Friday, March 23, 2018

Movie Review: "Tomb Raider" (2018)

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Movie"Tomb Raider"
Director: Roar Uthaug
Year: 2018
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 51 minutes

Lara Croft has chosen to live a modest life despite being the heiress to an immense fortune. After receiving some new information, she goes on an adventure in search of her missing father, who vanished seven years earlier.

Movies based on video games have a ghastly reputation. We'd be hard-pressed to find more than one example that appeals to a general audience beyond the niche of hardcore gamers predisposed to like the final product. Will the new "Tomb Raider" film be any different? Let's see!

This film is directed by Roar Uthaug, a Norwegian director who has helmed the action films "Flukt" ("Escape") and "Bølgen" (aka "The Wave") in his home country. It is written by first-time screenwriter Geneva Robertson-Dworet, as well as Alastair Siddon (writer of the Michael Fassbender-led independent film "Trespass Against Us") and Evan Daugherty (writer of "Snow White and the Huntsman," "Divergent," and the Michael Bay-produced "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"). It stars Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft and tells the origin story of this iconic video game heroine. Lara has spent the entirety of her adulthood living a modest lifestyle as she tries to make her own way in the world. She works as a bicycle courier and spends most of her free time training at a local MMA gym. Despite her simple lifestyle choices, she is actually the heiress to a massive fortune. Her father Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West) vanished seven years ago and is now presumed dead. Lara will receive his fortune if she signs the paperwork admitting that he is no longer living. Just as she's finally going to admit he's gone, Lara discovers a new piece of information that may lead her to the last known location of her father. Instead of accepting her inheritance, she scrounges up what little money she has and sets out on an adventure in search of her missing father.

We've always imagined "Tomb Raider" would be one of the easier materials to adapt from video game to feature film. It has been nearly two decades since either of us has played "Tomb Raider," game, but if we remember correctly, it's a simple adventure game about finding artifacts and unraveling mysteries with an occasional shootout/action scene. It sort of sounds like a modern-day Indiana Jones if Indiana Jones were a wealthy British woman. These games were adapted previously into the movies "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" and its sequel "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life," both of which starred Angelina Jolie. These movies are extremely goofy and super over-the-top in their execution, dialogue, and storylines. In this take on the material, director Roar Uthaug and his team of writers take a more grounded approach to the franchise and slowly build Croft and her backstory while trying to develop her into a layered character who feels a little more human. Though there is a lot of talk of myths and legends, they do their best to keep the themes grounded in science and reality. This new version of "Tomb Raider" still ventures into over-the-top territory when it comes to its action sequences, which are still video game-esque but look much more polished than the ones seen in the 2001 and 2003 films. Lara often performs larger than life feats and survives deadly situations relatively unscathed, though she is not entirely uninjured or unmuddied, which we appreciate for the sake of believability.

This movie had a lot of built-in potential. There are glimmers of what could have been something good, not just "video game good," mind you, but actually "fun adventure movie good." Alicia Vikander is an Oscar-winning actress, so she can pretty much act well in anything. She does a fine job with what she's given, but what she's given ain't great. The biggest problem with the story is that it drags way too much and is needless over-dramatic. There are times when we were flat out bored with what was going on in the story. We also don't feel like the relationship between Lara and her father is developed enough for us to care if she found him or not. The main evil organization, Trinity, still remains mostly a mystery when the credits roll, and its intended purpose and interests are left purposefully vague in the hopes that this film would make enough money to get a sequel. We hate that shit. Make a movie, explain important things, and don't assume in this day and age you're going to automatically get a sequel if you make even a little bit of money (we're looking at YOU, Dark Universe). The main sub-boss villain, Mathias Vogel (Walter Goggins), is developed just enough where we can understand his motivations for doing the things he does. He is even a little sympathetic at times, though he is clearly off his rocker. Unfortunately, Goggins doesn't get much to do here, which is a shame because he has been such a menacing presence elsewhere.

In the end, "Tomb Raider" does have a couple moments of fun and excitement. It flirts with the idea that it could have been better than it is. Unfortunately, a cringe-worthy script, unanswered questions, and a mundane premise we've seen dozens of times before makes this movie pretty dang dull and derivitive. The narrative isn't quite strong enough to move it over the finish line and into "good" territory.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.9/10
RT Rating: ~50%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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