Tomb Raider was… interesting. I am very conflicted about how I feel. On one hand, there was a lot of stupid in this movie. But with every moment of stupidity, there was a moment I actually liked. I went into the movie expecting to not like it, but to my surprise, I left the theater smiling. Tomb Raider is by no means good, but I think I actually enjoyed watching it.
For all its faults, it felt like a Tomb Raider game. More specifically, it felt like one of the more recent Tomb Raider games. The general premise was very close to the premise of the series reboot that came out in 2013. Lara Croft charters a boat, in search of a hidden island, that is supposed to house the remains of an ancient Japanese empress. This empress was said to have mystical powers. The boat crashes and Lara ends up stuck on the island and has to deal with some militants while uncovering the secrets of the island. The plot similarities end there, but the basic premise stays the same. Whereas in the game, Lara goes there trying to prove herself, and finish her dad’s life work, in the movie Lara only goes there to search for her father who went missing 7 years before and was presumed dead.
The movie keeps the gritty violence of the games. Lara gets beat up, bruised, and even suffers the exact same injury that she did in the game. There is also a part of the movie where she is running and tries to cross a ridge on a crashed plane. The plane starts to fall, and she gets stuck inside. The scene feels like it was ripped out of a Tomb Raider, or even an Uncharted game. There was another scene where the boat was crashing, and she has to swing across some bars to try to reach the lifeboat. Again, it feels like it could be in the video game.
I really appreciate these scenes. It showed me that the people behind the movie aren’t just trying to cash in on the title of the game. They appreciated the games and wanted to do them justice. The action scenes were all fun, though some felt forced into the movie.
Alicia Vikander made for a terrific Lara Croft in my mind. I know some creeps that review movies thought she was not “busty” enough to play the titular video game character, but I thought she looked perfect. She was believable, had some charm, and looked great. This is not the Lara of the old games, it is the modern Lara. The more realistic Lara. She does not need to look like Angelina Jolie to be a good Lara Croft.
I appreciated that she got beat up, and did not stay pretty. She got dirty, her hair got tangled and messed up. It is absurd in these movies where the female protagonist looks great from start to finish despite going through hell.
But I also said there was some stupid in this movie. Like how when she gets to Japan and is asking around looking for a particular person. Some shady looking characters approach her, pretending to be willing to help, and we know where the scene is going. They try to steal her bag, we get a contrived chase scene, she cuts them off, overpowers one of the guys, and gets her bag back. But oh no, he takes out a knife, and now they are chasing after her. They chase her onto a boat, and it looks like she is cornered until the boat owner comes out with a gun and saves her. And what are the chances, the boat belongs to the guy she was looking for all along? What a coincidence that they chased her right to the place she was trying to find.
They tell us the guy she was looking for has a gambling and alcohol problem, but after the first scene he is in, it never comes up again. What is the point of making us think he is an addict if that information is irrelevant to the rest of the movie?
They make a bunch of smart, subtle choices writing-wise, but then waste those choices with different bad writing decisions. For instance, they do a good job showing us how stubborn she is, without having to tell us early on. In one scene, she is in a gym and learning martial arts. She is in a match with another woman, who is clearly a better fighter than her. The woman puts Lara into a choke hold. People tell her to tap out, but she insists she can get out. Eventually, after struggling, she does tap out. I like this scene. For one, it is a good way of showing why Lara is in such good shape and is a capable fighter when the actions scenes come later on. She is not just learning combat on the fly when thrust into action, she has already been training for a long time. It also shows us her personality, and her stubbornness, without them having to tell us how strong or stubborn she is. They double down on this in a later scene when we learn she has refused to sign her father’s will, that would grant her the inheritance because it would be admitting her father died. The fact she is willing to forgo her wealth, her childhood home, and her family company, all to avoid admitting her father is really dead, is another smart character moment that is show don’t tell.
But, then they undercut all of this by having a parade of people comment on how stubborn and strong she is. Hey writers, you convinced us of these traits already. You did a great job of showing not telling, so why make the mistake of over-explaining it to us by having every character comment on these things?
They also undercut her decision to not sign the will but having her change her mind in the next scene. I mean she ends up getting sidetracked during the meeting with the lawyer, and not signing yet. But she was ready to sign the will. Why did she change her mind so quick? She was insistent on not signing it, then after one flashback back scene with an awful child actress, she changes her mind. Why do you keep ruining your good writing with bad writing after the fact?
There are multiple times Lara has to solve some riddle in this movie, and she figures it out with no problem. Now I do not need to see her stress over it for 10 minutes, but maybe show her have any type of thought process, not just instantly figure it out. They have one riddle scene later that is effective, where she does not just instantly figure it out, why not do that with the several scenes earlier. There are two puzzle boxes that she figures out with the speed of a world champion Rubix cube solver. Why even make it a riddle or puzzle if she is going to solve it in less than 10 seconds?
Still, despite the stupid stuff I pointed out, and some other stupid stuff, I liked Tomb Raider. It showed potential. Video game movies have never turned out very well, but as of now, I would name this as one of the better ones. There are some flaws they have to fix, but this could be a good franchise.I hope we get a sequel, and that in the sequel they can make less of these flaws, but keep the good parts. It would be great if video game movies could start being good. Tomb Raider was a fun, yet flawed movie, and I would gladly watch it again sometime in the future.