“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Tomb Raider

I think this new TOMB RAIDER is kinda good. You probly shouldn’t listen to me because I also kinda liked the new THE MUMMY, and this doesn’t have the benefit of cool monsters.

It’s very much the opposite of what I liked about the previous movies based on this same video game series. I watched LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER and LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE each ten years after they came out, and very much enjoyed Angeline Jolie’s shamelessly larger-than-life super heroine who parachutes into people’s Jeeps while talking to them on the phone, punches and hitches rides on sharks to escape flooded ruins, rides motorcycles on the Great Wall of China, etc. She has the talents and wits and acrobatic wire-fu skills to easily come out on top in any impossible situation, and that’s why it’s fun.

So I was skeptical when I saw that the new one was going for a “realistic” approach (partly based on a newer version of the video game). Doesn’t sound as fun to me. And Alicia Vikander, as much as I liked her in EX_MACHINA and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., looked silly to me in the trailers, leaping off crumbling cliffs, getting tossed around and scraped up and still John McClaning her way out of the rubble. She seemed too small and skinny and delicate for that to be believable. So when word on the movie was dire I gave up most of the hope that had been instilled in me by my admiration for director Roar Uthaug’s slasher movie COLD PREY and especially his viking-ish chase movie ESCAPE. (Once again, I highly recommend that movie.)

But TOMB RAIDER turned me around in a matter of minutes by introducing Vikander’s Lara Croft just right. We meet her in the ring at an MMA gym getting her ass handed to her. Yeah, she’s skinny, but seeing her cheese grater abs, tense muscles, popping veins and ROCKY temerity changed my mind. This is not a Lara Croft that can spin around on a rope gracefully firing two machine guns, but it’s one who can grapple and take a beating and take a long time to tap out of a choke hold.

She doesn’t live in a mansion, either. She gets banned from the gym for unpaid dues, despite working hard as a bike messenger. And we learn that this is sort of by her own stubborn choice – her famous rich guy father has been missing for seven years, and she refuses to give up on him, so she won’t sign the papers that would give her his vast business empire. All she has is what he taught her about puzzles and archery – the important shit.

Of course it’s a puzzle that leads her to discover his secret double life and the mission he was on to find the hidden burial place of a Japanese goddess of death. Even if she refused the call she’d still be the Tomb Raider, because she finds his files in an office hidden inside his mausoleum. But she recruits a Chinese boat captain named Lu Ren (Daniel Wu, Poison Dagger from THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS) who also has a father who also went missing around the same time as hers, and they head out on a search that strands them on a remote island where Justified‘s Walton Goggins and his army of mercenaries and prisoners are trapped until they find and open that death goddess tomb for an ominous organization called Trinity.

Unsurprisingly, Lara finds dear old dad (Dominic West, THE PUNISHER’S WAR ZONE) looking like Robinson Crusoe or Joaquin Phoenix circa I’M STILL HERE, so there’s some closure there, but he insists he can’t move on Walton or risk being forced to use his puzzle powers to open the grave and end the world with an evil curse or some shit. Needless to say it turns into an Indiana Jones style archaeological trek full of deadly traps, riddles, puzzles, skeletons and collapsing stone architecture.

Because Lara has been so well established as tough but not invincible (and especially after the scene where she chokes a guy in water, out in the field winning the fight she couldn’t back at the gym, but sobbing the whole time) it works better than you might think. Watching her walk on a ladder above a skeleton-strewn chasm gave my stomach a nudge. But they also stretch their credibility a little too far in sequences like the one where they keep tossing her crucial life-saving jewels from across the pit and she one-handed catches them every single time. And no one seems surprised. I would get it if it was Angelina-Lara, but Alicia-Lara can’t be expected to do this shit so easily. And I can’t help but think that the SPOILER non-supernatural explanation for what’s going on isn’t as fun as if she got to jiujitsu a mummy. I’m told this is a criticism that video game purists agree with, but you don’t even have to factor that in. It’s just a fact that a movie like this without monsters is inferior to a movie like this with monsters. Look it up. It’s in there, in science books and stuff.

I don’t know who was responsible for that choice, but the script is credited to Geneva Robertson-Dworet (CAPTAIN MARVEL), Alastair Siddons (TRESPASS AGAINST US) and Evan Daugherty (SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, KILLING SEASON, DIVERGENT, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES).

Not a screenplay problem: the climactic escape is pretty cool but the falling debris is so obviously a special effect that I have to admit I was much more thrilled by the bicycle race sequence at the beginning, before she was even a tomb raider. That one was all stunts and editing and it had such a sense of speed and danger. I wish there was more of that feeling at the end.

