Tomb Raider (2018)

Directed by Roar Uthaug
Written by Geneze Robertson-Dworet & Alastair Siddons

Here are my credentials: I have never played a Lara Craft: Tomb Raider video game; I have never seen the Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider movies. Wish to continue reading to find out my opinion!? Sure, I may not have the background to comment on how it compares to the original movies, or what elements it takes from the video games, etc, but I want to tell you that I am here for an Alicia Vikander Tomb Raider. While I haven’t seen the movies or played the games, I love the concept of Lara Croft. Heck, I grew up on Indiana Jones and love the Nation Treasure movies. I also happen to be a big fan of Alicia Vikander, who gets a shot to prove she can be a badass action star. So I have something in the running here, I have expectations, I have the faith that this can be a good movie. Perhaps when they try again with the sequel they can actually make one.

Lara Croft (Vikanker) grew up on a lush manor with her father Richard (Dominic West), but after Richard disappears after never returning from one of his many trips, Lara never gives up hope that he will return. Seven years later, her guardian Ana (Kristin Scott Thomas) urges her to sign the document that “kills” her father, thereby giving her the inheritance she has avoided all these years. But she soon discovers her father’s secret mission: to find an island in the Pacific which is home to an evil Japanese empress. This discovery motivates her to find the island and find her father. She gains a friend along the way (Daniel Wu), who is in a similar boat, but runs into the evil Vogel (Walton Goggins), who stands in the way of her finding her father.

This movie is fine, for a variety of reasons. It’s fine because it has spurts of great fun sprinkled throughout. It’s fine because Alicia Vikander is as great as ever in this role, which is something a bit different than we’re used to seeing from her. It’s fine because some of the action is genuinely thrilling. It’s only fine because a lot of the special effects are very noticeable, which is a bad and distracting thing. It’s only fine because the screenplay is doing the film no favors by creating very broadly defined characters and motivations. It’s only fine because it takes some great concepts and fails to ever extrapolate them to something bigger and better.

Let’s start with the positives. Roar Uthaug delivers some good action sequences here, the center of any great action movie. He is able to compile scenarios which feel taken from a video game (in a good way), where Lara must navigate her way through the baddies to attain a specific objective. And Vikander is a joy to behold as Croft. I really like her dedication and spunk in this role and would welcome giving her another chance as the character in a new adventure. There is, however, also bad in this movie. I think my biggest qualm came from the characterizations and lazy script, which often ask the audience to take something at face value (like Lu Ren joining Lara on her journey so quickly, or Vogel’s motivations to find the tomb). There are surface motivations, but I never bought them on a deeper level, which is problematic because it creates a very convenient plot as a result, instead of one with fully rounded characters with real stakes.

There is something very exciting to me about the idea of a fun adventure that includes solving clues and historical discoveries. I truly believe a great Tomb Raider could be made, but this just isn’t that film, unfortunately. However, there is enough here to be entertained through the run time, and I hope the film does well enough to afford the studio the chance to make its sequel that it so obviously desires based on the ending. I just wish they would have spent more time crafting a great movie than trying to setup a franchise, a pitfall that has beset many recent franchise attempts (looking at you The Mummy). Roar Uthaug and Alicia Vikander just miss the mark with this outing. Someone should seriously alert the studio and let them know that there can be such a thing as a smart, fun, action-packed Tomb Raider. Keyword there being “smart”. If only this movie were as smart and brave as Lara Croft.

★★ – Didn’t Like It

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