Ah video game movies. The bastard child of the movie industry. So much potential is there, and in recent years we have had Warcraft and Assassins Creed both attempt to make something of it. Years ago Angelina Jolie took on the role of Lara Croft in an adaptation very much in the vein of the early games in the late 90’s. This time round oscar winner Alicia Vikander steps into an adaptation based on the more recent Tomb Raider games.
I played both of the newer Tomb Raider games, and they are genuinely fantastic. Taking Lara Croft in a more realistic direction and away from the crass nature of the early games. The initial set pictures from this film looked very similar to the 2013 game, with the outfit Vikander is in almost exactly the same as the game character.
Getting away from the video game comparisons, Tomb Raider starts off by introducing us to the character of Lara Croft, and showing us the belief and determination that’s a key part of the character. She has reasons for not accepting the inheritance and it’s just about believable. This was the first time in the movie where I felt it was a little far-fetched, as there is obvious answers that are just ignored a few times throughout.
Aside from that the first half hour builds Lara up well, getting us engaged with the character and Vikander is excellent in the role, commanding the screen. She is great as the lead and carries the film well. There are some issues I have with the characters abilities and toughness, but more on those later. The antagonist played by Walton Goggins, threatens to be an interesting villain but falls into a few too many tropes and standard bad guy things to make him a really intriguing villain for me.
The film builds out Lara’s history with flashback scenes to her father, played by Dominic West, and its used to try to build out her motivations for going on the adventure we follow her on. It’s done quite well, with just the right amount of cheesy-ness to remind you this is a video game movie not a serious drama. Once her motives are established and she has the clues she needs to push her towards it, she sets out on her adventure.
From here the movie does slow a little, and it feels like a transition between 2 different kinds of movies. The first half is a believable story about a daughter who wants to find her father, and the second half an action adventure film aiming for Indiana Jones but Tomb Raider hits closer to the average Kingdom of the Crystal Skull than the legendary Raiders of the Lost Ark. It even has some puzzles very clearly inspired by Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
The action scenes contain moments right out of the 2013 game, and as a fan I appreciated the moments. However the one thing that sticks out at a few separate times is the strange laws of physics in this world, seemingly borrowed from the Fast and the Furious franchise. Lara can jump and catch onto ledges and objects with spiderman like reflexes, as well as withstand an incredible amount of damage. From falls to shrapnel wounds, you regularly see her in pain, only for her to be sprinting and jumping around minutes later. This is a regular thing in video games, Call of Duty infamous for allowing you to recover from 2 bullets to the head and a grenade by just crouching behind a wall for 10 seconds. However in a movie it feels little ridiculous to see the lack of wear the character feels from all of her heroics.
The plot of follows a similar path to the game, but tries to stay a little more in the realm of believability, kind of, barely, a little bit I guess. It seems to me like the filmmakers were a little unsure of whether to go full on with the video game story, or make a film that makes logical sense in the real world. I think they should have committed fully to the wacky, more fantastical elements of the games, or gone with a more realistic plot device to keep things more grounded.
A lot of this seems like a bad review, but honestly I did actually enjoy big parts this film for what it was. Vikander is the star of the show, and her Lara Croft is a character I would like to see again, it’s a promising start for the franchise, with potential there, but this one didn’t hit it out of the park like I was hoping it would. The wait for a truly great video game movie goes on, but this one is a respectable step in the right direction.
Good: Alicia Vikander, Fun action and puzzles, easter eggs for video games fans, some excellent leaping for ledges, and the bit at the end of a dungeon in a lot of games where you have to run away whilst everything falls apart.
Bad: One note villain, some ridiculous physics, and the bit at the end of a dungeon in a lot of games where you have to run away whilst everything falls apart. Yes, that’s both a pro and a con, fun easter egg but looked ridiculous.
5.5/10 – Tomb Raider just about gets a thumbs up.