Film Review: Tomb Raider (UK, 2018) is the video game to film curse lifted?

Alicia Vikander embodies Tomb Raider, Alicia is Lara Croft! There’s no pushing it aside and it must be said it’s miles above Angelina Jolie’s attempt at the character (it may have been Simon West‘s direction at the time, who knows?).  Here, we have a more grounded, fierce and believable action heroine in Vikander. A woman that doesn’t need to be hand fed the riches or the handout her father may have left her, but not invincible enough on her own just yet either (at least to begin with), Lara can just barely stand her own in a rundown gym’s MMA match. Not that most of us would last much longer either.

Alicia Vikander (Tomb Raider, 2018)

Let’s get things clear, Lara Croft, living the bicycle courier life in the suburbs of London is a very different origin story for this new Tomb Raider. Even early on Lara casually drop a famous game quote “I’m not that kind of Croft” to her friend in passing and it’s a subtle line the film nods towards the audience and follows throughout, proving, rather successfully, for anyone used to the Tomb Raider of old and new, the video game to film curse ends here with the hopeful success of this film and it deserves to because it’s a damn fine ride.

Tomb Raider, the film, is based off the recent re-booted Tomb Raider franchise of video games started in 2013 by developer Crystal Dynamics (published by Square Enix), aptly named Tomb Raider and its sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider. Roar Uthaug directs this new incarnation and gives our new Lara the not so idyllic life fans have come to know her for. Wanting absolutely nothing to do with the inheritance or the Croft manor her father Richard Croft (Dominic West) left her after his disappearance seven years prior.

Trying to juggle jobs, debt and some not so deeply seeded daddy issues, it isn’t long until events lead her back home and setting her on a path to find the whereabouts of her father and stopping an attempt to release the ancient threat of an evil Queen Himiko on a fabled island of Yamatai.

Catching a ride with the drunken Lu Ren (Daniel Wu being slightly under-used) on a ship named the Endurance goes exactly to plan (for video game followers), just not in a good way, crashing into the fabled island and meeting up with the big, bad Mathias Vogul (Walton Goggin’s), who leads a military-esque group named Trinity, trying to blow their way into the secrets of the islands treasure.

Daniel Wu and Alicia Vikander (Tomb Raider, 2018)

The film succeeds on so many levels as a successful video game adaptation, purely running off the strengths of its titular character, Lara Croft. Seeing Alicia Vikander taking in so much punishment, in the beginning of her island tour, is brilliant to behold and the stunt work from Vikander is breathtaking in the parts that aren’t completely encapsulated in CGI. The special effects work well though, as they aren’t given the time on-screen to overstay their welcome, scenes are fast and furious when the action takes hold, leaving little time to criticise and just enough to be believable.

Where the film slowly falls apart is in its reliability on existing adventure film clichés and as a close friend said, rip-offs from other treasure hunting films. It’s hard, however, to pinpoint a criticism at the films script when the very game it’s based off has always done this for over 20 years now and this time around has stuck firmly to its new source material.

Yes, a treasure needs to be found before the big bad guy gets a hold of its power, a hero with family issues (some very cheesy daddy and daughter scenes) and a hero that seems to love putting themselves in extreme dangers they can just barely scrape through, but is this not what popcorn movies are made for, no one said it was meant to be an oscar-worthy film here?

Walton Goggin’s (Tomb Raider, 2018)

As for the bad guy, at least they give Walton’s character of Vogul a decent reason for being where he is, but it still felt like a lost opportunity and a jump back to the 80’s era style villains that laugh before getting their ultimate and laughable comeuppance. With a hero that can never fail and letting us all feel the lack of any sense of real dread and giving us a lot of cannon fodder along the way (or arrow fodder).  A nod to Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg) with the films exciting soundtrack too, it’s been done before of course, but the tightly woven musical score shines where it needs to and may even have added more character, where it was otherwise lacking.

Dual Wielding Anyone?

We end Tomb Raider with even more easter-eggs for long-time fans and a hope for the franchise’s future. I laughed with excitement and I gave a terrible high-five to my friend when the credits started to roll and we both smiled, a video game film that did not suck! Tomb Raider finally brings genuine grit and charm to this long-running video game franchise’s hero.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Tomb Raider is screening in Australian cinemas now through Roadshow Films.

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