Dan's Review: "Tomb Raider" reboot a little off-target
Mar 17, 2018 11:33AM
By Dan Metcalf
Alicia Vikander in Tomb Raider - © 2018 Warner Bros.
Tomb Raider (Warner Bros.)
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and for some language.
Starring Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Hannah John-Kamen, Antonio Aakeel as Nitin, Derek Jacobi, Nick Frost.
Written by Evan Daugherty and Geneva Robertson-Dworet based on the video game by Crystal Dynamics.
Directed by Roar Uthaug.
I have often lamented the fact that almost all movies based on video games stink. I have a few ideas why, but I think the biggest problem is trying to fit a compelling narrative that matches the gaming experience. When the first Tomb Raider video game was released in the mid-to-late 90s, there were two factors that contributed to its runaway success: adventurous gameplay and smoking hot, scantily-clad main female character (Lara Croft). Tapping into the young male demographic has been the main driving force behind most video successful games ever since. Such hormonal influencers made Angelina Jolie the perfect fit to play the Croft in first two movies based on the game series in 2001 and 2003. Jolie’s films were a moderate success, but did not match the popularity of the video games. Now comes another incarnation of Lara Croft in this week’s release of Tomb Raider, starring Alicia Vikander as the adventurous heiress.
Croft is the daughter of Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West),
a billionaire archeologist who goes missing on a mission to find the tomb of Himiko,
an ancient Japanese goddess of death, thought to carry the power to end all
life on Earth. In the year’s following her dad’s disappearance, Lara avoids her
family’s wealth, opting for a sporty lifestyle of boxing, biking, archery and
climbing (comes in handy later). When she’s arrested during an illegal street
bike race, Lara is summoned by Ana (Kristin Scott Thomas) her father’s business
associate, to sign a death certificate, completing her inheritance. Before
signing, Lara is given a finger puzzle containing a key that leads to her
father’s underground research facility, where she gets answers to where he’s
been. Ignoring a video message to destroy all documents regarding Himiko, Lara
sets off for Hong Kong, where she hires Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) to take her to the
island on his boat. When they arrive, the boat crashes on the shores of the
island and they are taken captive by the evil Vogel (Walton Goggins) who works
for an evil corporation after Himiko’s destructive powers. Lara escapes Vogel,
…finds her bearded father hiding in the jungle, who explains what’s going on. Since Lara brought her dad’s research book with her Vogel now knows where to find the long-hidden entrance to Himiko’s tomb. Lara tries to stop Vogle, who captures her dad and forces her to lead a team of militants into the tomb, where all kinds of trap and snares await. Vogel and Dad accompany, and when they arrive at Himiko’s casket, they discover the real “power” of the goddess, which leads to deadly confrontation and equally dangerous escape.
When comparing Tomb Raider to other video game film adaptations, this new reboot has a few advantages over previous failures. First, there doesn’t seem to be much correlation between the video games and the story, other than the names. Then, there’s Vikander, who is indeed beautiful, but much less of a cosplay fodder, hormone-inducing Barbie doll packing heat that has been showcased in the early games and films. She’s smarter, wears more clothing, and doesn’t sport any guns (until a bonus scene during the end credits). In short, her most prominent feature isn’t D-cups under a cut-off tank top and short-shorts. Stripping away the tawdry makes the new Lara Croft more of a relatable action hero for today’s young audiences, unlike the legions of prepubescent boys who grew up ogling at the character, game controllers in hand.
While promoting a more PC version of Croft seems natural considering all the conflict over the contemporary sexualizing of women and efforts to overcome such issues, Tomb Raider is not up to par with other action-adventure films like Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yes, there is tension and action, but the weak storytelling, errant pacing, uninspiring dialogue and silly stunts come across as nothing new. Even with these clichés, Tomb Raider is good enough for a little escapism, but I’m certain you won’t remember much about it after a few days.