While her husband’s attempt at a video game film adaptation fell flat, Alicia Vikander’s Tomb Raider surpasses my initial expectations and manages to, in my opinion, break the so called ‘video game film curse’, to a point.
Video game film adaptations have long suffered from the so called curse, resulting in low ratings and less than stellar reviews. Tomb Raider, while not a film worthy of winning prestigious film awards, still manages to excite, delight and entertain in a way that both action film and video game enthusiasts can enjoy.
This reboot of the film franchise, which began with Angelina Jolie in 2001, takes us back to the very beginning of Lara Croft’s journey. The film, which is heavily based on the 2013 reboot of the Tomb Raider games, is an origin story that follows Lara (Alicia Vikander) as she sets out on her first adventure to uncover the truth behind her father’s disappearance.
The film begins by introducing us to a young Lara that many of us may be unfamiliar with. This version of the iconic character is a head-strong, orphaned, street kid, who has not yet come into her inheritance and ‘maturity’. Upon discovering that her father, Richard Croft (Dominic West), was obsessed with the supernatural, she takes it upon herself to travel to his last known location, the treacherous island, Yamatai, with the help of surly sea-captain, Lu-Ren (Daniel Wu). What begins as a simple search and rescue mission quickly ends up as a conspiracy-theory laden mission to prevent a global apocalypse.
Despite a solid build up in terms of story, the film quickly turns into an action-packed torture fest, with stunt after stunt in every shot, pitting Lara against some of the most dangerous and life-threatening situations she’s ever had to face. Though the action and stunts are crafted brilliantly, leaving audiences on the edge of their seat, the bulk of the film consists of groans, moans and screams as we watch Lara being put through a meat grinder.
While it’s understandable that this is Lara’s first time out on the ‘field’, being tossed around throughout the entire film does leave it devoid of plot and character development. The Lara Croft we see in this film does not appear to undergo any kind of solid character evolution. and is predominantly seen in each shot covered in blood and scars. While the high-octane action sequences may appeal to gamers as they play through a video game, film-goers may be easily put off, with many of the stunts being far too ‘risque’. Some scenes were a bit much, even for me. Suffice to say, the film’s story was predominantly given away in the trailers, without much else being added to the film itself.
That being said, the film does manage to avoid the typical over-the-top predictability and video game genre cringe that has affected far too many film adaptations in the past. It is in this way that Tomb Raider manages to break out of the aforementioned curse, along with the incredible way in which the film manages to recreate the look and feel of the rebooted games.
There’s no doubt that Alicia Vikander is a brilliant actress. Given the restrictions in terms of character development, Vikander manages to portray a highly inexperienced Lara Croft, who is haunted by her father’s disappearance. Unfortunately, the rest of the film’s cast felt lacking, though no fault of their own.
It was a struggle to truly consider Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) as the villain of the film, considering that not much is revealed about the character other than the fact that he’d been trapped on the perilous island for seven years, was desperate to get home to his family and works for a mysterious organisation known as Trinity.
It was difficult to consider his motivations as evil when it’s perfectly reasonable to see Vogel as a desperate man willing to go to any length to see his two daughters again. Not only that, but apart from a few threatening shots and rather creepy stares, Vogel didn’t come across as the cold-hearted villain he was supposed to be.
This applies to Lu-Ren as well, who was set up to be a possible love interest or kick-ass partner for Lara. Even though he had a decent introduction, the poor man ended up being nothing more than just Lara’s overqualified chauffeur, who brandished a gun during some heated moments. There were numerous ways he could have contributed to the film. Hats off to Daniel Wu though, for making the most of his character despite what little screen time he was given.
While plot and character development were relatively sub par, the film did look and sound good with visuals that really reinforced the fact that the film is based on a popular video game franchise. After sitting through the film in its entirety, I hope that the Uncharted film adaptation is made in a similar way. The nail-biting action sequences, which were enhanced by visually gratifying graphics and a thrilling soundtrack, were fantastic.
Tomb Raider may not be the best film to have arrived on our screens but it certainly did surprise and delight as a video game film adaptation. Compared to others in its genre, Tomb Raider manages to entertain and overcome the dreaded curse while remaining true to its source material. Alicia Vikander remains a true artist in bringing a very different Lara Croft to life, leaving us, the audience, desperate to see her evolution in future films. Tomb Raider is a must watch for fans of the video game genre.