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October 2018

Tomb Raider (Movie)

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Release Date: March 16, 2018


Movie Review - 'Tomb Raider'

by Adam Pavlacka on March 16, 2018 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she finds herself on the island where her father disappeared.

Over the years, gaming and movies have constantly moved closer together. Popular actors appear in video games, and video games have incorporated elements of movies and TV shows into their narratives. Movies based on games have a rough history. For every "Mortal Kombat," there are a handful like the "House of the Dead." Thankfully, the newest iteration of "Tomb Raider" lands on the better end of the spectrum.

If you've seen Angelina Jolie's "Tomb Raider" films, this isn't a continuation of that. Much like the video game series it is based on, Alicia Vikander's take on Tomb Raider is a complete reboot. Whereas Jolie's version was a look at Lara Croft in her prime, Vikander takes us along for Lara's journey from naive 20-something to globe-hopping adventurer.

When we first meet Lara, she is living the single life of an underemployed millennial. Despite being heir to the Croft family fortune, Lara refuses to accept that her father (missing for seven years) is dead, and as such, doesn't have access to the family's vast resources. A mystery puzzle box sets her off on an adventure of a lifetime.

The broad strokes of Lara's on-screen adventure will sound familiar to anyone who played the 2013 Tomb Raider game. There's an island, there's a shipwreck, and everyone's trying to find the tomb of Queen Himiko. Beyond that, the movie tends to do its own thing, filling in details as needed to drive the story. It's something that the filmmakers should have done more of, as the "Tomb Raider" movie is at its best when it's doing its own thing rather than trying to parrot the game.

The first half of the film is the strongest part, even though it has the least action. This is where we learn about the character of Lara, with a plot that digs into what makes her tick, beyond the superficial "be a badass" that drives the games. The latter half, where the action kicks in, complete with set pieces that look like they were pulled from the video game, is where "Tomb Raider" is at its weakest. Yes, some nods to the games are cool, but if you haven't played the games, they come across as a bit pointless.

Vikander handles the titular role well, seamlessly moving between drama and action. Her athleticism is believable on-screen, which sells her take on the character. Vikander goes for the realistic approach and avoids the over-the-top wink-and-a-nod that were the basis of the Jolie films.

Also worthy of note is Daniel Wu as Lu Ren. He's Lara's companion on the trip, and while he's a supporting character, he is far from a stereotype. Wu is an Asian-American actor with a strong resume in Hong Kong films. His Cantonese is spot-on and, according to one of my fellow film-goers, is quite the bit of eye candy. She was also impressed that Lu Ren was written as "a normal guy" and not a martial arts master or some kind of mystic. It's the kind of thing that should be the norm, rather than the exception, in 2018.

The other standout is Nick Frost in an uncredited and woefully underused cameo. If he's not on board as Lara's official weapons provider/obtainer of random things in the sequel, someone at Warner Bros. is making a big mistake.

How does the new "Tomb Raider" (2018) hold up when it goes back-to-back against the old "Tomb Raider" (2001)? After seeing the new film, I immediately re-watched Jolie's version and, despite enjoying the cheese factor of her take, Jolie's "Tomb Raider" is very much a product of the '90s. It's worth it for what it is, and it's amusing seeing a young, pre-James Bond Daniel Craig, but only the soundtrack has stood the test of time. With the exception of the soundtrack, "Tomb Raider" (2018) is the better film overall.

The sound mix for the film was an issue when the action scenes kicked in, as it lost all sense of separation and just got loud. During the exploration and adventure scenes, "Tomb Raider" provided a good sound environment, but when the guns started firing and things were exploding, it seemed like the sound mixer was jacked up to 11. Loud as an analog for action is just lazy. Hopefully that's fixed for the home release.

Ultimately, "Tomb Raider" may not be a perfect film, but it's still an enjoyable adventure and, when compared to others in the "based on a video game" genre, it's near the front of the pack. Vikander and Wu have great chemistry on-screen, so if a sequel can focus more on the story and less on trying to ape one of the games, it'll be an even better sophomore outing.

Score: 7.5/10

"Tomb Raider" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 1 hour and 58 minutes. It is showing in 2-D, 3-D, and IMAX 3-D.

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