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Tomb Raider Movie Review: Almost Breaking the Video Game Movie Curse

Jack Gross, Movie Critic

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Score: 6.0/10         Worth It: Not Really

INTRODUCTION

Tomb Raider is a movie that has mastered the art of  mediocrity. At times I felt like I was watching an Indiana Jones movie without the charm, then it would shift and suddenly I was watching a father-daughter movie. Everything about this film felt subpar. Action sequences were simple, and supporting characters were basic. However, where most bad action adventure movies fail, Tomb Raider succeeded. Alicia Vikander did a great job acting as a heroine that was both enticing and realistic, and this also means the writing for this character should also be praised. Also, Lara’s relationship with her father felt genuine, and helped raise the stakes throughout the film. Tomb Raider is not a horrible movie, it’s a average action adventure film that looks to cash on the video game franchise and make money off of sequels.

IDENTITY

This movie was trying to be a lot. And instead of letting these differences dominate the screen all at once, Tomb Raider seeked out to divide this movie into three distinct films; none of which produced a good film.

The beginning of the film set out to build exposition. To show the audience Lara Croft was a daughter overcoming her father’s demise and proving over and over she is resilient and never gives up. The filmmakers try and show Lara Croft’s determination through small scenes, like her fighting in the ring and refusing to tap out. Some of this felt like cliche after cliche, yet I realized later it was necessary in developing the character. The whole first ⅓ of the film was for background information, not for style. It was to introduce the audience to the protagonist, and show the dramatic situation in which she is in. Instead of crafting this into a fun and interesting look at Lara Croft, it felt more like something we had to get through in order to get to the good stuff. Don’t get me wrong, all of this background information is necessary, it just feels forced in this movie rather than natural. Just because it’s necessary doesn’t mean it can’t be done well. This plays like a sloppy introduction rather than interesting and engrossing exposition.

The middle portion of this movie played a lot like a Tomb Raider video game. Lara has to survive a boat crash, an army, and a series of environmental elements that seem to throw her around like a rag doll.  This is also where we are introduced to the villain, Mathias Vogel. Pacing was a huge problem throughout this section, things seemed to happen either too slow or too fast. As soon as Lara swims to the shore, we see her interact with the antagonist. This seems to go on for a long time, until she finally escapes and runs into her father. Here, her scenes with her father seem to go to fast, which is disappointing because this was the part of the movie that worked (more on that later). This part of the film also had some cool scenes, although limited. Seeing Lara Croft running, jumping, and swimming around, through, and over things is objectively fun.

Finally, the third and final section was the main showdown between Lara and Vogel, the antagonist. Here, we see the archaeological aspect of the film. They journey deep within the cave, and this keeps the audience entertained, but doesn’t really do anything different or innovated. Without giving too much away, the ending here has a slight twist, one that is certainly interesting, but nothing that will blow your mind.

ACTING

Tomb Raider, has four main characters; Lara Croft, Her father Richard Croft, the villain Mathias Vogel, and Lara’s friend throughout the film Lu Ren. Usually in a film like this, we see bad acting from the whole cast. However, in Tomb Raider, both the Crofts (Alicia Vikander and Dominic West) played great and believable actors. They also had good chemistry that really helped bring the film together and make scenes believable. For example, we see that Lara goes to this island looking for her father. If their relationship was weak or static, this would seem ridiculous. The audience would think that their connection is too weak for Lara to risk her life to look for him. I’m sure the filmmakers were conscience of this, so they developed the father-daughter relationship as thoroughly as possible. In the long run, this really helped the film.

Alone, Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft worked very well. She proved to be a deep and empathetic character that the audience can root for as her journey progresses. While she did work well with her father, Alicia Vikander’s chemistry with the other two actors, Daniel Wu (played Lu Ren) and Walton Goggins (played Mathias Vogel), was nonexistent. Both of which turned in forgettable performances. Neither one of them left a lasting impression on me, and seemed to take away from the momentum that was built between Vikander and West.

WRITING

The writing in this film was heavily flawed. Only two out of the four main characters were developed. And many plot and structural holes ruined scenes or concepts this movie showed.

The villain, Mathias Vogel, was the worst part of this movie. He was a flat, uninteresting, and bland character without any development or intriguing motives. The only thing he really revealed about himself is that he wants to go back home to his family. This is said over and over and over again to the extent that I feel like it was the writer’s trying desperately to find a excuse for his actions. It was as if they used his desire to see his family as a cop out to explain all that he did. A good villain makes a good movie great, and a bad villain makes a decent movie bad. In order to have a good villain, you need to make his motives understandable and intriguing, not bland and unimportant.

Lu Ren seemed to have no effect on the plot whatsoever. Other than transporting Lara to the island, he basically just stood around as Lara did everything. For awhile I assumed he would be some type of love interest, but nothing ever happened. The camera would just occasionally show him, whether being tied up with other slaves on the island, or randomly shooting Vogel’s goons, he just felt incredibly out of place in this movie.

Lara and her father Richard Croft however were very developed as I said before. They were the saving grace of this film, and without their relationship being built the way it was, this film could have easily gotten a four out of ten. Making us care about the characters makes the stakes even higher, which then allows us to become emotionally invested within the story.

Unfortunately, there were a few scenes that were so over the top and so ridiculous they take you out of the movie altogether. Without spoiling anything I can give this example: Lara is chasing after someone towards the end of the film. She is carrying an axe, and as she closes in on him as he’s walking next to a cliff, Lara swiftly throws the axe on the ground and jumps in front of him. In this moment, she has unarmed herself, and jumped into a situation where she is face to face with a man that will kill her all the while being one step away from a fall to her death. She decided to do this rather than throw her axe? Rather than pushing him off while his back was turned to her? Rather than at least remaining armed with an axe before confronting him? These scenes happen a few times, and you will need to resist the urge to scream at the screen “What are you thinking?”.

CONCLUSION

Tomb Raider isn’t a bad film, but it isn’t a good film either. If the movie hadn’t been so afraid to take chances, and playing it safe, this could have been a far better film. From it’s messy pacing, basic action scenes, and inconsistent acting among the cast, Tomb Raider proves that Hollywood has become content with producing average films as long as they make money. Is this movie worth spending your money on? No. But if you have nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon and you see Tomb Raider on TV (or a streaming service), it’s not a horrible watch.

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Tomb Raider Movie Review: Almost Breaking the Video Game Movie Curse