“Tomb Raider”- Movie Review
Films based on video games have performed so poorly over the past several years that it’s hard to pinpoint the ones that are actually decent. The list is pretty long, with films like Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Assassin’s Creed, and so on and so forth. I think the only picture to survive the failing sub-genre is Duncan Jones’s Warcraft, which even then is mostly forgettable in the grand scheme of things. Now I’m not a gamer, so I’ll leave it to the avid players to argue whether the films capture the essence of the games they’re based on. All I expect is pure popcorn entertainment, which is what Warner Bros. Pictures’s new reboot adventure film, Tomb Raider, promises.
Based on the popular video game series of the same name, Tomb Raider stars Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft, a reckless young woman still coming to terms with her father’s disappearance many years prior. When she uncovers a long-kept secret from the past, Croft embarks on a quest to find her father. She teams up with a ship captain (Daniel Wu) and together they journey to a mysterious island where they find unhinged archaeologist Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) mining an ancient tomb for a shadowy organization. With no place else to turn, Lara must push herself beyond the limit if she’s to survive and find the answers she’s searching for.
Tomb Raider comes nowhere close to being a great film, but compared to others of its kind, it’s a masterpiece. All I know about Lara Croft is what I’ve seen on the cover of video game cases and the 2001 Angelina Jolie movie, which I barely remember. So speaking as an “outsider”, I’ll say the film finds a firm balance between grounded realism and the more over-the-top elements you’d see in a video game. Norwegian director Roar Uthaug threads a good, consistent sense of momentum throughout, making the dull moments hard to find.
Alicia Vikander is awesome as the lead. The way she carries herself and the amount of physicality she brings to every action scene makes it one hundred percent believable that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Yet she never comes off as an invincible superhero. She gets hurt, she’s physically and emotionally vulnerable, and difficult situations force her to be resourceful and quick on her feet. She also doesn’t come off as a standard archetype, for Vikander infuses the character with a clearly defined personality. Thus what we get is a strong, independent female adventurer who’s seasoning up to become the Lara Croft the videogame world knows and adores.
The supporting cast surrounding Vikander doesn’t quite stand out as much, but like the film’s overall tone, their performances wade in that fine line between being grounded and being over the top. Daniel Wu is really good as Lara Croft’s navigator/NOT love interest (platonic relationships are so scarce in movies I like to point them out whenever I see them), Walter Goggins villainous portrayal is fun though surprisingly subdued, and Dominic West as Croft’s father is pretty good as well. The story encompassing them is your typical Indiana Jones-esque adventure plot, with ancient mythologies and deadly puzzles. It doesn’t make room for surprises or anything particularly unique. The film slowly succumbs to its sillier side toward the third act, but to its credit, it never jumps the shark as much as I thought it would.
In the end, Tomb Raider gave me exactly what I expected. The film is nothing great, nor is it the ground-breaker destined to change the tide of videogame movies. Its success lies in its solid execution. I wanted a fun, decent adventure movie with a kickass leading lady, and that’s what I got. If you’re looking for the same thing, then I guarantee you leave the theater pretty satisfied.
Cosmic Grade: 3.4/5 stars