‘Tomb Raider’ redefines what it means to be a video game film (review)

Tomb Raider - Poster #1

“Some men like dangerous women…”

We’ve been down this road before a thousand times, and a thousand times we’ve always hit that same brick wall: video game movies aren’t good. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve been, there have always been three certainties in life: taxes, death, and the fact that video games have not been adapted well into films. Now, it’s not that video games don’t carry engaging or interesting stories, that’s not the case. The biggest and most common problem these types of films have is execution. From 1993’s Super Mario Bros. to 2016’s Assassin’s Creed, Hollywood has yet to properly adapt some of our most beloved game franchises into the proper and incredible stories that we all know they are. Cue 2018’s Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider, directed by Roar Uthaug, stars Alicia Vikander, Walter Goggins, Daniel Wu and Dominic West. Lara Croft is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer who vanished years earlier. Hoping to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance, Croft embarks on a perilous journey to his last-known destination — a fabled tomb on a mythical island that might be somewhere off the coast of Japan. The stakes couldn’t be higher as Lara must rely on her sharp mind, blind faith and stubborn spirit to venture into the unknown.

Tomb Raider featurette - Alicia Vikander

I’m going to be honest when I tell you that I didn’t have many high hopes for this film. When you’ve lived through over 25 years of failed video game film adaptations, you’d understand too. Luckily for me, I was extremely surprised! The film not only exceeded my expectations, but also blew them out of the water! If you’re not familiar with the Norwegian director, it’s ok. I, myself, have only seen one of his films in 2015, called The Wave. His direction and execution of that particular project was superb, and so it wasn’t much of a surprise to find how well he excels with Tomb Raider! His ability to create the vision for this film based on a franchise through his keen perception and writing team make this film work so well! Uthaug made it possible to bring something to the table for both avid fans of the franchise and something for the avid moviegoer, all without losing focus of the overall project. 

But every film is only as good as the people that portray the key roles, and this film is no exception. Again, being honest here: I didn’t think much of casting Alicia Vikander in the role of Lara Croft for the film. At the time, I didn’t think she could embody what we’ve come to know and love about the character, but again, I was wrong. Based off of the 2013 game, Vikander does an incredible job of creating a foundation for where Lara Croft begins her journey to becoming the female equivalent of Indiana Jones. Vikander shines in every scene that she’s in, and truly conveys a wide range of emotions seamlessly in this role.

Alongside her is a cast of incredibly talented performers, such as Daniel Wu and Dominic West, but one of the standouts for me was the performance of Walter Goggins as Mathias Vogel. Vogel, a man sent by an organization known as Trinity, is the main antagonist of the film. The complexity of his character is easily translated by someone of Goggins’ ability as a performer, and will make fans struggle as to either despise him or sympathize with him.

Now on to the big question I know a lot of you are probably asking: how does it stack up to the video game’s storyline? The answer is it actually stacks up really well! The film pays true homage to the video game franchise, and gives fans the love they’ve been looking for in a proper adaptation. Tomb Raider highlights some of the key moments in the 2013 video game by creating shot-for-shot recreations, and even pays off the classic Lara Croft look with a scene where she purchases her twin pistols, all while wearing her iconic braided ponytail.

Tomb Raider trailer - Alicia Vikander

Of course, no film is perfect, especially when it comes to video game adaptations. Obviously you’re going to have predictable moments, especially since the game has been out for 5 years. But in all honesty (I’m feeling overly honest today) I feel that these moments don’t detract from the journey of the character at all. Yes, I knew she was going to make it off of the boat, and yeah, I knew she was going to not get shot. She’s kind of the main character of a whole franchise. But none of that information ever took me out of the movie’s exciting thrill ride. Aside from some CG missteps, the film was really great!

All in all, I enjoyed watching Tomb Raider! The film was fun, exciting, had great dialogue, and had a complex antagonist. When it comes to adaptations, this film has shown that you have to have a trifecta of exceptionalism: a great cast, great direction and great writing. Without these 3 things, any adaptation -whether based on a book or a video game- can and will fall flat on its face. Let’s hope that as we move forward with future film adaptations, this knowledge becomes common to Hollywood, and recognize that this secret formula is essential to every filmmaker. Tomb Raider has opened the crypt to the secret potential of making a successful video game movie, so let’s hope humanity will take up where they left off, and begin creating a new era in cinema!

Rating: 4.5/5 Atoms

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