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Tomb Raider Review

It's no secret that big screen video game adaptations tend to be pretty bad. The 2018 Tomb Raider reboot does buck that trend somewhat, as it's a halfway decent movie with a likable protagonist, but it's not exactly going to blow anyone's mind. Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is the young heiress to the considerable Croft family fortune but is reluctant to claim her inheritance as that would mean legally recognizing her father as deceased. Richard Croft (Dominic West) went missing while searching for the lost tomb of the mythical ancient Japanese queen Himiko. Lara stumbles onto his research and decided to go looking for the tomb - and her father - herself. This Tomb Raider movie, directed by Roar Uthaug, is loosely based on the 2013 video game reboot in that both featured Lara getting shipwrecked on an uncharted island while looking for Himiko. Some ideas and setpieces are pretty much lifted wholesale from the game, such as Lara's overall appearance and her use of a bow as a weapon. However, the movie does differ from the game quite a bit and fortunately, pretty much all of the changes are for the better. For starters, the movie takes its time before getting to the island, unlike the game which starts there. We get to see Lara's day-to-day life as a courier and establish her strong connection to her father. These early scenes are some of the movie's best, which is bizarre considering a lot of what happens doesn't really pay off later. Many of the supporting characters that are introduced, a few of which seem to be close friends of Lara, never show up again. It's almost like Tomb Raider starts out as one movie and then the game's story takes over and turns it into another. It's immediately clear that Alicia Vikander was an inspired choice for this role, as her Lara Croft is very easy to like and root for. She's fun, resourceful and more than a little reckless. Her love for her father adds some nice depth to the character too, even if it's not much. Vikander gives it her all and it certainly seems like she was having a blast throughout. The movie also smartly cuts down the game's cast of dull, forgettable side characters. The thinly written gang stereotypes that were palling around with Lara on the boat are gone, replaced by a single new character, Lu Ren (Daniel Wu). The movie tries to draw some parallels between Lara and Lu, as Lu's father also went missing with Richard Croft, but that whole narrative thread gets a pretty lackluster resolution. Lu is an alright character that gets a few decent scenes with Lara, but once the two end up on the island, he all but disappears. Sure, he still does stuff, but it's mostly to further the plot - there's little to no character or personality to be found. Speaking of no personality, the new Tomb Raider has a pretty crap excuse for a villain. Mathias Vogel (Walter Goggins) is the leader of a shadowy organization that wants to open Himiko's tomb for nefarious purposes. Mathias himself only wants to get the job done to get back to his family. Again, while it's nice that they tried to keep the family theme consistent across the main characters, it's not really explored enough to make it all that meaningful or interesting. Walter Goggins is a good actor, but Mathias has nothing going for him as a villain. He's the dull, uninspired 'I kill weak prisoners' bad guy that doesn't have a single memorable line or moment. To Tomb Raider's credit, there are a couple of decent setpiece moments - the best of which is easily a sequence in which Lara moves around a dangerously decrepit plane on the edge of a waterfall. Unfortunately, some of the impact of the action is neutered by CGI overload. A slow-motion shot of Lara ducking under a CGI spiky trap is the worst offender, but far from the only one. The best thing that can be said about the new Tomb Raider is that it's not overtly terrible, which is admittedly a bit of a backhanded compliment. None of the stuff it does well is particularly new or exciting, but the stuff it does poorly is also not that noteworthy. It's on the good side of mediocre, elevated by Alicia Vikander's winning performance and a decent amount of thrills. It's not something you regret seeing, nor is it really worth recommending or revisiting. It has the most important ingredient for a franchise - a good, charismatic main character - down pat and that's no small feat. Bottom line - Tomb Raider doesn't break the video game adaptation curse, but it's a step in the right direction.
  • Alicia Vikander is great as Lara Croft
  • A bunch of improvements over the game it's based on
  • Not particularly memorable or exciting
  • Overly cliched, dull villain
  • Often doesn't follow up on seemingly important plot and character bits


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