Sometimes, films are unjustly judged. Other times, popular opinion needs to be challenged. Either way, this content will likely be unpopular.
Tomb Raider is a curious film in premise alone. It’s a reboot of a poorly-received film series of video game adaptations, itself based loosely on a reboot video game within the same franchise. However, as Lara Croft is one of the most iconic video game characters of all time, this can be forgiven.
On paper, the Tomb Raider games are perfect for movie adaptations. They’re primarily action-based but also incorporate elements of myth, legend, and the supernatural into their stories, making for a distinct Indiana Jones vibe. Even with the slightly grittier reboot of the game series, this was largely intact, and therefore it’s intact in the 2018 movie, too.
Perhaps the most important part of any Tomb Raider story is Lara Croft. Getting the character just right is key, and Alicia Vikander therefore had a near-impossible task in playing the role. Luckily, her portrayal of the iconic character felt fresh and interesting, with Vikander bringing an unexpected vulnerability to the role that was bound to be divisive.
What’s important to understand is that 2018’s Tomb Raider is clearly an origin story. Lara spends the film largely testing her own limitations while in way over her head, driven by her desire to find her lost father and recover an ancient treasure in the process. It’s a fairly generic action-adventure story, but Vikander plays her part well, if somewhat predictably.
The film’s action set pieces generally steer clear of all the most outlandish action movie tropes, but there are elements of the film’s plot that feel entirely too convenient. For example, Richard Croft – one of the world’s richest and most influential people – having survived on the remote island undetected for seven years is thoroughly ridiculous. It’s these elements that make Tomb Raider feel far lazier than it really is, and that’s a shame, because it’s actually a very competent film.
Tomb Raider‘s lackluster plot is generally disappointing, but there’s still a lot of enjoyable elements of the film. Mostly, this is because it teases far more interesting stories are yet to come, particularly in the way that Lara begins to find her feet in what can only be described as the trial by fire that Tomb Raider puts her through. Though the action sequences are largely fun and more realistic than might have been expected, the narrative drive behind them is somewhat weak, and that’s a particularly nagging issue.
Vikander’s performance as Lara Croft is excellent, and she’s supported by Daniel Wu as Lu Ren, Lara’s (sort of) sidekick. Dominic West and Walton Goggins deliver very uninteresting performances in blandly written archetype roles (Goggins as the obsessive and unhinged villain, West as the supportive and inspirational father). In this, Tomb Raider feels unbalanced, as Vikander’s performance outshines all of her co-stars by a significant margin.
Though Tomb Raider lands just barely on the right side of average, it does have its strong points. In fact, it’s exactly those strong points that make its sequel tease (which hasn’t yet been paid off) feel reasonably exciting, and promise that a franchise should be able to improve upon a film that felt hampered by the necessity for an origin story. Ultimately, Tomb Raider is fun, but unintelligent, instead settling for mediocrity in its story and instead pursuing hollow thrills – although there’s just enough potential to make a franchise an exciting prospect.
Summary: Although Tomb Raider‘s story leaves much to be desired, its action sequences and the performance of Alicia Vikander make it just entertaining enough to be a positive experience. Its promise shines through, although it feels largely wasted in an otherwise generic action-adventure film.
Highlights: Vikander’s Lara felt like a much deeper character than the film explored, and its her performance that gives Tomb Raider genuine franchise potential.