Tomb Raider Review

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Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu

Director: Roar Uthaug

Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Lara Croft is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer who vanished when she was scarcely a teen. Now a young woman of 21 without any real focus or purpose, Lara navigates the chaotic streets of trendy East London as a bike courier, barely making the rent, and takes college courses, rarely making it to class. Determined to forge her own path, she refuses to take the reins of her father’s global empire just as staunchly as she rejects the idea that he’s truly gone. Advised to face the facts and move forward after seven years without him, even Lara can’t understand what drives her to finally solve the puzzle of his mysterious death. Going explicitly against his final wishes, she leaves everything she knows behind in search of her dad’s last-known destination: a fabled tomb on a mythical island that might be somewhere off the coast of Japan. But her mission will not be an easy one; just reaching the island will be extremely treacherous. Suddenly, the stakes couldn’t be higher for Lara, who–against the odds and armed with only her sharp mind, blind faith and inherently stubborn spirit–must learn to push herself beyond her limits as she journeys into the unknown. If she survives this perilous adventure, it could be the making of her, earning her the name tomb raider.

Review:

There has been a certain issue with movies based on video games where the source material does not or cannot translate well into a feature-length film.  Whether this is due to the fact that video games allow you to be immersed in a way that most films cannot, or if this is because of poor acting and directing, either way video game adaptations almost never hit their mark.  With the newest adaptation of the Tomb Raider video game franchise, Tomb Raider looks to break that trend and provide a new way for video game movies to be both critically and financially successful.  While some of the action sequences require a large amount of suspension of disbelief, Vikander is phenomenal in the lead role and the story is serviceable enough to be enjoyable.

The film revolves around Lara Croft (Vikander), a troublesome young woman who has not gotten over the disappearance of her father (West) when she was younger.  After discovering her father’s secret office, Lara decides to go look for her father with the help of Lu Ren (Wu), whose father helped Croft’s father on his adventure years ago. After a shipwreck, Lara and Lu end up on the island that their fathers went to and find it is run by an evil organization called Trinity being led by Mathias Vogel (Goggins).  Now, it is up to Lara to find out what happened to her father and stop Vogel from accomplishing his goals.  When you have an actress like Vikander in the lead role, it would be best if you gave her a script that fits her strengths. While Vikander does have experience in action roles, her best performances come when she is dramatic roles with emotional attachment towards them.  Fortunately for us, there are many of these moments in the film and Vikander thrives in the moments that require to be more emotional.  One of the main issues that video game movies have is that they focus exclusively on the action sequences and do not try to build the characters up at all. Since Tomb Raider is built on an emotional back story, having Vikander in the lead role is an excellent choice compared to a less seasoned action star, so good on Tomb Raider for making that call.  

While Vikander is great on the emotional side of the film, that does not mean that this film is without flaws.  Vikander has a tough time convincing me that she can fight all of these Trinity soldiers that are bigger and stronger than her.  The opening scene of the movie shows Lara losing a fight in her boxing gym to another female boxer. Assuming they are amateur boxers, how are you going to transition from losing to an amateur female boxer to beating up trained professional soldiers like they are nothing?  On top of this, Lara shows amazing feats of strength that seem almost impossible, but even more so after the injuries she sustained.  She is shown freestyle rock climbing almost immediately after being impaled by a metal piece of an airplane. Most people would not be able to get out of bed in the morning, but somehow she can accomplish an incredibly grueling physical task like it is nothing.  I understand that she is incredibly strong and the injury was meant to instill a higher sense of urgency into her situation, but the guys shooting at her and the slave labor are enough of an incentive.  The injury adds nothing except more of an unrealistic reality for Lara. Outside of that, I do not particularly care for most aspects of the third act. Whether it was the actual fallout from their actions in search of the tomb or the conclusion of the fight between Lara and Vogel, much of the third act is either too rushed or convoluted to deliver a satisfying conclusion.  

Overall, while Tomb Raider is a step in the right direction for video game adaptations, it does not do enough to stand alone as a great film.  While Vikander gives her standard excellent performance and Goggins is an intriguing adversary for Lara to face off against, the plot was underwhelming and the decision-making of Lara is questionable at times.  This might be the best video game adaptation of all time, but if anyone builds upon the positive aspects of Tomb Raider, it will not hold that distinction for long.

Overall Score: 5/10

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