Man, I really think all the stuff about setting up Lara’s pre-adventure lifestyle is the best stuff in the movie. So if this didn’t do well enough for a part 2 (which I would’ve happily seen in the theater this time) how bout a lower budget LARA CROFT: BIKE MESSENGER prequel? She has to deliver things on time and she gets chased and she’s in an underground fight circuit or whatever. Think about it Hollywood.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 12th, 2018 at 1:09 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

27 Responses to “Tomb Raider”

  1. I was skeptical at first but Vikander won me over as Lara (for the reasons you mentioned, Vern).

    The film is allright. I’ve only seen Vikander previously in THE MAN FROM UNCLE (Great film!) and JASON BOURNE (She’s terrible there).

  2. As a fan of the 2013 Tomb Raider game this is loosely based on I fucking HATED this movie with a passion.

    Almost every single thing that was cool about the game is left out of this movie and it’s not that I expected it to be a scene for scene adaption of the game obviously, but even stuff that very easily could have been there is not, this is probably partly a budget issue (the movies feels pretty cheap if you ask me) and also partly pretentious screenwriters who see video games as “beneath them” and want to change every single thing to “make it their own” (this is also the case with the Silent Hill movie I think)

    The game is just so much more on an epic scale, for starters the island isn’t just the location of Himiko’s (who’s a sun queen, not a “death goddess”) tomb but her actual kingdom, Yamatai, so there’s all sorts of ruins of villages and temples and things, in the movie it’s just a generic island with almost nothing but the tomb, it’s fucking boring.

    The bad guys aren’t just generic bad guys but an actual cult that worships Himiko and wants to resurrect her, they live in this cool town made of salvaged stuff from shipwrecks, which is another thing left out of the movie that makes no sense, the coast of the island is littered with shipwrecks from various eras, it’s a great visual that easily could have been in the movie, there’s even a wide shot of the island, but no shipwrecks, just why? it makes no sense.

    Other cool stuff in the game is the Japanese military discovered the island during the WW2 and built bunkers and a military base, though they were never able to get off the island of course, there’s also a moment where Lara finds herself in a cave with these pale cannibals and it turns into fucking THE DESCENT (the game is M rated while the movie is not R) don’t tell me you wouldn’t have wanted to see THAT, Vern.

    Literally the only scene that resembles something from the game is when Lara is crawling around on the crashed WW2 plane, why couldn’t more of the movie been like that?

    But probably what bothers me the most is the Tomb Raider game has a great cast of supporting characters, since it’s a prequel story about young Lara’s first adventure, it’s not all about her, she is just one of a whole expedition team that is looking for Yamatai and these characters include a crazy old Scottish guy named Grim, Lara’s Japanese American female friend named Sam (who is crucial to the game’s storyline, so I was so shocked they left her out) and the worst exclusion of all, Lara’s friend Jonah, who is this cool Samoan mystic guy from New Zealand and my favorite character of the rebooted Tomb Raider series, the fact that he isn’t the movie is such bullshit, FUCK this movie.

    But even if you know nothing about the game, I still can’t see how someone could like this movie, it’s a bunch of boring bullshit.

  3. But seriously, fuck this movie for leaving Jonah and Sam out.

  4. If they made the bike messenger prequel would all the Quicksilver Bros go #notmymessenger?

    I liked this too. Agree the practical earlier scenes were better than the cgi but all I ask for from Tomb Raider is that she grabs onto something and pulls herself up. This is the citizen kane of grabbing onto something and pulling herself up!

  5. This movie was influenced by the 2013 and 2016 games and takes some elements from both, but it isn’t an adaptation of either. Though I think Griff is absolutely right that it would have been BETTER if it took more from the 2013 game, though, as it was indeed a lot cooler than this movie. And it shouldn’t have bothered taking anything from the 2016 game, which kinda sucked.

    I didn’t hate this movie like Griff did, or hate it at all really. I thought it was basically fine, but don’t remember much about it beyond the crashed plane sequence, which I thought was a highlight. Overall, it could have and should have been better.

  6. I actually just recently played the 2016 game as a matter of fact, I wouldn’t say it sucked, in fact in one way it’s a big improvement and that’s the puzzles are a lot more challenging and involving.

    But overall I like the 2013 game better, hopefully the new one coming later this year will be the best of both worlds.

    And yeah, what the movie borrows from the second game is Trinity, which are only referenced through an easter egg in the 2013 game but play a bigger role in the 2016 one.

  7. And the impetus of the mission being her father’s unfinished business. Plus the character of Ana, the turns-out-to-be evil stepmother figure.

    I didn’t mean the 2016 game sucked from a gameplay perspective, the gameplay was pretty much the same, maybe slightly improved in some areas. A movie adaptation can’t translate gameplay, though. I meant it sucked from a narrative perspective.

  8. Vern and Fred: the bike messenger prequel would be Premium Rush, wouldn’t it? And is it really possible that Vern hasn’t review that? (I just looked and couldn’t find one). I love that movie — super-clear, well-filmed stunts and action, and an awesome unhinged performance by Michael Shannon as the villain.

