Tomb Raider (2018)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 3/17/18
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Daniel Wu, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Kristin Scott Thomas, cameo by Nick Frost

This reboot of the Lara Croft story is a loose adaptation of the 2013 "Tomb Raider" video game. After the death of Lara's mother, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West) went slightly mad and started researching ancient myths regarding resurrection and immortality. One such myth took him to the cursed island of Yamatai in search of Himiko's tomb, and he never returned. Seven years later, a reckless, aimless, and irresponsible Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) refuses to believe that her father is dead, and she lives on the streets scraping out a meager living as a bicycle courier. When a clue about her father's whereabouts surfaces, she decides to risk everything in an attempt to find answers on Yamatai. Once there, she runs into a group of mercenaries from a secret society called Trinity who are also looking for Himiko's tomb, and may know a thing or two about Lord Croft's disappearance.

It's great to see Lara Croft back in action, and Alicia Vikander gives an outstanding and physically impressive performance. She looks fantastic and it's obvious that she trained very hard in order to get in shape for the rigorous physical demands of the film. She's also extremely charming and embodies Lara's adventurous spirit and inquisitive personality quite well, although her rude and immature behavior in the first part of the film is disagreeable. Unfortunately, Vikander's excellent performance and stunning presence unintentionally bring attention to the disappointingly weak supporting cast, which feels like it was culled from a B-movie talent pool. The B-movie vibe also extends to the visual effects, which are inexcusably poor and look like they came out of a direct-to-video production from the 1990s. It's unfortunate that they ruin the atmosphere and undermine the dangers that Lara faces.

As far as the writing is concerned, the film does an admirable job of distilling the events in the game and the perils that Lara encounters, although it completely dismisses any supernatural elements. Its detours and conceits aren't nearly as cringe worthy as the original "Tomb Raider" (2001), but the dialog is still pretty awful. Long-winded repetitive narration also enforces a B-movie mentality and insults the viewer with its lack of subtlety. The film spends too much time and effort dwelling on Lara's daddy issues, and the fact that he's still alive on Yamatai is a detriment to the story. As the movie progresses, it becomes increasingly apparent that it's essentially a remake of the distasteful "Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade" (1989).

Apart from the terrible visual effects, the film looks pretty good. The stunt work is excellent and the fight choreography is good, although sloppy camera work and bad editing spoil a lot of the action. Spastic handheld camera work compromises a lot of the non-action scenes as well. The pacing is also problematic, and the film can't seem to find a good rhythm. The action scenes are too frantic and drawn out, while the story scenes feel tediously slow. It's a delicate balancing act, and both sides of the scale are taken to extremes. And then there's the ridiculous and embarrassing color puzzle set piece that I don't even want to acknowledge.

Now that Lara's reimagined origin story is out of the way and her daddy issues have been resolved, I'm hoping for a worthy sequel that features the Lara Croft that we all want to see: The bold and fearless adventurer, the brilliant and gifted archeologist, and the sophisticated and sassy scholar. Of course, that's probably asking for too much, since a sequel will probably have a smaller budget and worse writers, as sequels often do. It's a pity, because there's definitely potential in Lara's timely return, as long as they treat the material with intelligence and respect, and don't cut corners.