Newest “Tomb Raider” suffers pitfalls

Movie is mixed bag, yet Laura Croft is finally respected


It is no secret that video game movies are often notoriously bad. Faithfully adapting interactive entertainment into a passive viewing experience is quite the challenge, since it serves as a less engaging method of delivering a familiar story.

March 16 saw the release of “Tomb Raider” as an attempt to tackle the task and quell common criticisms of the genre. The film centers around video game icon Lara Croft, the titular Tomb Raider, as she embarks on an adventure to find her missing father on a mysterious, deserted island. The film does suffer some of the same predictable pitfalls as other adaptations, but Lara Croft’s footing is surprisingly stable this time around.

A re-imagined character

Back in 2001, Angelina Jolie portrayed the original version of Lara Croft: an oversexualized action heroine. In contrast, Alicia Vikander plays the far more serious protagonist of the rebooted Tomb Raider title of 2013 (which, by the way, is amazing), and she does it surprisingly well.

This Lara is a troubled young woman turned hardened survivalist. From her dramatic delivery to her muscular physique to her detailed expressions, Vikander commits. Lara is an instantly sympathetic character, and the dangers she faces are grueling, all thanks to the convincing performance.

Thankfully, director Roar Uthaug is the first of three filmmakers to treat the character like a human being. The camera does not oversexualize Lara Croft. This issue, commonly known as “The Male Gaze,” never burdens the film, and that is massively respectable.

The film’s shortcomings

Inevitably, “Tomb Raider” is not as good as the game upon which it is based. Over ten hours of story were crammed into two hours of footage, and it shows. The pacing takes a dip at the end of the second act. Some character motivations do not remain consistent. A few plot points could not hold up to even moderate scrutiny.

My biggest criticism of the film was of its villain–Vogel, played by Walton Goggins. Whereas I loved his performances in “Lincoln” and “The Hateful Eight”, Goggins mutes his performance here. He looks and sounds bored the entire movie, which is quite disappointing to see from such a skillful actor.

A final verdict

2018’s “Tomb Raider” is a mixed bag. Despite its flaws, the movie is undoubtedly entertaining. Not only is Alicia Vikander inspiring in the role, but the action throughout the movie is also clever, grounded and gripping.

The film is “popcorn” entertainment–pulpy action with a handful of effective character moments sprinkled throughout. Its protagonist is well-realized, and the the plot serves up a relatively robust adventure story, which is a miracle for a video game adaptation. On the movie grading scale, “Tomb Raider” gets a “B-” from me.

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