Based on the 2013 reboot of the iconic video game franchise telling the story of Lara Croft, “Tomb Raider’s” mediocrity may put it above a large amount of the abysmal cinematic video game adaptations but its lacking ambition makes it one of the most difficult to watch in recent history. Alicia Vikander assumes the role of the titular “Tomb Raider,” searching for her long lost father on an adventure about as bland as possible until the final act of the film.
What ensues is an agonizing, generic action film with minor pieces of survival film tropes that blur into just-competent-enough film making. The production rising out of this would be rendered terminally boring if it weren’t for the jarring placement of puzzle solving scenes evoking video game set pieces, action sequences desperately attempting to recreate gameplay to embarrassing results, and the out-of-place strong performances of three of its stars. That last point is of particular note, because it pushes the film over from painlessly forgettable into frustrating.
Vikander manages to transcend the horrendous dialogue of the script to essentially carry the entire movie. Her conviction to making Lara fiercely intuitive and courageous in the face of danger while displaying true human vulnerability, without undercutting her strength is noticeably more crafted than almost anything else in the movie.
In a race to the contents of a hidden temple with a team of cartoonishly one-dimensional mercenaries, she finds herself in a chase that leads her forced down a river ending in a waterfall onto a worn out and rusted plane that collapses under her weight and leaves her to parachute into the jungle foliage below, where she is pummeled by tree branches and skipped across the ground. The sequence is so over the top and out of place that even she looks as though she can’t believe that it’s happening. It’s the kind of thing that “Indiana Jones” was eviscerated for almost 10 years ago, yet she manages to pull it off.
Dominic West plays her father, Richard Croft, who gets in a few remarkably tender moments for a generic film in desperate need of personal touch. Her partner, played by Daniel Wu, provides a much needed charisma lacking in any other character of the movie. Their performances highlight the largest problem with “Tomb Raider” in a nutshell; it isn’t concerned with quality so much as safety.
The film is so deprived of ambition that it meets its goals and still fails to leave any true impression, despite having people on board whose efforts are rendered moot by a lack of investment, talent, or both from the director and screenwriters. Say what you may about a video game adaptations like “Warcraft,” but it came from a place of care, passion, and talent that made it fascinating to watch unfold — even if the film itself was not objectively good. By contrast, this movie is so empty and devoid of any true substance that you can’t help but ask why they bothered to make it in the first place.
"Tomb Raider" is a microcosm of exactly why video game adaptations are facing an uphill battle. Its producers and filmmakers weren’t concerned with making a great movie, but merely a safely marketable product to gouge a few dollars out of the curious onlooker — and that is exactly what it is. “Tomb Raider” is safe, marketable, and watchable, which does make it a cut above its many peers in the field of video game based movies. Neither of those facts makes it a good film in its own right.
2 out of 5
Graduating from Texas A&M University—Commerce with a bachelor's degree in News and Editorial Journalism, Jordan Wright has lived most of his adult life professionally critiquing films, from major blockbusters to indie dramas, and has no intentions of stopping.