Pedestrian crossing: Enjoyable 'Tomb Raider' traverses familiar ground
3 out of 5 Stars
Director: Roar Uthaug
Writer: Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Alastair Siddons, Evan Daugherty
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins
Genre: Action, Adventure
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and for some language
Synopsis: Lara Croft refuses to believe that her father, a wealthy businessman who moonlighted as an adventurer, is dead. Given a clue to his last destination, Croft embarks on a journey that takes her to the other side of the world to a long-forgotten island rumored to be the resting place of a great and evil being.
Review: As someone who grew up in arcades and spent numerous hours playing on various consoles, I’ve played my share of games from the Tomb Raider franchise. Even if I hadn’t, anyone with a passing interest in video games who grew up in the 1990s is aware of Lara Croft, even if they couldn’t tell you anything about her beyond her physical attributes and her penchant for treasure hunting.
It’s no secret that movie adaptations of video games don’t have a great track record. In fact, I’d say many of the adaptions have been horrible. Part of the problem is that narratives in video games are often built to facilitate gameplay, rather than to tell a cohesive story. It is an area that developers have vastly improved upon over the years, but the film adaptations have yet to catch up in that regard. It doesn’t mean I’m not clamoring for a "Bioshock" or "Dead Space" film, but I do approach these films with a sense of caution.
The good news is that “Tomb Raider,” working from a script by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons, based on a story by Robertson-Dworet and Evan Daugherty, knows exactly what it is and doesn’t try to be anything more than fun adventure movie that at various times recreates some of the classic scenes from the games. It certainly works better than “Assassin’s Creed” and is infinitely better than Tom Cruise’s “The Mummy,” but by playing it safe the film also manages to undercut what could have been an even better film.
There are moments, particularly in the final act, where there is ample evidence to suggest that “Tomb Raider” could have been a fantastic horror film with action elements. Director Roar Uthaug clearly has a feel for the horror genre (take a gander at his 2006 Norwegian horror “Cold Prey”) and when the script plays to his strengths the film is far more interesting than when it is dealing with Croft’s internal issues.
Alicia Vikander makes for a decent Lara Croft, she’s certainly game for whatever is thrown at her, but the character isn’t particularly well written. The first act feels like the writers were intent on distancing Croft from the Bruce Wayne/Batman character. It doesn’t exactly work, but it also doesn’t ruin the film.
I would have liked more from Daniel Wu’s character and Walton Goggins’ performance as Mathias Vogel, the film’s bad guy, is a bit over exaggerated, but all things considered, “Tomb Raider” is just good enough to appease action movie fans as well as those who love the Tomb Raider video games.