Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Tomb Raider (2018) review

    So, yeah, this wasn't very good. Lara Croft is one of the dominant female heroines in genre fiction at present with the problem of being one step forward, a backflip in place, and then a handstand. I absolutely loved Tomb Raider's 2013 reboot as a game franchise, even as it put our poor heroine through hell. I was less enthusiastic about the sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, which made her a somewhat unlikable plunderer of local Russian artifacts versus an anti-Catholic conspiracy theory. In effect, I have questions over whether people really know who they want Lara Croft to be.

She can't even get a job in academia?
    Is Lara Croft the female Indiana Jones? Is she more like Batman with a billion dollars and way too much free time on her hands but a desire to protect the world's cultural treasures? A free-wheeling adventuress? A hardened survivor? Well, she's all of these as the characterization of iconic characters like this varies tremendously. The version here, however, is not one I think very highly of.

    The premise is a fusion of the 2013 video game with the Rise of the Tomb Raider games (which were partially based on the Angelina Jolie movies). Lara Croft is a poor bike messenger who refuses to accept her billion dollar inheritance because she holds out hope her father is alive despite his disappearance. After finding a convoluted series of clues in Croft manor, she ends up journeying to the island of Yamatai where she finds her father is still alive but hunted by the mysterious Trinity organization.

She looks the part, at least.
    The problem with the movie is it's honestly just kind of boring. Lara loses an MMA fight, gets in an illegal bike race where she cheats, and fights some pick pockets in Hong Kong for the first hour of the movie. This is in comparison to the original movie which opens with Lara Croft having a fight with a robot, a bungie chord fight, and a fight with an enormous living stone statue. It's also a disappointment compared to the game where after a shipwreck, she's immediately thrust into a dangerous survival situation.

    Alicia Vidkander is perfectly fine as Lara Croft. She's a little on the waifish side but clearly worked hard to make herself tough enough for this role. I think her acting chops are certainly up to the role, too, but the movie doesn't give her much to do with. She's upset her dad is missing but doesn't seem to have any friends and there's no one for her to play off against like in the video game (where she had an entire crew to rescue) or the movies (where she had a butler as well as IT guy).

    Walton Goggins is wasted in his role as Mathias because he resembles neither the Mathias of the games nor Konstantine from the sequel. He plays a very subdued, almost stoic role that does not suit the story in the slightest. Really, it's hard to believe Lara should want to kill him whatsoever. We also don't get much use out of Anna, Lara's godmother and Richard Croft's ex-girlfriend. I didn't even know a character was Anna until the end of the movie.

There's some decent stunts at the end.
    The choice to remove the supernatural elements of Himiko from the story, presumably to appease China, didn't do the story any services either. Himiko is an undead monster after all and if they couldn't do that then they should have made her an alien or something. I'm not sure why Trinity felt like what they did do (Himiko was the carrier of a deadly virus who needed to be isolated for the rest of her life) was worthy of acquiring. I understand Drake's Fortune had a similar plot but I imagine it made more sense.

    There's a few good moments towards the end, when we have a recreation of the game's "waterfall" moment and Lara trying to deal with a massive derelict WW2 bomber. I also enjoyed when Lara actually went into the tombs (one might even say "raided" them). However, even those action sequences had some logic elements. They have Lara killing Trinity baddies with her bow and that's all well and good but she ignores taking their guns--why? The Lara in the game does steal guns from her enemies. Oiye.

    This feels like a movie where the producers didn't exactly know what to do with the material and they just made what they thought a Lara Croft movie should be about: daddy issues, shooting bows, and trying to make our heroine relatable through poverty. The problem is that it's a bit like making Bruce Wayne a dock worker or Tony Stark a IT guy. Lara Croft is iconically a member of the gentry and that's just part of her persona. It doesn't help Lara doesn't have anyone to emote off of either, which would have benefited the softer story they're trying to tell.

    In conclusion, I just don't see a reason to see this movie. It's not the worst thing to ever come out of the Tomb Raider franchise but it's far from the best. Basically, they didn't give either the action or characterization necessary to make this movie work. I feel like there's more I should say about the movie but there's just not much to say. It's not a bad movie but at least a bad movie would have felt like it tried.



  1. The problem with Rise of the Tomb Raider is that Trinity is a boring cliched villain group with absolutely no charisma. Mathias and his cult had a logical if twisted reason for doing what they were doing and he had charisma. Konstantin was just boring one note sociopath guy who works for a evil organization with vague objectives.

    1. Yes, I gave it a 5 out of 10 versus the 10 out of 10 I gave before. It's also weird how vilified Trinity when it also made it clear the Divine Source was evil.

    2. I see it as more of the Monkey's Paw. It will give you what you wish for just not in the way you may expect it to do which can cause much more harm than good. Trinity wanted to use the Divine Source as well.

  2. Konstantine wanted to use the Divine Source because his sister was dying of cancer. Byzantium Trinity wanted to destroy it.

  3. I don't think this is the fault of the filmmakers, the movie is actually pretty good about using physical sets, but there's a couple of effects that look awful by today's standard. The most noteworthy element is the sword-wielding statue that Lara does battle against by endlessly firing clips at it (a clear indication that more movement either wasn't possible or in the budget). I will applaud the production for using physical sets for most of the film, but these elements are hard to ignore/not laugh at.).yidio And zmovies