Tomb Raider: A Lackluster Adventure
Review by Aaron Haughton
Alicia Vikander goes all in with the Tomb Raider reboot, undergoing an intense diet and training regimen in order to gain 12 pounds of muscle to assume the role of video game icon Lara Croft. Unfortunately, her efforts are not enough to totally save this half-baked, semi-boring action/adventure film, which suffers from fairly weak and directionless writing. However, her commitment and dedication to the role does salvage what would most certainly be a sunken ship if put into the hands of another actress. One thing's for sure, it's definitely a step in a better direction, and Vikander makes for a more luminous Croft than Angelia Jolie ever could hope to be.
The biggest problem with the film is that it doesn't feel like it's really moving anywhere until the third act hits. Also, there's no substantial challenge or obstacles for Croft to face that she doesn't just breeze right through without difficulty. Only one puzzle really offers up any high stakes or tension, which takes on the form of something we'd see in The Goonies organ scene, but even that gets solved fairly quickly and yields minimal consequences. One never got the sense that Croft is ever in any real sense of danger — even when she's standing on the threadbare remnants of a crumbling plane strewn across the peak of a waterfall — because the film treats her as invincibly as a video game avatar.
The film goes for a grittier and more realistic approach to the character, borrowing plot points and visually aspects directly from the 2013 game's storyline and its sequel; however, at times, it doesn't want to wholly obey its realistic anchor, which gives it some obvious tonal issues. In one moment the film wants to be rooted in a hardline reality, and in the next breath it adopts a total non-reality ideology for the sake of "cool" shots, like Croft doing a mega jump off a sinking ship into the tumultuous ocean. It may make for some dope promotional marketing, but it has no real place in the world the film creates.
The film also suffers from an undercooked and underutilized villain, which is disappointing when you have a great talent like Walton Goggins, who manages to shine in nearly everything he takes part in. In the case of Tomb Raider, he doesn't have a proper moment to flex his knack for villainy in any interesting way. The best way writers Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons thought to establish Goggins' character as the bad guy is by having him execute a prisoner whose body is unable to continue working. Surely, there has to be a better way to convey evil than with a gunshot to the head, but that's the kind of laziness the Tomb Raider suffers from, which all harks back to a script that seems more content on getting from point A to point B, than it does about relishing the adventure.
As far as direction goes, Norwegian director Roar Uthaug and cinematographer George Richmond manage to give the film some true moments of verve, outside the over-the-top moments of non-reality. In some moments, they accurately pay homage to the video game elements without feeling forced or dragging the story down. The moments of Croft wandering the forest with the bow were pretty stunning, and once the tomb is opened in the third act the film finally comes into its own, but it's too little to late.
Once we enter the tomb, the film takes on the form of an Indiana Jones film directed by Ridley Scott, and it's without the most enjoyable portion of the film, complete with booby traps and even zombies. The set pieces here are big and extravagant, and it's only here that the film really feels of the action and adventure variety. Unfortunately, it's too short lived, and hits upon beats that really should have turned up at the midpoint of the film, not the conclusion.
All in all, Tomb Raider isn't a total loss. While it may be a step in the right direction, it's far from perfect and just short of OK. Alicia Vikander and the small third act adventure make it worthy of a watch though. However, by the end of the film, you'll fault the film for not giving it its all like Vikander. Maybe next time, the screenwriters should do more heavy lifting.
Rating: 2.5 puzzle boxes outta 5.
What did you think? Did you enjoy the film? How does Alicia Vikander stack up against Angelina Jolie? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!