Maybe it’s time we finally call it quits on the whole turning-video-games-into-movies idea, if for no other reason than no one can seem to get it right. Took me a hot second (or like, a few weeks) but I finally found the time to go see the Tomb Raider Movie. While there was most definitely fun to be had as a fan of the game franchise (old and new), I would have to have been blind not to see how the movie itself fell apart under its own attempts to pander to both the game loyalists and 2018 “feminist” culture.
Tomb Raider tells the story of a young adult Lara Croft who, following the disappearance of her father, has skirted her family legacy and is making a living as a bike messenger in London. When finally made to face her inheritance, Lara uncovers her father’s secret research into the myth of Himiko, Queen of Yamatai who is fabled to have power over life and death. Realizing that there was an entire part of her father’s life she knew nothing about along with where he was going when he disappeared, Lara runs off to Hong Kong to commandeer a ship to take her into the Devil’s Sea to the island of Yamatai where she hopes to find him and bring him back home.
With a name like the Devil’s Sea, it’s no wonder things almost immediately go sideways. As things progress, Lara is made to question the thin line between myth and reality as a conspiracy unfolds around her in the fallout of her own actions.
We’re going to start with the things the movie did right, one of which is, engaging the gamer in us all. Many moments of the film felt like they were taken right out of the game itself. From scenes such as the ship wreck or crumbling airplane to little things like the bow and arrow or climbing axe, the movie carried a certain awareness of the game which in truth tends to get lost in the shuffle when trying to appeal to a larger audience. Be it due to or in spite of this dedication to the game, the film managed to maintain a smooth plot progression from start to finish with a blatant cause and effect driving force. It’s such a shame then, that the cause tended to be flimsy at best.
We’re introduced to a version of Lara, played by the bold Alicia Vikander, who is still recovering from her father’s disappearance. She is daring, clever, a fighter and has yet to become the bold explorer we all know her to be. It’s established quite clearly early on that she misses her father dearly and doesn’t believe he’s dead like the rest of the world, so it’s no surprise when she decides to pack up everything to go luck for him on nothing but a hunch. What is boggling however, are the choices she made in doing so.
The movie takes the time to actually show Lara’s intellect, even inserting a line where she boasts the she reads things and remembers it. So why then, does she not burn the journals and notes as her father asked? Why does she sell the only trinket she has left of her father to garner the means for her expedition when all she had to do was sign a piece of paper to inherit a fortune? How is it that she lost in an early boxing match against a woman at the gym but is suddenly able to kick the asses of multiple men who are physically bigger and stronger who attack her with an intent to kill?
The movie is littered with these little plot holes and more, with so many bad decisions being made simply to move the story along in a desired direction. These little flaws makes it hard to enjoy what actually happens next, seeing as most of it could have been quite obviously avoided if the characters did something that would have been seemingly in their established wheelhouse for this movie.
A downfall most adaptations face is the comparison to the original. Be it book or game, once someone is used to seeing a character a certain way it’s hard to convince them that the same character can be seen as something else. Even going into this movie with an open mind, it’s very hard to miss how out of character Lara herself is. One moment we’re establishing her as one thing and 5 minutes later she’s doing something completely contradictory. It upsetting and no matter how well Alicia Vikander tried, it was obviously a losing battle with poor writing.
The film has many a well-choreographed fight scene and enrapturing action sequences that easily bring you to the edge of your seat. These moments however are cheapened but stilted CGI, poor camera angles and most crucially, how sporadic they are. It seems the writers and producers were aiming for an action packed finale, which the delivered, but forgot to take into account the movie in its entirety. The movie build the characters, it builds the story and even builds the myth of Himiko but all the world building feels as though the movie is dragging its feet for an hour and a half. At times you actually forget that Lara’s life is in danger, and at that point, what are we really doing?
Tomb Raider is fun for a moment to any fan of the franchise. It reminds you of the things you love most about the games even though it obviously forgets to be a movie. In trying to service the fans and reproduce the feeling of the game on the big screen, the movie misses its mark when trying to concisely build a world, rebuild an iconic character and still remain edge-of-your-seat entertaining.
It’s quite clear the studio would like to go on with a sequel but in all honesty, that would be ill-advised unless they somehow learn from the glaring mistakes made with this intro to the new series. Tomb Raider 2018 is definitely not a movie I’m looking forward to watching again any time soon but it did inspire me to go replay the games in prep for the new Shadow of the Tomb Raider coming this September, so I guess that counts as a win. Heck, I might even go re-watch the first set of movies, because at the end of the day, as much respect as I have for Alicia’s attempt at the role, she doesn’t come close to Angelina Jolie
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