  9. I wouldn’t say it sucked from a narrative perspective either, although again it’s not as good as the 2013 game.

    You know what I REALLY liked though is the Croft Manor bonus episode, which is basically Gone Home meets Tomb Raider, there’s no combat, just Lara exploring a decayed Croft Manor.

    I liked that honestly more than the main game of Rise of The Tomb Raider, I highly recommend you play that if you haven’t yet.

  10. I kinda liked this one, and actually prefer this to the ridiculous Jolie-movies. I didn’t mind the non-supernatural explanation at all, since it seemed to fit right in with their more down-to-earth approach. And Alicia Vikander gives a far better performance than you usually get in movies like this (and arguably, that the movie itself deserves). She really gave it her all, not just physically, but also emotionally (like the one scene you mentioned, Vern, right after she killed the guy).

  11. This did moderately well overseas. $273.5 million on a 94 million budget.

    I am hoping this gets a sequel and Vikander will be in it.

  12. I saw this movie in the theaters, and I literally had the best nap I have had in about five years. I was out for a good 30 minutes.

  13. Pretty much what JTS said. I was surprised by how much I was looking forward to this one and have to admit I was a bit under-whelmed by it. That was mainly because I was hoping for it to be as great as Roar Uthaug’s other films. Maybe that was foolish on my part to think a big Hollywood budget and Unions would lead to something as great as ESCAPE (you’d think I’d learn this lesson post-US-Jackie Chan movies). Still I thought it was fine and enjoyed it but while I cannot conform with Griff’s hateraid, he is right, a faithful adaptation of the ‘pure-survival’ aspect of the 2013 game would have lead to a better movie I think.

    I really enjoyed the bike chase and pier chase but everything else leading to the island wasn’t too interesting I thought. I didn’t think giving Croft daddy-issues made her a better character.

  14. I used to say that video game movies fail because the games tended to be derivative of better films in the first place. That may or may not be true, but now I’m thinking that movie adaptations of video games might just not be necessary. Graphics and voice acting have gotten so good that many narrative-heavy video games are already close enough to being interactive movies. So there just might not be as much of an appeal of seeing these characters and these stories in a new medium.

  15. I think I like this movie more than anyone else in the world. Maybe I was in the right mood or I had really low expectations or something, but this might be my favorite movie I’ve seen this year. Everything just clicked for me – the action, the pace, the villain, the supporting characters, the emotional content, and most of all Vikander’s knockout performance. She’s revelatory here – seeing her was probably the closest I’ll get to being an unsuspecting theatergoer in 1988 watching Die Hard for the first time and realizing “Holy Shit I’ve never seen an action hero like this”. Because just as Bruce was the everyman antidote to Arnold and Sly’s awesome but larger-than-life heroes, Vikander’s version of Croft is a refreshing change of pace from the infallible female heroes dominating the screen recently.

    Pretty much every female heroine onscreen now is perfect and invincible, from Rey to Wonder Woman to Beckinsale/Jovovich, to the women of Black Panther. And why shouldn’t they be? Joss Whedon made Black Widow “vulnerable” for about 2 seconds in Avengers 2 and everyone acts like he fridged her. Vikander’s Croft makes huge mistakes, she’s sloppy and impulsive and gets by (barely) through a combination of 10% luck, 20% training, and 70% balls and determination. She really is the female John McClane and I’m kinda sorta glad this movie didn’t really catch on because I don’t want to see thinkpieces about how it’s sexist that she cries when she gets hurt, or screams when she falls. Or how it’s sexist she cheated to win the opening race, or how she cheated to win the big fight by kicking a dude in the balls. But then again it sucks that this movie didn’t find the audience it should have, because Vikander’s Croft is just too good to not have her own franchise. This is clearly the best video game movie by a long shot, and call me crazy but I’d actually put it up with Casino Royale and Batman Begins in the best reboot/origin stories category.

  16. zod: That’s how I was hoping to react to it. Hoping my re-watch makes me like it as much as you did (of course I did bought a copy). I wanted to agree with you that Vikander is great in this and a breath of fresh air not just for female heroes but movie action heroes in general. Vikander seems to be doing really well on the indy-circuit so I doesn’t seem like she needs this, but I’m glad she gave this 100% as she would one of her critical-darling movies she is more known for. For me that’s WAY more impressive going all-in on some pulply/mainstream-junk than going all in on a role that is systematically designed to impress critics and peers. Hope we do get a sequel and they DON’T adapt the horrible Illuminati-or-whatever-BS plot from the 2016 game. If not a sequel, I hope we get to Vikander in another action movie. by that I mean a REAL action movie not a superhero or CG-clusterfuck one (even though I do enjoy those too).

