Review: Tomb Raider

March 16, 2018
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Remember how great it felt to rush home from school so you could fired up the Playstation and play Tomb Raider when it first came out?  Man, what a great game that was.  Let’s forget about how Uncharted came out a few years later and blew everything the entire Tomb Raider series ever achieved out of the water though and let’s stay focused on Lara Croft and her tomb raiding ways.  Let’s also forget about the Angelina Jolie films and how stupendously unwatchable those are.  Let’s just talk about this version of Tomb Raider and whether or not it stands up as a good film.  In forgetting the legacy you find yourself forced to just concentrate on this movie and not get distracted or swayed by nostalgia and when you do that, you end up with an adventure that isn’t all that exciting.

In the 2018 incarnation of Lara Croft we have Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander.  If you were to ask me why she ever won an Oscar I would have no answer for you.  I know she’s got an impressive, if not forgettable, resume with films like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Ex-Machina, and The Danish Girl but I never found her to be especially talented or fun to watch.  She exudes as much screen charisma as an old recliner and seems to have a difficult time conveying actual human emotions; perhaps one of the reasons why she was good in Ex-Machina because she played a robot.  Her performance in Tomb Raider was no different and might actually be her worst performance yet.  It almost makes me wonder if she’s the male version of Adrian Brody; an Oscar-winner but has never shown an audience why.

Director Roar Uthaug may not have a ton of feature films under his belt but the one he did before this, The Wave, was excellent.  Sure, it’s a foreign film with subtitles but it’s one of the better disaster movies I’ve seen in a long time.  Uthaug actually does a really damn good job with the action sequences.  You can tell he’s someone that has spent time playing the game because many of the scenes, especially one involving an escape from a rusted-out airplane, feel ripped right from the video game.  Where Uthaug goes wrong is in the almost torturous length of time that goes by before anything exciting happens.  Not only is any and all action delayed by about an hour but there is nothing fun or funny to keep us distracted in that time.  It’s gloomy, melancholy, and really boring to see Vikander mope around Europe and Asia until she finally gets to the island.

Once at the island we see one of the few great things in the film and that’s Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight, HBO’s Vice Principals).  Goggins is someone that has managed to master comedy as well as being a villain.  In Tomb Raider, he’s a villain with a capital “V” and, despite having an interesting backstory that tries really hard at making him a sympathetic baddie, he’s rotten to his core and someone you can really cheer for getting their ass kicked.  He’s also joined by Dominic West (Chicago, HBO’s The Wire) who plays Vikander’s father despite only being 19 years older than her in real life and looking like he’s only 5 years older than her in the film.  West and Goggins are usually great supporting additions to a cast and they do their best to chew up the scenes but it’s not enough.

Tomb Raider is a failure on many levels and it pains me to say that.  Success in this might have given a resurgent interest in video game movies.  We’ve come a long way from Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider, and Resident Evil.  The games that exist now like Uncharted, The Last of Us, and Destiny really do deserve to be turned into feature films because they’re way more cinematic than what the ‘90s and ‘00s gave us.  I was hoping Tomb Raider’s mega trillion dollar box office pull would do that but, if anything, it might be so bad that it puts those fantastic video game stories in a tomb forever.