Video Game adaptations have a horrible track record in Hollywood films. While they might be getting better, not one has ever managed to become a truly good movie. That has not changed. Tomb Raider is a solid beginning to a franchise. It introduces a wonderful lead in Alicia Vikander, and it paints her wonderfully. It accentuates her survival instincts instead of her beauty or femininity. Something that is to be appreciated. But the film does little else to distinguish itself. Not among video game films and not among films in general. This is a mediocre action film that would be better-received if it were released 20 years ago. But not by much.
Roar Uthaug directs a very talented cast with phenomenal leads. Alicia Vikander and Walter Goggins are two of the best actors working today. They’re able to bring the energy into this film, elevating the mediocre script they’re acting out. The dialogue is wooden, the story is remarkably simple. A few twists and turns will fall in front of Lara throughout the film, but they’re almost hilariously predictable. When the film does manage to get Lara into a tomb, the budget starts to show.
Instead of an eye-catching splendor from the likes of National Treasure or Indiana Jones, it’s a dark and dreary corner of the world. A testament to the filmmakers desire for realism, but a reflection of the lack of captivating settings and treasures audiences want to see.
Death is not an adventure
Tomb Raider puts Lara Croft and Alicia Vikander through the ringer. “Tomb Raider” feels like a title that Lara needs to earn by the end of the film. A costume she’s meant to wear like Superman or Captain America. But she has to earn it first, obviously. And that she does. The film closely resembles the 2013 Tomb Raider video game reboot as well as Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series. Almost to a fault. The plots are shockingly similar. But that could be a testament to the quality of the story within those games. There’s a reason an Uncharted adaptation still hasn’t seen the light of day.
So if you know one studio isn’t going to use a particular plot or story, why not use it yourself? That’s one theory. Another is that the tombs aren’t all that interesting. Which is true. Tomb Raider lacks the distinctive McGuffin that most adventure and treasure-seeking films have. That beautiful and ornate unique object of desire. All of that attention is instead placed on an apocalyptic coffin at the center of a tomb. How original.
Video game films cannot succeed by simply adapting a video game. They need to succeed in an incredibly crowded market of interesting and innovative blockbusters that are all accused of being unoriginal. In a world of reboots, sequels, and prequels Tomb Raider fails to justify another trip into this world. Except for one major element that deserves better.
Tougher than nails
Anyone who’s seen Ex Machina knows that Alicia Vikander is an incredible actress. She won an Academy Award for The Danish Girl, after all. This is not Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft. Once again adhering to the 2013 reboot of the video game series, Croft is depicted as much younger and more unfamiliar with her new profession. This is an origin story, and that’s where the film excels. This is a Lara Craft who could star in her own, treasure-seeking franchise. The kind of stories that Hollywood is severely lacking at the moment. Audiences still want to see action films that don’t star aliens or enhanced humans. Watching Alicia Vikander use her bow is somehow new and awesome in a world of Katniss Everdeen’s. Unfortunately, she doesn’t use it enough. Plenty of reason to see her come back for a sequel.
But if they do return to the world of Tomb Raider, there needs to be more fun. At times, the film seems to tortue the main heroine. It knocks her against every stone and tree, just like the game. But as she learns, she becomes the hero the film needs. All wonderfully depicted by an actress at the top of her game. Alicia Vikander isn’t the only member of the cast, but she’s the star of the show. Vikander’s performance as Lara Croft deserves both a sequel and a better film.
The trailers for Tomb Raider included a new version of the song “Survivor.” Lara Croft is that and more. The film throws a slew of deadly scenarios and bad guys and she manages to overcome them all. Alicia Vikander’s Lara Croft even manages to overcome the film itself.
Despite coming out in 2018, Tomb Raider doesn’t feel like anything new. If someone is a fan of the video game, they’ve played almost this exact video game. If someone is a fan of adventure films, they’ve watched much better versions of this same film. Tomb Raider’s inability to distinguish itself in a crowded market is not surprising. But since the film manages to be forgettable and mediocre rather than downright terrible, it’s probably the best video game film adaptation of all time. Mostly because of Alicia Vikander.
Vikander is a badass who’s now proven she can lead a film in any genre. The kind of actress who deserves attention and starring roles. The problem isn’t that Lara Croft is a Tomb Raider, the problem is about making tombs, and stories worth raiding. The filmmakers created a character worthy of a great action film, but failed at delivering an action film worthy of her. Maybe next time.
- Great Performance from Alicia Vikander and the Rest of the Cast
- Solid Action and Cinematography
- Unoriginal and Uninteresting Plot and Settings
- Predictable Story