You know how once a plane’s going fast enough, it naturally wants to lift off the ground? Tomb Raider is a plane that’s constantly trying to take off, but no matter how fast it keeps speeding, director Roar Uthaug is intent on grounding it.
It’s one of the least exciting action movies I can remember seeing, and I saw Munich. But at least that had the talent and ambition of Steven Spielberg behind it.
Now that original Lara Croft Angelina Jolie is too “unmarketable” to star as the acrobatic adventurer (read: over 40), recently minted Oscar winner Alicia Vikander has taken up the bow and adze.
Also, since there’s a whole generation who barely know Tomb Raider beyond Uncharted references, the new entry in the series reboots Lara’s story for a new audience. Not that it makes any kind of good use at all out of the opportunity.
As a young girl, Lara’s rich adventurer father Richard (Dominic West) disappeared on a quest to find a mythical tomb on an uncharted island to prevent a global curse. After seven years, the world has given him up for dead and Lara is positioned to take over his massive company.
No prizes awarded for guessing she ultimately goes back to the island, finds her father, and discovers the myth is real.
I’d go into more plot details but… You don’t need them. I tried to pay attention to them, but past a certain point, when the movie itself doesn’t even care, why should the audience? Tomb Raider makes up its rules as it goes, changes its mind mercurially, and just forgets about entire characters or story arcs as it randomly loses interest in them.
A couple parts of Tomb Raider work. Oscar-winner Vikander is wonderful, committed to the role in a way Jolie never bothered to be. Co-star Daniel Wu is excellent in a character that aims to serve the function of Daniel Craig’s and Gerard Butler’s roles in the first two Tomb Raiders. And I’d be remiss to not mention that, like The Lost World: Jurassic Park, there’s one — albeit only one — absolutely stunning action sequence about halfway through the movie.
But screenwriters Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons seem to find legitimate action so anathematic that Vikander and Wu find themselves straining to provide all the movie’s momentum through intensity alone, which only gets the movie so far.
The farther along it goes, the faster Tomb Raider runs out of steam and the more frequently it begins stealing sequences wholesale from other sources, be they Indiana Jones movies, the Uncharted games, Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon novels, or TV’s Lost. (At one point, a myopically obsessed character actually says, “Until I’ve accomplished my purpose here, I’m not allowed to leave the island.”)
Gamers will find little to appreciate here. Fans of action will find less. Kids will be traumatized by the decapitations and the rusty-hook surgeries. Adults will be aggravated by the myriad, gaping plot holes. It’s hard to tell who the audience for Tomb Raider really is.
Video game movies are destined for greatness very soon, as a generation of filmmakers raised on Super Nintendos and PlayStations get their hands on more scripts and cameras. (Just look at Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.) But Tomb Raider sure isn’t going to do it. It’s not just a bad movie, but it’s one of the worst video game movie adaptations. Let that just sink in.