Tomb Raider (2018) Movie Review
"Tomb Raider is an exciting video game to movie adaptation that pays homage to its roots while remaining a fun action film with a likable relatable hero" - Game Infinite, Jesse J
Video Games do not make good movies...typically. At least, that is what the evidence to date as shown with time and time again poorly made gamer to movie adaptations. Tomb Raider, however, changes the game. [no pun intended] Now, the trend is broken. We are often shown great looking action movies that should be great and have excellent source material, yet for some odd reason turn out to be awful. While some of the greatest and most successul movie franchises were based originally on other mediums like books or comic books, it been hard for video games to be made into good movies.
I’ve often pointed to the idea that there just isnt much overlap between Hollywood and the gaming industry. This is evidenced by the fact that the reverse is also true; in that, most video games based off of movie franchises are awful as well. The best film makers in hollywood are just not overlapping with the best video game makers. If someone like JJ Abrams got a hold of Halo, Assassins Creed, Dead Space, or Warcraft, we could have movies just as good as Star Wars and Star Trek. In reality however, we got recent bombs like Hitman and Assassins Creed, even being backed by talented actors.
Tomb Raider changes the trend because of many variables. One of which is because director Roar Uthaug was aware of the “video game movie curse” and decided to not let it distract him from making the best movie he could. He told Inverse, “Yeah, of course I’ve heard about the curse...I didn’t think much about it when we were making this movie. We just focused on making the best possible Tomb Raider movie we possibly could.” Having a director be aware of the issue helps. Another factor I didn't realize until seeing this film is how changing a story's medium from one to another can cause an identity issue. When adapting a story written for one medium, (book, tv show, comics, etc...) one must take into account the way the source tells a story when adapting to a film. Video games have tropes, pacing, gameplay, and aspects unique to them. Leaving them out completely can leave a film feeling hollow. Weaving them in too specifically may feel cheesy like for example: the first person perspective in the 2005 film DOOM. In Tomb Raider 2018, it feels like the perfect balance. It is a movie telling the story of a beloved video game character; and while it feels, acts, and looks like a movie, there are subtle moments where it feels like a video game. It feels more like a subtly crafted homage rather than direct representation. Several moments in the film make you briefly feel like you are playing Tomb Raider the video game. There is two separate moments where Lara Croft is being chased by pursuers unrelated to the over all story similar to the need for early gameplay in a game before stories begin. You feel like you are learning movement in a way that games teach you. Lara receives updates from her father in a way that feels like common exposition in a game. Lara starts the movie off a novice with no understanding of much of what is going on in a way most protagonists in a game start at zero. Later in the movie, Lara is on a boat that is being overwhelmed by a storm. She is blasted back by a wave in a way that feels like a failed quick time event in the tomb raider reboot games. These are all great things that made Tomb Raider 2018 a movie that excels as a video game adaptation. Viewing it simply as a movie may leave some critics under-appreciating the movie, but viewing it in the light of a movie paying respect to its video game roots gives it a whole new meaning. Lara begins the movie as a simple courier who has rejected her fathers wealth in silent rebellion because she blames him for leaving her as a child. She doesn't want to admit that he actually gone, just missing. She quickly learns that he was more than just a rich business man, but also adventuring archeological type (Indian Jones?). He is obsessed with the supernatural and is convinced there is some kind of magical threat hidden on a far away unknown Japanese island. He went missing while in search of it but left Lara a clue how to find it. This lead Lara to the island eventually where she comes across a leader in a organization named "Trinity". This invisible evil organization is after the same magic curse that her father warned was located on the island. Lara meets the leader and it would have been too easy for the movie to suffer from an MCU style villain. With all the exposition and origin story eating into the beginning, they could have had a bland bad guy with no depth. Without much time to establish his character, they went with a off center somewhat disturbed personality. With little time to get the villain some depth, they were smart and went with a crazy one. The viewer can quickly assess that he is evil and crazy. Lara herself quickly develops as a character and as the "tomb raider action hero". Alicia Vikander had a lot of forces against her in this film: The "video game movie curse", working in a genre made by the Indiana Jones movies, and being compared to the previous Angelina Jolie movies of a very different style. She nails it on all accounts. It is necessary for her character to develop very quickly. She goes from an novice to a expert very quickly in the movie in a way that doesn't feel forced or quick. They give her backgrounds that make her skills believable. She brings a certain charisma to the role that balances innocence and attitude that carries a lot of this movie. As with most protagonists in film, Alicia is one of the reasons TR 2018 succeeds instead of fails. Without her believability and charisma, the movie would suffer. She is much more of a novice and innocent character than say the Angelina Jolie Croft, but I don't think that is a negative. It feels like an origin story. She is inexperienced and needs to quickly adapt. She doesn't have her wealth of resources; she has to fight with nothing. One of the best parts of the video game to movie adaptation, that may be a source of dismay for casual movie goers, is Lara's durability. I felt that this added to the homage to video games rather than distract to the movie. Lara feels super human in the second half of this film. Much like in the game Lara suffers from significant environmental and traversal hindrances. She falls and is tossed around like a rag doll. She does suffer a major injury in the middle and quickly recovers enough for the final act. Let us face a reality. If this movie was based anywhere on reality, Lara would have died half way through the film a dozen times. This a common suspension of disbelief for action heroes and especially gaming protagonists. We as gamers are used to suspension of disbelief on the durability of the protagonist that is higher than we even have on movies. How many WWII average soldiers are shot 112 times and survived in Call of Duty have we seen? Seeing Lara tumble down a cliff, smash into trees, and get beat up in the game feels somewhat believable in gameplay, but the average movie goer may not have the same level of disbelief as gamers. If you view Lara in this movie as an action hero with non human survivability and plot armor, it doesn't distract at all. Top that off with the fact that the CGI of the rag doll effects is pretty believable. Her movements in this movie are far more realistic than say in the commercially praised Black Panther. If it looked fake or plastic it would distract from the film. She never looks like a fake rag doll being smashed around. *Parent's Notice* If you are parent who has children that may be interested in the movie because it is based on a popular video game, or if you have a daughter and may be interested in the movie because is has a strong female role model protagonist, then there may be some hesitations to consider. While this movie isn't rated R or exceptionally brutal, it still is more violent than you may expect. Lara Croft is beaten up like a rag doll that is tossed around quite a lot. Watching a young person go through what she does may be too much for younger viewers. *Ending Spoiler* The entire movie is based on the search for a ancient Japanese Queen who was legend to have devastating magic powers. Lara's father believed in the magic, as did the secret organization Trinity. However, near the end we find out the devastating magic was actually very much based in reality and grounded in science. The ancient Japanese queen was the carrier for a contagious virus. She was buried not to stop her magic but to keep the virus isolated on a deserted island. Seeing this reveal feels huge as it is unexpected and is very satisfying. Any qualms over the sense of realism in the film is balanced by this very real explanation of the "scary evil magic thing" archetype of the item they are searching for. It plants this new reboot in a very real and magic free universe and it didn't feel unsatisfactory but rewarding. This movie could take place in a "real world" free of magic and superstition. Conclusion: In the end, as a stand alone film I would rate it a 7.5/10. With the context of it being a video game adaptation, and the homage, throwbacks, references, it yields I'd raise it being a 8.5/10 with a solid recommendation for gamers and all viewers to see the film.