A video game legacy that swept the shelves in the age of PlayStation was only the start of this legendary series. Growing so big to inspire a first movie series, the Tomb Raider adventures continue to sneak itself into the mix of modern relevance in the video game/movie world. And this weekend, a group of friends and I check out the reboot of the film series with Tomb Raider, I know such a unique title. Trading Angelina Jolie for Alicia Vikander, Sony and Square Enix hopes for a revival to boost their future sales for projects to come. Will it work? Robbie K back to bring you another review on the latest Silver Screen stories:
Alicia Vikander: Jolie had her own flare, but Vikander brings the modern Lara tone to full life with an independent edge and a devil may care attitude. She portrays the poster child girl power explorer this age calls for, but manages to keep the soft core beneath the hard exterior that is a relatable weakness. Vikander’s abilities to display all the emotions are admirable, and she crafted a Croft that was very enjoyable to go on this journey with, and yes, she is a role model for girls/women everywhere, perhaps enough to motivate some archery.
The Latter Part of The Story: The movie’s second act is when the quality starts to come in, managing to tie the elements set up in the first part and give it a video game like twist. Lara’s fight in the wild against Trinity’s tyranny is a semi-suspenseful adventure that you are looking for. Integrating action brawn with puzzle-solving brains, the trials on the island are certainly the most exciting part of the movie, (perhaps in an homage to Indiana Jones to which it copies much from). Regardless, this adventure part brings the emotion to full boil, while keeping the story grounded and evolving the character. It works quite well for the start of the series, and one I look forward to seeing grow if they do it right.
The Action and Stunts: If you’re a gamer, you know that Tomb Raider is not just puzzle solving, and exploration, but also a little action into the mix. This film integrates that component as well, just in more versatile ways than you might expect. A few chase scenes hold impressive speed and acrobatics to get the momentum going, eventually transitioning into Lara vs. the elements. Soon Lara is wielding primitive weapons against big bad cronies that feels like something out of the Hunger Games we oh so love. It’s not the most exciting/overbearing, but it goes with the theme of exploration this movie was aiming for, which most likely is why the story didn’t suffer too much.
More suspense: In the games, you get caught up in life and death situations that put your skills and stamina to the extreme. This installment had moments that teased at this, but they didn’t quite have the design the games do. Lara’s challenges were a little short live, and had they been extended could have given us a couple of climactic battles/stunts to really seal the adventure’s thrills. Half of my group appreciated the tameness, but others would have liked the mercenaries or traps to have a little more bite.
The CGI: Another mixed bag of quality, Tomb Raider’s visuals are decent for the most part. The cinematography of the various cities is dynamic, and the island’s jungles hold the wild atmosphere that they wanted. When the computer work comes in, they do a decent job creating storms and rusting planes that seemingly blend in with the real-world props in store and become a fun interactive, obstacle course for her to play in. Once the temple starts to appear though, the artificial images start to become obvious, going from slightly fake, to unbelievably cheesy. Given the video game, high-definition graphics, the movie should have been able to copy the magic and give us a little more impressive visualization, especially during the great climb.
The First Part of The Story: What we all agreed on though, was how the first part of the story was seemingly out of place in the whole grand scheme of the story. While not only slow, the opening half an hour has some out of place scenes whose only connection is to show off that she is poor and missing her father. The stunts, while impressive, are just not necessary (though a cool show off of girl power), and only extended the movie to large proportions. The comedy scene is cute, a good nod to British humor, but once more sorely sticks out into this awkward mash that is just not relevant to the story. If you stick with the movie past the opening, you are okay, but don’t expect to be captivated by the opening.
The Sidekick: Finally, the side kick played by Daniel Wu was a decent character, but sadly I didn’t think he was utilized the most he could have. The into The Badlands star is known for bringing martial arts and steely stunts with a dynamic and engaging character. He sorts of reaches those proportions in this movie, but then fades to a few fleeting shots of waiting while Lara takes point for a large chunk of story. I would have liked to see him a little more engaged in the struggles and dynamics of the story to make for an interesting team dynamic this movie could have used.
Overall, Tomb Raider is an adventure the trailers mostly promised, bringing the expeditions into the jungle with gusto and having a leading lady to reboot the series with. Although that first act is not the strongest, or most relevant, opening, the second half of the show is ready to pick up the pieces and infuse excitement. Still, the CGI and story needed some polishing to achieve the goal of being a thriller and sending chills through your body. The movie is indeed a video game cinematic hybrid, with tons of nods to video game physics, but Square Enix needs to take the next installment up a level to have a chance of staying alive in the theaters.
My scores are:
Movie Overall: 7.0