Tomb Raider, directed by Roar Uthaug, is a serviceable action-adventure film. However, if you have ever seen a film (or even played a video game) that is similar in structure, then you will more-or-less have experienced this film already. There is nothing particularly remarkable or memorable about it; only that it is entertaining enough in its offerings that you won’t be bored. So, is Tomb Raider a video game movie adaption you should make the time to see? Well, let’s find out in my review, shall we.
Lara Croft – played by Alicia Vikander – continually wonders and searches for answers to what the fate of her father was; Lord Richard Croft – played by Dominic West. Her search takes her to an uninhabited island near Japan where she encounters the dangerously insistent, Mathias Vogel – played by Walton Goggins – who seeks to harness the deadly secrets of the island that Lara’s father desperately sought to conceal. Lara will be hurled into a situation that she is at no point prepared for, and it will set her on a path to fulfilling the destiny of who she truly is meant to be.
Over the many years in which I’ve been playing video games, the Tomb Raider games have certainly been a part of that. From the early games to the most recent ones, I’ve dabbled in the franchise. However, I’ve never actually found myself completing one of the many games. But being a huge video game fan and having a tangential knowledge of the Tomb Raider franchise, I was (and always am) interested to see a video game be translated onto the big screen. We all know how good and successful video game movies are…
Tomb Raider (the film) is fine. It is a completely serviceable film. That would be what I would say if someone quickly asked me my thoughts on the film. But of course, it would be a little counter productive to have that be my review. You see, you only need look a little deeper to see that Tomb Raider is a film that while serviceable and entertaining enough; isn’t a film that does anything new or honestly that interesting. It turns out that when you make a film that’s based upon a video game that took all its inspiration from classic adventure movies of old; that there isn’t much room for anything unique or unpredictable.
If you’ve ever seen a film or experienced a story with treasure hunting, tombs filled with booby traps, a villain surrounded by dispensable mercenaries, etc, etc. Then you’ve pretty much already seen Tomb Raider. This isn’t a film that will ever surprise you. There isn’t some crazy twist around the corner that completely shifts your expectations. You will see every plot development coming and you will know exactly how things will play out. Now in terms of this film, that isn’t a killing blow. It doesn’t result in a film that is unpleasant or boring to watch. Director, Roar Uthaug borrows liberally from the 2013 game (a game that was highly praised and liked by many) and incorporates some exciting set-pieces and some fun adventure tropes into the film.
And at the forefront of it all is of course Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander). In the games I’ve never really found Lara Croft to be a character with much depth. In the more recent games there has been attempts to build the character out more, but she’s never been someone whose caught my attention. In the film its largely the same. As a character there’s the bare minimum to make you care about her. She has some witty retorts and a back-story that makes her someone you want to connect with. But the best decision they made for this film was to have it be Lara’s origin; before she became the greatest tomb raider there is. Having an inexperienced Lara who works off instinct and determination made her someone I wanted to root for. She started off being beat down and ended by standing over everyone else and showing a clear level of growth. A growth that felt earned over the course of the film and was rewarding to watch.
But what primarily saves the character of Lara is the actor playing her: Alicia Vikander. She brings a cheeky charm to the character and also a believable level of determination and strength. She took the limited selection of characteristics and added her own experience as an actor to them. She made the character seem like more than what she was and personally I think she was a major factor in making Lara Croft into more than a just one-dimensional character. The choice to cast her was very much the right one.
Unfortunately, beyond Lara Croft, the offering of characters isn’t great. Outside the attempts to build Lara up into someone who didn’t seem clichéd and simple, the same can’t be said for the other characters. Take the film’s antagonist, Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) who couldn’t be more bland and stereotypical. He is a bad guy seemingly for the sake of it. His motivations are sparse and not compelling. He is simply there to be someone for Lara to shoot at and oppose. It’s a shame because Walton Goggins is a really great actor and from his first scene I got the impression they were going to allow the him to bring some depth to the character, but that sadly wasn’t the case. Beyond his initial scene, Goggins is given an antagonist that just ticks off the boxes of generic bad guy stuff. I suppose it’s like everything in this film: generic but not bad.
It’s the same across the board for the other supporting characters. No one particularly stands out and no one is given anything that doesn’t fit the predictable mould of the film. There are some decent action scenes and Vikander certainly seemed to make the effort to be involved in doing as many of them as she could (which is respectable) but again, nothing really stands out – there’s nothing memorable.
I was hoping that the film would make the tomb raiding aspect of the film interesting to watch. Throughout the film, Lara is solving puzzles (little Japanese puzzle boxes) that later helps her with the actual tomb. It would have been nice to have felt included with this. To be able to play along and try to decipher some of the riddles or potential booby traps. Instead the film explains nothing to you and you’re left to sit there and passively watch as Lara completes everything. It was a further example of not feeling like a participant in the film and more just a passenger. Having the option to participate in solving the mysteries in my head would have gone along way to making the film a much more engaging experience.
In the end, Tomb Raider played out as I expected it to and I was fine with what I got. I was mildly entertained for 2-hours and didn’t feel like I had wasted my time when the credits rolled. I know that in a week I won’t be thinking about Tomb Raider. In fact, it probably won’t be until they announce a possible sequel that I’ll put much thought towards this film. For a video game movie, it passes and delivers a decent enough film. As an action, adventure film it’s the same. I am content with my experience with Tomb Raider and got pretty much what I was expecting.
But interestingly, one thing watching the film caused me to do was pick up the 2013 Tomb Raider game (again) and have another go at playing through it. Who knows, maybe I’ll finish it this time. Either way, I’m sure that’s an outcome that the developer, Crystal Dynamics and the publisher, Square Enix were hoping for – a resurgence in people playing their games.
I’m fine with recommending Tomb Raider. Don’t go in expecting anything amazing. Temper your expectations and try to just enjoy what is a palatable experience. I did and it’ll probably benefit you to do the same. But if you don’t end up seeing Tomb Raider; I wouldn’t worry too much about it. It’s probably a film best seen when it shows up on your preferred streaming service.
I’m interested to know what you thought of Tomb Raider, and the franchise of games as a whole. So please leave any opinions or feedback you may have in the comments section down below. Feel free to follow both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – for new reviews, updates and attempts at being funny (which is probably the worst way to sell my Twitter, but oh well). I’ll brings things to a close now by saying a massive thank you to you for taking the time to read my writing. I hope you liked it enough to return.