Directed by: Roar Uthaug
Written by: Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Alastair Siddons
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu
Runtime: 122 min
Alicia Vikander (Lara Croft) is the new face of the Tomb Raider's franchise reboot and it is going to be based on the critically acclaimed video-games.
This first installment is an adaptation of the 2013 game and it tells the story of Lara Croft, a young woman who lost her father when she was a teen. Struggling to move past his mysterious disappearance, she leaves everything behind and goes looking for him in his last-known (dangerous) location: a famous tomb on a mythical island ...
Roar Uthaug throws himself into the lion's den and brings us another movie adaptation of a video-game. As you probably know, there is a so-called "curse" which consists of the "fact" that every cinematic adaptation of a video-game is basically horrible. Honestly, I do agree that every adaptation failed to even reach the lowest expectations. However, I think critics do not know how to deal with their expectations when it comes to this kind of films.
There is always a huge fanbase for every successful game. Far Cry, Mortal Kombat, Assassin's Creed, you name it. Obviously, if a movie based on one of these games comes out, every fan will lose their minds. Their expectations will be ridiculously high and that is the number one reason why every film has very low ratings. Critics also play these games and they are also fans. So, if a movie fails to reach the expectations, the reviews will be way more negative than what they are supposed to be because it is based on something that the person loves as much or more than films.
For example, take Warcraft. This game has probably the biggest fanbase in the entire world. Gamers actually liked the movie but truthfully, it does have a lot of narrative and editing issues, which makes the story hard to follow and understand (the characters also needed more development). However, does it deserve such negative reviews like it received? No! I can understand if a critic writes a mixed review, sure. But I read negative reviews that completely trashed the film and the reasons why the movie failed were the exact same as mine.
So, why did I rate it positively and others so negatively? Expectations. Dealing with them is key to achieve a fair review. I reject "love or hate" reviews. Why can't people just accept that a film is just "fine"? Why do people have to trash a movie just because it isn't perfect like they dreamed of? It can still be good, it can still be ok. This leads me to Tomb Raider and to what I think is the best film adaptation of a video-game so far ... Even though this does not mean that much.
Story-wise, the movie deviates from the game while the latter's standout action set pieces are remarkably performed in the film. Lara's backstory is compelling and it definitely makes you care for her. This is my main praise to this movie. Sequels can actually be produced since not only Tomb Raider is a good film, Lara Croft is a beautifully-developed character.
Alicia Vikander was the big question before the movie. Is she going to top Angelina Jolie? Truthfully, Jolie had to deal with horrible scripts and she is the only reason why those films are watchable. However, Vikander proves that she deserved that Oscar she received. She is flawless! Every expression, every line of dialogue, every grunt, every scream ... She does everything with an unbelievable badassery and I believe she is one of the best female castings of the last years (same perfect level as Emma Watson as Belle and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman).
The rest of the cast serve their purpose well and nothing else. Vikander totally carries the entire movie but I wish the supporting characters were not just some video-game pawns that only serve to develop the main character or as a plot device. Uthaug does a great job as the director, shooting some suspenseful scenes extremely well-adapted from the game. However, there is a lot of shaky-cam and quick cuts that bring the action down, plus the CGI is not always great.
Putting aside the action, the visuals are actually pretty neat with a surprising amount of practical settings as well. The editing is good but it could have been way better and the score works fine. Uthaug really nails the film's tone and pacing. I felt invested throughout the whole runtime without ever feeling bored. Vikander plays a big role in this but the control of both aspects is superb.
While it does break the video-game curse, it still has some frustrating flaws. There is still a lot to be learned when adapting a game since the typical cliches keep emerging. Not every aspect of a game's story is believable and Tomb Raider has tons of scenes where it is impossible not to think "yeah, this does not acknowledge any law of physics whatsoever". The action set pieces are great but some of them feel too video-game-ish and I disconnect from the movie.
Huge plot devices exist throughout every act. The characters make choices that are just silly and it seems that only Lara Croft is the rational one. This could have been a GREAT film and it stops at "good". It could have broken the curse in such a spectacular way and despite it being far better than any other adaptation, it stills falls in the genre's cliches and it contains some narrative issues.
Nevertheless, I was deeply entertained. The first act is flawless. From character development to action, it has everything and everything is incredibly realized. As the movie progresses, the action starts taking over and the story begins lacking logic, even though Vikander always keeps us captivated. I feel a bit frustrated because I know that this film had everything to be amazing, but it is surely a step in the right direction. At least, Uthaug focused on making a good movie first, instead of trying to set up hundreds of sequels. This is how you start a franchise.
All in all, Tomb Raider breaks the video-game curse and it is definitely the best film adaptation, so far. That said, it is not amazing nor ground-breaking. It has a lot of narrative issues, plot devices and supporting characters that only serve the plot. Gamers will love how the movie perfectly represents the game's standout action sequences, even though some look too video-game-ish. Excellent control of the tone and pacing, but the real win for the franchise is Alicia Vikander as an incredibly-developed Lara Croft. Vikander carries the entire thing, her character's backstory is beautifully written and Tomb Raider is a good first installment for what I expect to be a fantastic saga.