The thing with video games is that they are more reliant on visuals and playability than they are about the stories they tell. That’s not to say that there haven’t been exceptions to this rule, but in a broader spectrum, this applies as a master rule. The issue with this, when adapted to the screen, is that when you take away the choices of the characters and your own involvement in progressing the story, you are left with a dire lack of things to work with. This applies in almost all video game property based films to date. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Its far more disastrous sequel, Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed etc. They all have the same problem which is lack of craftsmanship and a story that is too weak for the casual audiences and too watered down for the gamers. Tomb Raider falls trap to the same issues and then some.
The story starts with Lara Croft working as a delivery agent, far removed from the heiress to the Croft fortune that we know. Through a rather fun series of events, Lara gets approached by Anna, her longtime guardian of sorts, to sign over the papers declaring Richard Croft dead in absentia and leading to Lara inheriting her fortune. One thing leads to the other and Lara conveniently ends up on the hands of the Trinity, the evil militant institution seeking to gain the power of the supernatural. Yeah, before you take a guess, the film is indeed heavily based on the 2013 reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise.
When you make a film out of such a beloved property like The Tomb Raider, one must bear in mind the traits that make a character who they are.
For Lara, it’s her intelligence, her empathy, her bravery and her adventure-loving spirit. You get only glimpses of that in this film, if not a complete lack of it. Lara as a character has been completely and utterly poorly interpreted, leading to a one-dimensional caricature of our beloved tomb raider. The same can be said for almost every single character in the film, who are nothing more than mere imitation servants to the plot. As for the plot, it is filled with a sense of exhilaration which is about the only compliment that can be awarded to it. Discarding all traces of logic, the plot spirals into a cinematic equivalent of a drunk man’s story that has been told a thousand times over and is anything but stale to the audience. One must ponder at how one of the more acclaimed stories in the tomb raider saga ends up looking so bland. From underdeveloped one dimensional characters with the personality of a grape to clichéd conveniences, the screenplay of the film is an uninspired predictable mess.
Oscar winner Alicia Vikander is underwhelming.
She tries hard to salvage whatever traces of redeemable is within the character. The main issue with her performance is the lack of nuance to the character, becoming a poster girl for athletic grunting and daddy issues, which is a real shame because the character of Lara Croft can be written to become a character with depth and wit. Angelina Jolie, defined as THE Lara Croft, suffered from the same issues, but the silver lining there was that the movies were enjoyable enough to overlook the finer details. This, however, cannot be said for this iteration of the character. The question nagging me is the fact that why did an actress of Vikander’s calibre choose a film like this. If the jump from critically acclaimed to big budget crowd puller was her calling, then I’m pretty sure the Marvel Cinematic Universe could have allocated her somewhere.
Dominic West and Walton Goggins are at their worst. Neither display any real affection for their characters, nor are proactive enough to make something out of it like Vikander. They can’t be blamed given the sorry state of their characters, but one can still ask for the actors to try. Kristin Scott Thomas as Anna is criminally devoid of anything to do, which is really shameful given the terrific actress playing the part. Way too much focus has been given in setting her up for the sequels, which makes no sense as the only progression towards that happens in the last 5 minutes of the film, ultimately feeling rushed. Daniel Wu’s Lu Ren is merely a plot device and his devotion to Lara makes absolutely zero sense.
While the film is mostly good to look at, courtesy of the director of photography George Richmond, the overall scope remains unexposed. The scenes of lush forests and the daunting sea are pretty marvellous to look at, but that’s about it. The score is subpar, even more so when you consider that Hans Zimmer Alumni, Tom Holkenberg a.k.a Junkie XL(Mad Max: Fury Road, Deadpool, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice) scored it.
Swimming in the viper pit of sentiment, the film drags on the father-daughter trope, resulting in some cringe moments and even more cringy dialogue exchange. Everything points towards the major weakness of the film, direction. Riddled with pacing issues and an absurd level of unsure storytelling, director Roar Uthaug barely uses a percent of the confidence he displayed in his previous outing.
Nothing can sum up Tomb Raider better than a disaster, which is utterly shameful. Carrying on the torch of the curse of video game cinema, Tomb Raider displays its shortcomings like a trophy and results in a firework that never explodes. Predictable, devoid of logic and with poorly written characters, this is one Lara Croft your money is better not spent on. Perhaps they should have called it Doom Raider because doomed is what this film is.
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