By Daylon Bonner, Staff Writer
Iconic video game heroine Lara Croft returns to the big screen with her third attempt at a film with “Tomb Raider.” The film stars Alicia Vikander as the titular character. This adaptation focuses more on how she became the legendary Tomb Raider. It has a very similar plot to the 2013 video game of the same name and in many ways this film attempts to be a direct adaptation of it.
As many may know, movies based on video games have a terrible track record. Several filmmakers and noteworthy actors have tried in vain to get something off the ground. However, “Tomb Raider” is a step in the right direction for video game adaptations.
First off, recognition needs to be given to Vikander. She was great as Lara and really brought her character to life. She also brought some humor to the character. While the film is not a laugh riot, the added humor is a welcome change of pace. As you watch Vikander’s performance, you can witness a young Tomb Raider slowly come into her own.
Many of the scenes from the film were directly excised from the 2013 game, a deliberate choice that really resonated with the movie’s video-game-fan audience (including me). The sequence of the island landing is nearly a shot-for-shot remake of the game. The film also references the airplanes on a waterfall set piece. Some of her injuries and tactics are directly pulled from the game as well.
The film is by no means perfect however. It feels noticeably short, in the sense that too much time is devoted to Lara in London and consequently detracts from the extensive character development she should have received while on the island. The best action and dialogue in the movie occur on the island, and the scenes in London and Hong Kong do not have the same level of impact.
Speaking of Hong Kong, the ship captain who accompanies her, played by Daniel Wu, does not have many compelling scenes. Initially, his motivation for going to the island is noteworthy and well-founded but once he is on the island, his character is reduced to shooting a few guys and moving some rocks. That is honestly it. As stated before, the time spent in London and Hong Kong took away from Lara Croft’s own character development as well as from the additional characters.
The main antagonist of the film, Mathias, played by Walton Goggins, is also subject to many of the same problems that the ship captain suffers from. Mathias was also the villain of the 2013 game; but unlike the game, he seemed, in the film, to be more akin to an inconvenience than a legitimate threat to Lara. That is not to say he Goggins was bad fit for the role. In fact, he plays the role considerably well. That is just a testament to the bad pacing of the movie.
Those who are familiar with the actor will know that Goggins is no stranger to campy, over-the-top dialogue (e.g., “The Hateful Eight” and “Vice Principals”). The dialogue in this film is campy but he delivers it with a flat seriousness that makes him sound more credible than the movie made him out to be. Arguably, the most bothersome issue with Mathias’ movie character is that he is different from his character in the game only so that the studio could use him to bridge into a sequel that should already have been in high-enough demand. To put it bluntly, it says something about the character when he straight up murders someone and still doesn’t come off as a serious threat.
Comparisons with this movie and the game it was derived from are inevitable; and frankly, the game does not stack up. It does not have the same grandiose feel that the game had. Part of this is because there are fewer characters in the film, yet another part of it is due to the rushed evolution undergone by Lara. The woman on screen is a Tomb Raider in the making. That is definite. However, the journey to get there did not have the same level of gravitas and scale that the game did. It felt more like a second adventure than an origin story.
This is a decent movie with some good action set pieces and a solid portrayal of Lara Croft. “Tomb Raider” skirts by with a seven out of ten. The film is in theaters nationwide now.