Alicia Vikander in Tomb Raider

Movie Review: Tomb Raider (2018) *Right Lara; Wrong Movie*

Alicia Vikander in Tomb Raider
Lara Croft isn’t just bosoms any more, people.  Since 2013, when Square Enix rebooted the chesty gaming icon, Croft has been the realistically proportioned, desexualized, gritty action star of 2013’s Tomb Raider and 2015’s Rise of the Tomb Raider (the third game, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, is due out in September).  The character was refocused as an intelligent, empowered seeker of rare artifacts and, yes, raider of tombs.  Opposing her is a shadowy organization called Trinity (corporate motto: “Hey, we’re not The Umbrella Corporation, for crying out loud!”).  Alicia Vikander looks freakishly like the rebooted Lara (who is voiced in the games by Grey’s Anatomy star Camilla Luddington), and she is undoubtedly the best part of the Tomb Raider movie franchise reboot.  She’s a perfect Lara Croft.  Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where the good news stops.

Tomb Raider Then vs. Now
I clearly was not kidding about the redesign.

Alicia Vikander in Tomb Raider
I applaud them for going out and getting an Academy Award winning actress like Vikander to play Lara.  While Angelina Jolie’s Lara was a bit of a princessy action hero, Vikander’s is grounded, and you have to give her credit because the script follows the first game pretty closely, and-if you’ve played it-you know Lara gets the absolute living daylights knocked out of her for most of her adventure.  If she wasn’t covered in paint, mud, soaked, bleeding or enduring as much wounding as they could heap on the heroine in a PG-13 film, then one of those things was within two minutes of happening to her the entirety of the film.

Alicia Vikander in Tomb Raider

Following the plot of the first game is a good idea, and a lot of the action set pieces come straight from the video game.  Unfortunately, what Tomb Raider lacks is a compellingly written script, a good director (though Roar Uthaug is an awesome Viking name, it’s not a great director’s name), a good or at least not distractingly bad soundtrack and score, taut pacing, and any character development for any character that isn’t Lara.  The film starts out well, then the pace slows to a crawl even through some of what are-in the game-extremely exciting action pieces, and it’s not until they enter the tomb that the movie regains any momentum.

Daniel Wu and Alicia Vikander in Tomb Raider

The movie I could most easily compare this to is Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, in which I thought they had a good cast, and the right star, but that the story around them fell short.  This film assumes it is going to have multiple sequels (a conceit I find annoying), but if it’s going to happen, the film will have to do really well internationally.  Vikander IS the right Tomb Raider.  You have the star, and you’ve given her an origin, no matter how ham-handedly.  If you spend some money developing a script that actually captures the excitement inherent in the source material instead of somehow sucking it all dry with uneven editing and crap CGI, then you can have a really great action film.  I don’t know if Vikander will get another shot.  Chris Pine didn’t at being Jack Ryan.  This one’s a rental at best.

5.0/10

Tomb Raider Poster

6 thoughts on “Movie Review: Tomb Raider (2018) *Right Lara; Wrong Movie*”

  1. That’s a shame. I’m looking forward to getting to see this one and I’ve seen some positive and some negative reviews now. Hopefully I get a chance to see it before it finishes at the cinema but if not, I’ll have to keep an eye out for it once it gets a DVD release. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  2. There is nothing about video games that makes less ideal for adaptation than anything else. In fact in a lot of ways they’re more ideal. I think the “curse” might just be a feeling within the industry, conscious or not, that not as much care needs to be put into a “video game movie.”

    Remember Mario Bros? How could anyone forget? I was actually a huge fan of the games back then, and let me tell you…the makers of that movie KNEW those games. That film was misguided, not heretical. They knew the game could not be adequately translated to the screen using the technology of the day, so they adapted it in an oblique way, and crammed in as many images and references as they could. It may have been a terrible movie, but if other filmmakers showed the same love, the genre would be better off today.

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    1. This is probably the most faithful adaptation of a single game I’ve ever seen, but writing for the console is different than for the screen just as for the page is different for the screen. They need writers that can make that transfer, because they had the cast. They also needed a better director, because Daniel Wu, Walter Goggins and Dominic West are all great character actors and they were wasted. Wu especially was puzzling because they hired a really good actor who is a fantastic martial artist and gave him no showcase for his skills.

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