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‘Tomb Raider’ proves to be more than just another ‘video game movie’

‘Tomb Raider’ proves to be more than just another ‘video game movie’

‘Tomb Raider’ proves to be more than just another ‘video game movie’
March 20
12:10 2018

*Spoilers head*

Few female heroines in pop culture possess the iconic swagger and look of Lara Croft. Originally a video game character from the late ’90s, Croft has been the star of more than 14 games in the last two decades, as well as two movies leading up to the 2018 reboot “Tomb Raider.”

The original films saw a spy-like, tech-savvy Croft in spandex, dealing with fantastical and magical tombs, while spewing generic action movie one-liners through a horrible English accent. The film capitalized on the almost James Bond-like irresistibility that was a big part of who Lara Croft was perceived to be at the time. But times change, and a character can only do the same thing so many times before becoming predictable.

In 2013, we saw the gritty video game reboot of “Tomb Raider.” It brought forth a much more visceral origin story about Lara’s transition from young woman to the globe-trotting, action-craving, empowered explorer we’ve known and loved for so long.

In the newest film adaptation, “Tomb Raider” takes cues from this interpretation, foregoing the gadgetry and magic for a much more grounded, sympathetic and violent story. The result is at times, an uneven movie, but one that does more right than wrong.

The film begins with the introduction to Lara (Alicia Vikander) who is struggling to make ends meet while still coping with the disapearence of her father (Dominic West).

She eventually finds evidence suggesting where her father may have gone and thus sets out to find him. She hires a captain named Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) to ferry her to the island where her father went, and soon the two find themselves shipwrecked and in captivity of a man named Matias (Walton Goggins) who works for an organization called “Trinity.” The company is trying to excavate a tomb and capture a supposed magical item that will allow them to control the world, which just so happens to be the same item her father was searching for when he disappeared.

One thing I noticed was the film lifts many plot points and set pieces from the 2013 game. If you played it when it came out, you’ll find a lot of familiar ground in the film.

The movie also definitely lends some of its roughly two-hour runtime to showing off action set pieces, plot points, characters and even Lara’s look straight from the game. It feels almost gratifying to be able to identify when Norwegian director Roar Uthuag is referencing a moment from previous titles, be it from the games or the original films.

However, you definitely do not need to be familiar with any of that to enjoy this film. Aside from a slow first act, the action moves at a brisk, consistent pace, and is book-ended with two solid — slightly underdeveloped, even — sub plots. The relationship between Lara and her father is strong, due in part to fantastic acting done by both Vikander and West. However, the suggested love between Lara and Lu Ren is not developed nearly enough to warrant the two constantly looking at each other in the way they do throughout the film.

Luckily, there aren’t really any other subplots. It’s a streamlined action movie, and it’s all the better for it.

Speaking of action, “Tomb Raider” basks in the hell Lara goes through this time around. She rides a torn parachute through a forest, hits a tree and is impaled and then removes it herself. She takes a beating from one of Matias’ goons before drowning him as he gasps and reaches for life. She even suffers gunshot wounds. And still she overcomes every obstacle with a stony face of determination.

“Tomb Raider” is well choreographed, the CGI is never below par and Vikander’s grunts, screams and tears sells Croft’s pain and struggle better than any other actress I have ever seen. She’s perfectly casted here, and she makes every high-stakes scene feel as real as it looks.

The main villain is probably the weakest part of this film. Trinity, who is essentially the illuminati, is not developed at all, and so we’re left with a secondary villain to carry the weight. Goggins plays Mathias Vogel in the film, and has had his fair share of playing fantastic villains in TV shows like “Sons of Anarchy” and “Justified.” Goggins should be recognized for his believable ruthlessness. He’s not evil at all, but unfortunately the film tries to paint him as such as he guns down innocent lives without hesitation. But this is only because he’s been on the island away from his family for so long and just wants to go home to be reunited with them. Regardless of the inconsistent writing his character falls victim to, Goggins is still a pleasure to watch on screen.

“Video game movie” is a dirty term these days. If a film carries that title, it historically ends up being a bad interpretation of the source material. 2016’s “Assassin’s Creed,” 2005’s “Doom” and 1995’s “Mortal Kombat” are just a few examples that always get brought up when the term is mentioned.

Make no mistake though — 2018’s “Tomb Raider” is absolutely the best “video game movie” yet, and its origin story approach, compounded with its no nonsense story-telling and insanely visceral action set pieces make this a strong outing for one of pop-culture’s most iconic characters.

My rating: 4/5

Featured Image: Courtesy 

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Zach Helms

Zach Helms

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