Review - 'Tomb Raider'
I'm just going to go out there and say it: Tomb Raider is the first honestly good film based on a video game. Though there is nothing particularly spectacular about this movie, it has steady momentum from start-to-finish, decent-to-strong performances and most importantly it scratches that itch for an Indiana Jones-esque adventure that I feel many (myself included) have been waiting for.
Tomb Raider tells the story of Lara Croft, a young woman who has cut ties with her family and works as a bike courier in the city. When she is informed by Ana Miller, an associate of her father's, that her family's estate will be sold off if she does not claim her inheritance, she reluctantly signs. Upon investigating a hidden clue that her missing father left for her, she discovers that his last adventure was one that carried potentially world-threatening consequences if the wrong people reached a destination before he did. Lara decides to take matters into her own hands in hopes that she might find answers to her father's disappearance and the mysteries he was chasing.
I've long been of the mind that great movies can be made out of video games. I think it's foolish to think that it can't be done and simply believe that the stars haven't properly aligned for one to be great yet. Well, until now. While I have been known to throw my hat in the ring for a few past attempts, I'm also quick to admit that these particular films I have defended are more fun than actual good movies. Tomb Raider changes that. This film has a general confidence about it that stems from its well-realized protagonist and pacing that is consistently engaging. There was not a single moment in this film where I wasn't entertained. Director Roar Uthaug, who previously helmed the semi-indie disaster film The Wave, brings a sense of urgency to the proceedings and is constantly throwing new and interesting wrinkles at the audience.
The main thing that makes Tomb Raider work is that it values and respects its lead character in all of the right ways and knows that if you're not invested in her, you won't be invested in the story as a whole. Alicia Vikander is easily the strongest point of this film. She's vulnerable and human and you feel it every time she gets tossed around by the dangerous environments surrounding her. Her adventure is also interesting because it is anchored by a heartfelt father-daughter dynamic that actually hits all of the right emotional notes. Dominic West who portrays Lara's father, Richard Croft, sold me on a man who deeply cares for his daughter, but is saddled with the tough decision of having to leave her in hopes of stopping a sinister agenda. Another notable performance is from Walton Goggins, and even though he plays a lesser riff on some of his other villainous roles, he's still a menacing enough presence who is unpredictable and fun to watch. Finally, Daniel Wu plays Lu Ren, a sidekick of sorts to Lara Croft. Wu is likable in the role and does enough to not be an afterthought, while also never stealing the spotlight from Vikander.
Unfortunately Tomb Raider doesn't land every one of those daunting jumps that it attempts. While I don't feel like the film has any serious flaws to speak of, it's never really mind-blowing in any way either. When I think back on the what I saw there's no real moment that sticks out to me as particularly memorable, it all just kind of blends together into a competent if unremarkable action/adventure tale. Okay, I take that back, there's a pretty awesome sequence involving a waterfall and a rusty old plane, but we all saw that in the trailer. Oh, and a pretty cool bit of actual tomb raiding towards the end. Other than that, though, there's nothing here that inspires long conversations with friends outside of the movie theater.
I also don't think the movie is colorful enough. Tomb Raider has an almost washed-out look to it at times, and though it is competently filmed and the effects-work is good enough, I just didn't feel like there was anything particularly post-card worthy about what I was watching. In addition to this, the score by Tom Holkenborg is your typical loud and aggressive drum-banging, orchestral/electronic fanfare that is typical of the genre. The score's passable but I would have loved a more classical approach as it would have suited this film's aesthetic better.
Though Tomb Raider lacks in memorable moments and doesn't quite nail the more cosmetic aspects that I was hoping for, it's still an immensely entertaining action film that doesn't feel senseless and provides audiences with a modern-day Lara Croft that is likable and easy to get behind. Tomb Raider may very well be the pioneer into a new, undiscovered world where video games movies can be good.