    Also on what you said about it not finding an audience, I mentioned on the OCEAN’S 8 thread in response to someone else about I thought this one could maybe be a sleeper hit with gender politics being big in the news and nerdom now and nope… not a superhero movie or something so the same people screaming for more women-lead films ignore this, PROUD MARY, and BREAKING IN.

  17. Has anybody played the Uncharted games? Part two is one of my favorites but when they got to four I was disappointed. I really hated how they did away with the supernatural stuff and it’s like 90% climbing. I might give it another go with my expectations tempered.

  18. RBatty024 – Yup, I too feel the very idea of a video game movie is entirely pointless now and they should just stop making them.

  19. Zod, have you seen it a second time? Is it possible you had some great event in your life that day and it clouded your vision?

    I didn’t want to ask if you were drunk because of that whole rollicking tailback about Fear and Loathing a few months ago.

    I’m surprised anyone could feel more than lukewarm about this movie.

  20. JeffG – to be honest I think I was at Target one afternoon and I saw this movie was starting in 5 minutes across the street, and I have a Moviepass so I was like “Yeah i guess I’ll kill 2 hours and see that”. I haven’t played any of the Tomb Raider games and I think the only Alicia Vikander movie I’ve ever seen is Man from UNCLE and honestly I don’t even remember her in it. I heard only middling reviews and hadn’t seen any Roar Uthrag films, and i kinda hate video game movies and reboots, so yeah -expectations were about as low as you could get. Oh, and yeah, I used to love watching movies high because it made me really emotionally involved and “into it”, but I saw this one stone cold sober so I was surprised how much I liked it too.

    I get what you mean though, there’s movies that are perfectly mediocre and inoffensive and I wonder why they have a rabid fanbase. (Like I dunno, Taken 1, which is obviously better than its sequels and hits its beats competently in workmanlike fashion, but is still a pretty average action movie and I don’t get why people act like they’ve never seen an action movie before). But I really felt this was the Casino Royale to the Angelina Jolie Moonraker/Die Another Day version of the Tomb Raider movies – just a solid, entertaining “realistic” reboot with an appealing and interesting central performance that hopefully will lead to a series that doesn’t shit the bed as bad as SPECTRE did.

  21. I agree that modern video games are cinematic enough in their own right to make adaptations seem a bit redundant, but what about older games? Wasn’t Tarantino interested in a Half Life adaptation at some point? I’d also like to see MYST.

    There are also new(er) video games that have basic/old school graphics but tremendous and incredible narratives, like Cave Story and Braid. Unfortunately knowing The Industry they’ll probably reach for Minecraft instead for its brand recognition, which although an incredible project has nothing noteworthy in the way of story.

  22. grimgrinningchris

    July 16th, 2018 at 9:01 am

    I have not played a Tomb Raider game since the ones on the PS1… so I have no frame of reference for this moving leaving shit out from the newer games that may have made it cooler.

    On its own merits and as a mid-budget action adventure movie, I thought it was pretty fucking good though. I liked the whole cast, the bike and dock chases were both VERY well staged, shot and edited and despite knowing our lead wasn’t going to bit it at the halfway point, I thought the plane wreckage sequence was tense as hell- maybe not on the level of the Lost World sequence it aped, but still…

    The climax may have been a bit too CG stagey, but I still thought it was well orchestrated and I dug the non-supernatural explanation for the whole shebang.

    I thought the last thing I cared about was a “gritty, realistic” Tomb Raider movie… but while this was both of those (at least in comparison to its predecessors) I still thought it was FUN and well put together.

    So yeah, this one was a good one.

    Is this the first time Goggins has ever NOT used a southern accent on screen?

  23. What did you think of Vikander?

  24. grimgrinningchris

    July 17th, 2018 at 7:22 am

    She wasn’t a fountain of charisma like Gal Gadot or anything, but she was solid and likable enough and I thought did a good job with the action and fights while remaining believable (until the climax got over the top, of course).

  25. She’s fine I guess, the rest of the movie around her is so bad though.

  26. grimgrinningchris

    July 18th, 2018 at 5:38 am

    But what about it is bad?

    You’ve said a lot about what was left out of the movie, but haven’t really expressed anything regarding what IS in the movie.

    Again, my enjoyment may come from not being familiar with the newer games or their stories or characters- I only know Croft from the PS1 days and the movies with no more recent sources or frames of reference and thought that on its own merits, with what IS presented that it was a fun action adventure movie that kind of excels at the former and does at least a competent job with the latter. If was in love with the story that it was loosely based on, I may be bent about just HOW loose too though. I dunno.

    But AM curious about your thoughts on what actually IS in the movie, separated from your thoughts on what was left out.

  27. Anybody see the Uncharted short film with Nathan Fillion. Sometimes casting Bernstein the fans want that person is really the way to go.

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>