Tomb Raider Comes up Empty-Handed in Its Quest for Originality

Written by Madison Drew Daniels
Images courtesy of IMDB

The Curse of the Video Game Movie is a popular and well known phenomenon these days. We are bombarded with larger than life, CG-heavy, action flicks. In the era of sequels, reboots, and adaptations, where Hasbro toys and comic books have become money printing machines, video games seem like the next unplundered opportunity.

The medium already has many of the hallmarks of Hollywood blockbusters, it would seem like a simple copy and paste would be enough to draw in Marvel sized audiences. However, video games movies are notoriously hard to make work, deeming the genre a “curse.”

So how does the new Tomb Raider fare? It depends.

As video game movies go it’s pretty good. But as normal movies go it’s a derivative and forgettable adventure.

This latest entry in the Tomb Raider franchise is based on the newer iterations of the game which focus on Lara’s grit, determination, and implacability rather than her overt sexuality. This games have been a critical success. But translating this success into cinematic gold is not as simple as it seems.

The first thing that should be mentioned is that no matter how mediocre Tomb Raider is, Alicia Vikander is bigger and better than this movie. She is by far the most believable piece of the otherwise absurd narrative.

Vikander can be seen here, searching for a fresh story in the screenwriters’ catacombs.

It is clear from her first kickboxing moments on screen that Alicia leaned into this role in a big way. She brought an impressive physicality to the screen and was clearly striving to become Lara Croft. My only wish is that the writing and plot served her talents better.

Lara’s plot motivation is her crippling daddy issues which is a tired trope these days and comes off more creepy than endearing in the movie. Overall, though, Vikander gives a strong performance despite the otherwise derivative and lackluster plot.

And speaking of that plot, here is something that video game movies struggle with — copy and pasting from the game.

Rather than taking inspiration from the game and innovating on an already excellent narrative, video game movies attempt to simply transfer game elements to the screen. Most of Tomb Raider with the exception of a few scenes and plot elements was lifted directly from the game.

Now this wouldn’t be as big of a problem if the complexity of the video game’s story wasn’t boiled away and reduced into a forgettable/predictable plot.

I don’t want to say this is lazy filmmaking, but it certainly isn’t impressive filmmaking.

Now what does the film do well?

It brings Lara Croft into the present day and makes her much more accessible and empathetic than she was before. This is not to disparage Angelina Jolie’s take on the role in the early 2000s. She played straight to who Lara Croft was at the time.

The world has come a long way since then.

A female lead movie doesn’t have to rely on overt sexuality anymore to sell tickets. Vikander’s portrayal of Lara is very relatable and down to earth which makes you want to root for our new Tomb Raider. If I was a betting man, I don’t think it’s likely to get a sequel, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if it did.

Croft is seen here clinging to life after being tossed around in a sea of simplified plots, poor writing, and dialogue fit for a 2001 video game.

I would hope that Vikander and whoever directed it would be able to play a little faster and looser with the source material.

As it stands, Tomb Raider is a good video game movie but a just-alright movie.

Vikander brought her A-game, and her performance might even be worth the price of the ticket. If you’re already a fan of the Tomb Raider series you probably won’t be disappointed.

If you have never seen seen a Tomb Raider movie or have never played the games, you might even enjoy yourself.

And if you just want to watch Alicia Vikander kick-ass then you will definitely leave happy.

And there is plenty of Vikander/Croft-Kickin-Ass to be had throughout the film.