FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: Last night, I saw “Tomb Raider,” which stars Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, The Danish Girl), Dominic West (The Wire [TV series], Chicago), Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight, Justified [TV series]), Daniel Wu (Into the Badlands [TV series], New Police Story), Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Four Weddings and a Funeral), Derek Jacobi (Gladiator, Gosford Park), and Alexandre Willaume (Home Fires [TV series], Rita [TV series]). It is directed by Roar Uthaug (The Wave, Cold Prey), while written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Captain Marvel, Dungeons & Dragons), Alastair Siddons (Tresspass Against Us), and Evan Daugherty (Snow White and the Huntsman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ). Lara Croft (Vikander) is lead to clues that indicate the whereabouts of her long-thought deceased father (West). Hoping to reunite with her dad, she follows the trail; unfortunately, her actions will soon cause dangerous consequences.
Yet another video game adaptation, even though we received a treatment for this specific game years ago with Angelina Jolie. “Tomb Raider” hopes to break ground with the Lara Croft character once more, spawning a few sequels and raking in some serious cash. Whether you believe it or not, the film does end with a backdoor to a sequel (and it’s hard not to see a production company produce a “Tomb Raider” flick with the intent of it being a one-and-done). I’ve never played the games nor seen the movies detailing a female adventurer unlocking secrets of tombs while kicking butt and taking names, so thankfully for you I’m reviewing this from the perspective of a newbie to the character. Obviously, I know at least some bit of information on Lara Croft; what I didn’t know going in is how this is an origin story of her. Nope, Croft isn’t already skilled in raiding tombs. She doesn’t have her dual pistols and years of experience in her belt to make her more hard-edged (you’ll find that she screams with her voice cracking quite a bit in this feature). While it would’ve been a much cooler outing if she was already experienced in this sorta stuff, I do give the company props to trying something different; too bad this story didn’t do much for me anyway. I’ve seen my fair share of adventure films involving burial digs, trekking through dangerous jungles, and fighting bad guys who look to earn a quick buck. It’s all been said and done before this interpretation of “Tomb Raider,” so what makes it different? Not much. The movie hits the same beats and utilizes the same story elements found in your “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “National Treasure,” or “Mummy” experiences. The only difference is the main character (if you don’t take the original iterations of her into account). I find Alicia Vikander to be a promising actress who is making great headway into the Hollywood scene. I loved her performance in “Ex Machina” and was looking to see her in something just as bold and inventive. Though I failed to catch her latest works leading up to “Tomb Raider,” I can safely say that you won’t find those two adjectives in this adventure flick. Vikander does her best with what she’s given. She proves to be agile and strong in this, however her bravado often gets outweighed by fear and screaming (which she does quite a bit of, as I’ve mentioned). I get what the writers were reaching for; making her scared only makes her more human. While it makes sense, I just don’t think it made as good of an impact on this story as the writers intended. So much time was spent crafting an emotional arc for Lara Croft, but I really didn’t care for it all. I’ve seen it so many times in other movies, with many different actors portraying the same roles. “Tomb Raider” banks on a father-daughter relationship that’s quite estranged, though it fails to break into a deeper level besides utilizing the dialogue clichés found in any other flick (for example, Nicolas Cage and Jon Voight in “National Treasure”). Heck, all of the relationships created in this release seem forced or without much chemistry. Lara befriends a boat captain named Lu Ren, but their bond is hardly given any light. He’s only used as a means to an end, pretty much to get Lara to her next destination whether it’s by boat or by saving her rear end. But, Lu Ren (Wu) wasn’t nearly as poorly a developed character as the villain, portrayed by the great Walton Goggins. We are first introduced to the guy when Lara arrives to the island to search for her father, and right off the bat the guy is pegged in the villain square. There’s not a huge dialogue moment to uncover it because the writers clearly thought they didn’t have time to take it slow. Instead, they had the guy straight up say “I killed your father.” No manipulation or attempt to gain her trust (being a Croft she could prove useful, right?). I get it, I spoiled the film for you, but because this story development isn’t the case, I’ll let it slide (you’ll understand when you watch it). To make him more of a baddie, the writers have the guy point a gun at anyone within talking distance, even shooting a few people just because. At first I thought it was ballsy, but once I realized that the guy wasn’t going to be given any character arc, I became bitter at the actions he did. Really, most of this movie serves as a set-up for either future releases or action pieces that resemble a video game. How is that done? Well, if you ever played any video game involving an Indiana Jones type character, a lot of the action is composed of climbing/running on something that’s going to fall or climbing/running away from something collapsing. It’s supposed to be tense, but when most action is composed of this in such a short amount of time (Lara goes from almost falling off a waterfall to almost falling off a rusty plane), it becomes mindless. Granted, the special effects look cool enough to make it at least entertaining. The performances aren’t that bad either, when you take in the script they were given. Every character besides Lara and her dad are poorly developed and only serve to push the plot, so you can’t blame the actors for that. I wouldn’t say I was hating this feature, but I rather grew tired of it. “Tomb Raider” is a lifeless story, with motivations and story elements having been done time and time again in the past. Though it has some cool locations, decent acting, and good cinematography, the movie feels like it was forced to come into existence so we can just move onto the sequel, where the real action/true Lara Croft supposedly is. Because of that, this new release of the female adventurist should surely be skipped. FINAL SCORE: 51%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: