I get excited about some films – who doesn’t? However there are some that I get more excited about than others, even if critical acclaim isn’t guaranteed. Tomb Raider was absolutely one of those films.
Anyone who has been paying attention to my Twitter activities recently will know that I was buzzing for the release of this film. I was also desperately hoping that it would succeed where more or less every other mainstream video game movie had failed before. The odds were stacked against it, but I still kept the faith.
What we have here is a film that rises, I believe, head and shoulders above all others that we’ve seen within the video game genre. I honestly do think that the bar has been raised here. Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means saying that Tomb Raider is perfect because it certainly is not. It won’t win Oscars and it won’t be remembered as one of the greats, but it is a damn site better than anything we’ve been offered before.
The film is based on the 2013 reboot of the game franchise that showed us the character of Lara Croft before she really became the Tomb Raider we all know now. Alicia Vikander takes on the role of a 21 year-old Lara who is working as a bike messenger to avoid going broke as she refuses to accept her inheritance following her father’s disappearance seven years before. Just as she is about to bite the bullet and sign his death certificate, she becomes aware of the circumstances under which he disappeared, and decides to pursue the mystery herself. Before long, she’s on a mysterious island, and it is there that she embarks upon the journey that sees her blossom into the character that everyone the world over is aware of.
I’ll do what I always do and talk about the performances first. I really think Alicia Vikander has done a good job as Lara here. I know her casting was met with a lot of criticism, especially when the first looks at the character came out, but she has brought a far more relatable character to the table than we’ve seen with any other version in the past, in both the films and the games. What I liked about Vikander’s performance is the journey she took the character on. You start off with someone who is very naïve and essentially still a child, something that is captured at it’s best in the scene where Lara arrives in Japan and almost falls foul of a group of pick-pocketers when looking for Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), who is her companion throughout this film. By the end of the film, you’re presented with someone who has matured immensely because of their experiences, and the character you see in the very final scene of the film is almost a completely different person.
As far as the cast goes, Vikander is definitely the main star of the film. There are a few notable names involved, but they all play roles that sort of make up the scenery around Lara. Dominic West plays Richard Croft and I think it’s a role he was dead suited to to be completely honest. It would have been nicer to have possibly seen slightly more of him because he has a lot of talent to put to use, however, where we did get to see him, he and Vikander really captured the father/daughter dynamic that is so important to this franchise, and that’s the main thing.
Walton Goggins looks like he has fun playing Mathias Vogel. Rather like a James Bond villain, we’re first introduced to him around the halfway point of the film, and straightaway you know that he’s absolutely one of the bad guys. As much as Goggins lavishes playing this character and his form in playing some other unsavoury guys in a couple of other well-known films, I must admit that Vogel is quite forgettable. I’m someone who can name a lot of villains from a lot of the films I’ve, but when pitched against a hero as iconic as Lara Croft, the people creating the bad guy and the person gifted the task of playing that character really has to go above and beyond to stand out and be remembered. Goggins put in a good effort, but it didn’t quite stand up for me.
One of the main reasons this film is better than many others before it is that it has a story that is actually isn’t completely nonsense. The adaptation from video game to big screen has happened a lot more smoothly here than it has in the past, perhaps because the source material, as far as I’m aware, was acknowledged a hell of a lot more with this film. There are scenes that have been lifted straight from the game, and there are a lot of nods to the game – both the 2013 reboot which this is largely based upon, but also the games that came before it – with a number of moments throughout the film. For example, there is a point here where Lara pulls a massive splinter out of her side, and this is something that is clearly inspired by a sequence right at the start of the 2013 game. There are a few plot holes here and there, and definitely some things didn’t quite add up for me, such as the ‘reveal’ at the end of the film, but when it comes to comparing what we have here with what we’ve been given in the past, I really shouldn’t be complaining too much because this really is on another level to what we’ve seen previously.
I also just want to add that I really like the fact that nobody tried to sexualise Lara in any way here. She is purely an action hero in this film. She gets hurt, she gets dirty, she gets scared, and she doesn’t get romantically involved with any of the men in the film, which I think has always been one of the (many) downfalls with the Angelina Jolie films. Dare I say it, she’s been portrayed in a way nobody would think twice about if she was a bloke?
So, while it does have it’s faults, I am honestly so happy to say that they’re finally gone and done it – Tomb Raider is the video game movie that we’ve been waiting for, and is 100% the adaptation that this beloved character deserves. Vikander brings us a realistic Lara Croft and maintains focus on the qualities that made her such treasured character in my eyes. The many tips of the hat to the games are also very welcome here. Yes, there may be some terrible dialogue buried in here, and some of the finer details don’t come together quite as neatly as I’d like, but this has triumphed in many places and we truly should celebrate that.