And yet another video game movie graces our cinemas, another attempt to entice us gamers. Most of us usually end up groaning when we hear studios announce these movies and a lot of us end up disappointed, yet they are still being churned out year after year. There already have been two other Tomb Raider movies starring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft and as amazing as she was playing Lara, those movies were not great either. Yet here we are with another Tomb Raider movie though with a different actress taking the helm, Alicia Vikander, based off the game reboot of the same name and its sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix.
We have a new strong, independent Lara who has been holding on her own as she refuses to accept her inheritance, which to her means acknowledging her father’s death. “I’m just not that kind of Croft”, she says, like she does in the video games. She instead works a regular job as a bike courier (sort of like Food Panda but with bicycles) and gets beat in MMA sparring matches at her local run-down gym. Quite an unusual backstory for our girl Lara, but then again, this isn’t the video game. The film’s attempt at emotional connection between Lara and the audience, in my opinion, fails when all of this completely gets swept under the rug once she realises that if she doesn’t accept her inheritance, she will lose everything. Croft Manor becomes the carrot at the end of the stick. Okay, what?
Just before she signs her name on the dotted line, she finds a hidden message from her father, Richard Croft, and there starts her journey to becoming a tomb raider. Or so you think. Richard’s discovery of the tomb of Himiko, a Japanese empress with a deadly touch, had led to his disappearance 7 years prior and that is the driving force of Lara’s expedition. This then makes the movie feel more like a search-and-rescue mission rather than her being the movie’s namesake. Her drive of being an explorer, an adventurer and a collector of ancient artifacts like in the video games becomes non-existent. Not to mention that this monologue by Richard is the same as the one we hear at the start of the movie.
It is here where the movie merges the two Tomb Raider games together albeit very slightly. We find out during the monologue that Richard is being followed by an organisation called Trinity who seeks to claim Himiko’s deadly power. Trinity was only introduced in Rise of the Tomb Raider. Instead of following her father’s wishes to burn all his research on the whereabouts of Himiko, Lara uses his research to find out whether her father is still alive. Like I said before, this movie doesn’t become the tomb raiding adventure we know and love from the video games.
Another nod at the Tomb Raider game comes when we come across the ship Endurance, and meet drunken sailor Lu Ren (played by Daniel Wu) who is possibly the most underutilised character in this movie. He could have been so much more than just the one who brings Lara to Yamatai. Heck, he doesn’t even lead the charge against Trinity much less give any help (with exception of giving some people bullet wounds). He gets saved by Lara and just points his gun at things rather than doing something useful. I get that the movie is revolved around Lara as she is the main character, but it doesn’t mean that every other character doesn’t deserve further development. There were so many other scenes that could have been cut out to be given to other characters. This part of the movie disappointed me most of all. But I will not fault this as a failed video game-to-movie porting, this is all on the movie’s writers.
I also didn’t enjoy seeing Lara get constantly beat over and over again by male characters overacting on steroids. It’s bad enough that this origin story is badly written, it’s even worse to just have the heroine kicked, shoved, knocked at the back of the head and losing control of her own movie for some reason. However, it is curious how quickly she recovers from all these injuries, especially the one stab wound that she seems to not bleed out from after half a day of having it before getting sutured by her father. Despite all of this, I do feel like some of the action scenes make Lara pretty badass, especially when she sneaks around and snipes people with a bow and arrow. That was really fun to watch, as much of a blur it may have been.
All in all, Tomb Raider was a fun movie to watch with my brain turned off, especially the gamer brain. Don’t pay attention to the storyline and definitely do not compare the movie to the game. The action sequences were fun to watch and Alicia Vikander really did a good job playing Lara Croft and humanising her. I will say that this movie definitely is the better “video game movie” of the lot that has come out in recent years, and I can only hope that a sequel to this gets a different screenwriter because these movies need better writers. Click here if you're interested in a movie versus game comparison.
Jasmin’s rating: 3/5 - I won’t watch the movie again but will definitely the play game again.