The first question you are going to ask me in reviewing this new TOMB RAIDER might be: does it break the video game movie curse (if you believe in such things)? No, it doesn’t, but it knocks a big dent into the curse door and is a huge step in the right direction. Since I am a movie person, I go along with this ‘curse’ deal, but in actuality, I just don’t think video games were meant to be turned into movies, because video games themselves are one giant movie to begin with. And yes, I have played two of the old Tomb Raider games and I have played the two fantastic masterpieces that are the two recent newer Lara Croft adventures all the way through as well. This film is the closest any film has gotten to actually feeling like the videogames it is portraying. It is definitely now my favorite video game movie, but does that necessarily mean anything considering my favorite one before this was 1995’s Mortal Kombat?
And yes, this movie is SO much better than the two terrible films we got more than a decade ago starring Angelina Jolie. I watched those two films again recently and they are just too silly to be taken not only seriously, but turn your brain off entertainment. They are just slogged down in incoherent drivel that makes absolutely no sense. The only reason they are remotely watchable is because of Jolie’s charisma after the time, having just won an Oscar. And speaking of just having won an Oscar, Alicia Vikander is more than half of the reason this film works at all. She looks like she wants to be there, even did her own stunts, and she has the charm and wit of Lara Croft from the newer games. She’s the closest we could possibly get without Camilla Luddington (she voices Lara in the new games) leaving Grey’s Anatomy and doing it herself. Unfortunately Luddington is too old for the part on screen now, seeing as we are starting out with Lara in her very early 20s.
Now, this movie does have problems. Like any video game movie does. The story, which actually sounds interesting at first, is more of a MacGuffin with a few lines of dialogue here and there trying to give it more of a background but not quite getting where it needs to be to be decent. If you know anything about the games, you know Lara Croft has daddy issues, and that is essentially the beginning here too, with her finding out that the last time she saw him 7 years ago, he was going in search of Himiko, Queen of Yamatai who seemingly had the power over life and death. She finds old research of his journey and goes out in search to see what happened to him. She takes a drunk captain, Lu Ren, and his shoddy boat to the island, where she meets Mathias Vogel, having been on the island because of her father for the past 7 years, still unable to find Himiko. He thinks that Lara can unwillingly help him.
And the story goes from there. I do have to admit, marketing is keeping one huge thing from the audience, and I did appreciate that it did, as it added a little bit more layer to an overall story that would’ve been flatter without it. Here is the main problem with the whole story. I wanted to know more about the history of Himiko, Queen of Yamatai, and I wanted searching her tomb and solving the riddles and puzzles more of how the game does it. The video games has these riddles and puzzles that you have to solve throughout it, and you are with Lara and she is talking out loud while you solve the puzzles, linking it to the history of the MacGuffin, where as you find out more about everything, and everything becomes a tad bit more interesting. They don’t really do that here. They do do it in one scene where a floor is falling underneath them, and that scene is really good, and I wanted more of that. A lot of it, Lara is just looking, moving, and pushing stuff, and “wha-la!” it opens, and we don’t get any substantial information on how she figured it out.
Basically I’m saying I want a Tomb Raider movie to have the good action and stunts that it had (some shoddy CGI in places but that is to be expected), combined with National Treasure-esque puzzles and clues. The National Treasure series is a great treasure hunting movie, it only lags when it tries to bring ho-hum action into the mix. Tomb Raider is a decent action film, but it needs that National Treasure charm. And with the one scene that it does get right, I feel like it could master it with a better and tighter screenplay. Even though National Treasure combined fictional clues with factual history, it made learning the things that were true fun. I feel like these new Tomb Raider movies can duplicate that but with solid action.
There is still a lot to like about this movie. They say something to the line of “there is some truth in myths,” and they don’t just say it for dialogue sake, it does have a good huge surprising payoff in the end. I did like the subtle nods to the video games. And I did like the not too in your face world building they have for Trinity, Lara Croft’s main enemy corporation in the games. Walton Goggins plays a decent bad guy, although he plays it a little too straight here. I mean, the guys has been on the island for 7 straight years, they should’ve wrote in some wacky quirks that his character had developed from cabin fever or something.
But this is all Alicia Vikander’s show. She is great in this and I really hope they make sequels and that she comes back and reprises her role. This isn’t the excellent be all end all of great video game movies. But it is a great step in the opposite and now right direction from shit we have gotten in the past. But what do I know? This review is coming from a guy that thinks the Super Mario Bros. film was ahead of its time and instead of seeing it as a shoddy production with writers and directors that didn’t know what the fuck they were doing, sees it instead as a accidental tiny little weird fucked up triumph. And this is coming from someone that has watched the Mortal Kombat film a hand full of times and still enjoys it (I can’t stand the sequel though) (I did enjoy the recent live action shorts but nothing really came out of those big screen wise). Anyway, Tomb Raider is a little nice March 2018 escapism that finally shines some light on videogame movies that could be. Hollywood might be finally turning this thing around, although Rampage could turn it right back again, we’ll see.