There was a time when Lara Croft was poised to take
over the world as a brand unto herself, gracing the cover of every magazine,
gaming or otherwise, on the newsstand. This fame naturally parlayed itself onto
the silver screen with Angelina Jolie taking on the role of Lara Croft, getting
two movies in before the cinema train stalled completely.
Much like with the video games themselves, the powers that
be decided to reboot the movies as well to be more in line with the more modern
Lara Croft. Crystal Dynamics and Square-Enix decided on a survivalist Lara
Croft who does more shooting than side-flipping in the video games, so it only
made sense that a new Tomb Raider
movie would follow in the same mold. Alicia Vikander, the Swedish-born actress
best known for her role in Ex Machina,
stepped into the role of a new Lara Croft for a new age.
As an idea on paper, this all sounds totally fine. In practice,
the idea is let down by virtually every aspect of the script and execution.
Tomb Raider is at
its best in its opening story beats, establishing Lara as more of an urban explorer
than a jungle-weary treasure hunter. She knows how to fight because she trains
to defend herself, she’s naturally athletic but not preternaturally so, she
enjoys thrills and excitement as one would expect of a character who would
eventually dash around the Earth raiding tombs. When these brief moments of
character establishment are over, however, Tomb
Raider starts to weigh itself down in its own self-indulgent clichés.
Lara discovers the location of where her father may have gone
missing years earlier and, after convincing a salty sea captain to aid her, sails
off for a seemingly cursed island holding the remains of Japan’s first Empress and a secret
which has the potential to end the world.
Also on the island is an organization named Trinity, who are
supplied no description beyond being a group that wishes to use the occult to
take over the world. The Trinity squad leader, played by Walton Goggins,
oscillates between chewing the scenery and dozing off. It turns out to be
fairly fitting, as his characterization also shifts dramatically from true
believer in the occult to cautious skeptic between set changes.
Throughout the movie, the focus often returns to the captain
that brought Lara to the island as he occasionally will walk up a mountain
repeating that he needs to save Lara. These cuts have basically no payoff and
only really serve to remind the viewer that the character is alive even if he
did not get to go on the main plot adventure with everyone else.
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The most baffling scene, however, deserves special mention. In
what one can only assume is a nod toward the video games, Lara is at one point tasked
with solving a puzzle involving colors and a disappearing floor. The scene does
its best to blend Indiana Jones and The
Last Crusade with a video game puzzle, but it lasts about four minutes too
long, and the audience will have solved it long before Lara herself does.
Tomb Raider is not
without positive qualities, such as Vikander’s characterization and a few
genuinely fun action scenes, but they are only redemptive of their individual
moments and not the movie as a whole. If there is a curse on video game movies,
Tomb Raider only breaks it insofar as
being worth watching on a streaming service in the background while engaging in
something more compelling.
As a fan of the latest Tomb Raider games, the movie is
disappointing, but I suspect I would feel as drained by Tomb Raider whether I liked the games or not.