#REVIEW: “TOMB RAIDER”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is not the legendary Tomb Raider we all know. Instead, she is a young woman rejecting her family inheritance, working as a bike courier and longing to discover the fate of her missing father Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West). As she signs paperwork and concedes that he may be dead, she comes into possession of a key to her father’s office. There she learns about his research and gets drawn into the search for an island housing a mythical queen who can kill people by touching them.
How the pieces come together is not as important to Tomb Raider as the journey getting there is, and the Film revels in every gritty moment it subjects Lara Croft to. It takes many cues and ideas from the rebooted 2013 video game and portrays them quite well on-screen. While the puzzle solving can sometimes look even goofier than you might imagine, other moments delight in the larger scope afforded to the character. The Film also amps up the brutal nature of the rebooted games, making some of Lara’s knockdown fights even more ferocious and ruthless than they were already. But from a visual stand point, Director Roar Uthaug and his Production team have nailed down the exact look of the series.
Where the Film falls flat is in its lack of spark and character development. We wait nearly an hour for Lara to start her adventure, and take several detours getting there. These moments should provide us with a deeper understanding of her character, but they come off as wasted filler. And once we get to the island, it just seems like Uthaug wants to cram in as many action set-pieces as he possibly can, with practically zero room to breathe or learn character motivations. Some of these action beats are genuinely intense and thrilling, and some just feel like tedious exercises of watching Lara Croft run away from something or someone. At least one quarter of the entire Film is flashy editing revolving around her running or riding a bicycle, and that just seems absolutely ridiculous. And why is there such a sharp turn about halfway through the Movie from gritty realism to half-realized digital effects?
Despite what the Internet trolls are spewing, Vikander slays as Lara Croft. She is magnetic from her very first frame, commanding the screen and embodying the character in a realistic sense completely absent from Angelina Jolie’s winking portrayal from 17 years ago. Her shredded physique is a testament to how devoted Vikander is to the role, positively going through hell and back throughout this origin story. While her dialogue could have been improved, her intensity and passion never wavers. The same cannot be said for Goggins’ villainous Mathias Vogel. Considering his Filmography, it is downright shocking how rigid and devoid of personality his performance is. He is a despicable character no doubt, but this is the least memorable work this he has ever delivered. Supporting turns from West, Daniel Wu and especially Kristin Scott Thomas are interesting, but they are all sadly underutilized.
Tomb Raider is entertaining and frequently thrilling, and does a great job mimicking the look of the popular video game series. But beyond Vikander, no one else makes an effort to make the Film become anything but ordinary. There is something deeper missing here, and no amount of relentless action scenes can resolve a fragmented story and half-baked storyline. While it is a step above those better forgotten Angelina Jolie films, it should and could have been stronger.
Warner Bros. Pictures Canada release TOMB RAIDER on Friday, March 16, 2018.