) that is so great to add to the existing repertoire and has developed not only her character but Lu Ren’s enough to keep wanting to know more. At the same time, the mystery itself is multilayered and gives us enough to be intrigued for where the future movie can hold if it does happen. However, no comes in the form that until they can break the mold of building video game adaptations with well-developed villains, the threats will be more the environmental and the end game will remain more or less predictable and that takes away a little from the experience itself. With that said, its never actually stopped me from enjoying a Marvel’s movie or any other video game character like the Resident Evil franchise.
Bottomline: Tomb Raider is a thrilling and entertaining experience with enough depth in both plot and characters to keep us at the edge of our seats waiting for the next danger and how Lara Croft makes it through.