I was mildly interested in seeing Tomb Raider when it came out. The trailer looked solid and I've liked Alicia Vikander since The Man From Uncle. The only thing that really gave me pause was the obvious: it's a video game movie. Those usually aren't very good and it's mostly for one big reason, that being that they don't take the subject matter or the source material seriously. It's maddening to me that we can have great movies based on books, comic books, TV shows and short stories, but we can't have greatness from a video game adaptation most of the time.
So I was really just hoping that Tomb Raider would be a decent video game movie and not another hokey one with a joke premise. The trailer suggested that it was going to be different so I was optimistic. I became even more optimistic when I saw that its score on Rotten Tomatoes was low with the critics, a few even going so far as to criticize a lack of fun in the movie and even Vikander's figure as Lara Croft, which yes is pretty misogynistic and disgusting to do even for an idiot critic. So I HAD to see it, especially since the critics didn't like it.
I really like it. Seriously, Tomb Raider was pleasantly surprising. For once I could watch a video game movie that managed to capture the machinations and some of the operations of a video game while still giving me a solid plot and decent character development along the way that didn't feel particularly weak or badly contrived. No, the plot actually makes a lot of sense in this movie. Lara Croft is reluctant to assume her father Richard's fortune seven years after he has been declared dead because she doesn't totally believe he's dead and when she stumbles across some of his old files related to why he vanished in the first place, she sets out on a very dangerous journey to find him that involves the gravesite of a mythical Japanese queen and a group of people who want to steal it. That sounds like I just gave away the whole plot but I really didn't. There's actually much more to all of that to be honest with you.
This movie owes a decent amount to some other films that are in the same vein that came before it. In the beginning I was getting a National Treasure vibe in terms of puzzles and clues but it was much better than that. As the movie went on it really took an Indiana Jones vibe, so much that it flat out lifted a gag or two from Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom, and it completely used a plot device from The Last Crusade. The thing is they were able to do it without it looking like blatant parody or homage because of how they incorporated it into the story. This movie is going to feel like modern day female Indiana Jones in some places, especially with the amount of pain and physical torture that Lara Croft is subjected to in the action sequences. Seriously, I was grimacing a lot because it looked and sounded like it hurt, but it doesn't feel like a knock-off or a cheap imitation at all.
A big part of that is because of the script and the tone of the movie, which isn't meant to be goofy or over the top. It's actually really gritty and grounded for the most part with the exception of a few high-stakes action sequences that still give a plausible look and feel despite their circumstances being utterly insane. The other part of it is the cast itself, starting with Vikander as Croft. She carries it well and has the chops to not only act well in the dramatic and emotional scenes but also plays off the physical stunt and fight scenes very well. She doesn't look or feel out of place doing anything that she does in the movie with respect to conflict and that's a credit to Vikander's preparation and ability for sure. Excellent job.
The only other major cast members of note in the movie to focus on are Dominic West as Richard Croft, Daniel Wu as Lu Ren and Walton Goggins as Mathias Vogel, our villain of the movie. West is the standout among these three but they're all solid across the board. Aside from brief appearances from Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi and Nick Frost, it's really an economically assembled cast for two hours and that's cool because the movie never felt overstuffed or loaded with filler at any time.
I've never heard of Roar Uthaug, the director of this movie, but now he's on my radar if he does any more action movies especially with video game franchises. Tom Holkenborg AKA Junkie XL also does a really solid job with the score. Sometimes it can get a bit overdramatic with the tension but overall it's an impressive composition that fits the movie very well.
The bottom line here is don't listen to the critics about Tomb Raider. In fact, don't listen to them about any movie. Go and see it for yourself and you may very well not be disappointed or you might end up like me and be pleasantly surprised and actually hope that this one does well enough for a sequel to see about franchising it. That doesn't generally happen for video game movies outside of Resident Evil but here's hoping, because it's great to see a video game movie that is actually a good movie in itself as well.
TOMB RAIDER - 4 out of 5 - In theaters since March 16