When young English courier Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) discovers a clue about her father who vanished seven years ago, she springs into action to track him down. She follows his quest to find the whereabouts of the ancient tomb built to imprison an evil Japanese empress believed to have the touch of death.
If that sounds like the plot of a video game … that’s because it is. Tomb Raider is the latest Hollywood attempt to bring gaming to the big screen — and for video game movies, it’s a new high score.
The action in the movie entertains and will keep you in suspense. A lot of the sequences play out like actual video game levels, such as when Lara struggles to escape through a collapsing, rusty airplane at the edge of the waterfall. Many scenes feel like an homage to the classic video game series.
The movie works like a new installment in the game franchise. The level-like challenges, unbelievable stunts and journey all work and make the movie feel like an adventure of its own. All of Lara’s successes are our own, and it’s easy to root for her.
Vikander brings a solid effort to the table. Her portrayal has depth, and she enhances the anticipation, fear and excitement of the action scenes well. Unfortunately, the script suffers from either speeding through exposition, or wading in it when it seems unnecessary. Lines often feel thrown away or vocalized simply to break silence or fill the gaps between action.
Her father is inconsistent and bizarre. He works mostly as a set piece to prop up Lara, and he could’ve been used far better to do so. It’s made all the more bizarre when Vikander brings a genuinely emotional performance to the table, only to make it feel forced when the relationship feels one-sided.
A hilarious cameo by Nick Frost is one of the highlights of the movie, but the scene makes little sense. Lara’s jade necklace, a MacGuffin to remember her mother by — which is initially made out to be priceless — is sold to Frost for money for Lara to start her journey. The confusing nature of the importance of the necklace detracts from the scene’s humor.
A few early scenes of Lara in London function mostly to build character, but the scenes skim entire relationships that the movie immediately dumps to make new ones as the plot progresses. It does help to see some of Lara before her adventuring career and her history with her father, but the movie’s framework to tell her story doesn’t quite work.
Unfortunately, the movie also has some of the worse aspects of video games. Many awkward scenes feel like unskippable cut scenes that the audience is forced to watch before the fun. The movie’s villain, portrayed by Walton Goggins, has some cringeworthy lines and moments, and at times it feels inconsistent.
Tomb Raider is probably the best video game movie ever made, in that it invites all types of fans and has a lot to offer viewers. That said, Tomb Raider may be the *only* good video game movie ever made, lessening that title.
The film leaves itself open to a sequel (a huge surprise in Hollywood in 2018, I know), which honestly could work and build a successful action series. Vikander has serious potential to become a bona fide action star — if only she could get a little more help next time.