Going into Tomb Raider, I had very low expectations, and maybe that helped me. It’s a bit overly long and has a few minor aspects that draw your attention to the fact that you’re watching a video game movie that it could’ve done without. Ultimately, though, I would say Tomb Raider is a perfectly acceptable, middle-of-the-pack blockbuster.
Oscar winner Alicia Vikander is the latest performer to step into the role of a video game character. In Tomb Raider, she plays Lara Croft, a woman without a home, adrift in her own life until she discovers an old investigation of her father’s (Dominic West). Along with a man named Lu (Daniel Wu) that she meets in Hong Kong, Lara travels to a mysterious island off the coast of Japan in search of the final resting place of Himiko, the Death Queen; and to stop the shadowy Order of the Trinity from unearthing what legend holds is an apocalyptic monster.
**MINOR SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW**
Vikander, who is great in just about everything she’s in, was a fantastic choice to carry the movie. She brings a personality and pathos to Lara that Angelina Jolie never came close to in her early 2000s take on the character. You can feel her excitement when she sets off on her adventure, but you can also feel her doubt when she’s brought in to sign papers for her inheritance and officially declare her father dead while not knowing what really happened to him. Also, as a lesser-known actress, she has the ability to play a version of Lara that feels independent of her status in Hollywood, again unlike Jolie.
The score is equally as superb and it really captures the tone of the film. Tom Holkenborg, who often works under the stage name Junkie XL, incorporates an interesting mix of soaring action music and cultural tunes depending on where in the world Lara finds herself. It reminded me a lot of his score for Mad Max: Fury Road.
The main problems with the film lie in its structure. There’s a sequence when Lara and Lu are on their way to the island and a voice over from Dominic West comes in as Lara reads her father Richard’s notes. In these notes, Richard somehow, despite having never actually been inside Himiko’s crypt, manages to go step-by-step through every obstacle Lara will face as she makes her way inside. It couldn’t feel more like a video game cut scene if it tried. There’s another scene that ends with Lara and Lu meeting in which Lara chases (and, subsequently, is chased by) three Chinese teenagers who attempt to steal her belongings when she asks them for help. It’s an interesting action sequence, but there are elements to how its presented, like sudden slow motion when Lara grabs hold of a crane like a jungle vine, that aren’t present elsewhere in the movie, so it feels inconsistent.
Additionally, Walton Goggins’ villain is pretty bland, to be generous frankly. We’re told he’s doing what he’s doing because it’s the only way he can get back to his family, but we’re never shown anything to indicate how his emotional state has been affected due to his isolation on the island away from them for seven years… or even if this is true information and he isn’t simply saying it to manipulate Lara. He also spends a great deal of time trying to parse the difference between myth and reality, despite working for an organization that supposedly wants to claim dominion over the supernatural as a method for taking over the world. I feel like he should at least know the general aspects of what he signed up for, even if he arguably isn’t high enough on the food chain to be clued into the specifics.
Although I’m personally more inclined to go see Love, Simon again this weekend when I have to actually pay for my ticket, Tomb Raider is a movie that you’ll have fun with if you’d instead prefer to go see an action movie that isn’t titled Black Panther. Ultimately, it doesn’t break the video game movie curse, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction and lands on the game board with a middling
2.5 arrows out of 5.