‘Tomb Raider’ Fails to Reinvigorate Franchise


In 1996, the video game Tomb Raider was released on multiple platforms including the PlayStation and the Sega Saturn. The game features an English archaeologist by the name of Lara Croft who finds herself in a series of dangerous predicaments and must embark on an epic adventure to recover ancient treasures. Tomb Raider was widely successful on its release partly because of its independent female lead character, something which has allowed the series to continue with 17 other games. The success of the games has since sparked multiple movies featuring Lara Croft as the main character, played in the past by Angelina Jolie. The most recent movie in the franchise debuted in theaters on March 16. The film features the highly regarded actress Alicia Vikander as the acclaimed Lara Croft, a role that forced her to gain 12 pounds of muscle in preparation for the big screen debut. Unfortunately, her talents were badly misutilized in this disaster of a film.

The movie opens rather simply to Lara, in the gym, sparring with an opponent. She fights valiantly but succumbs in the end, thus wounding her pride. From here, she travels to her job as a bicycle delivery woman. Through these scenes and the wild bicycle race that follows, Lara’s life is characterized as that of a normal woman who is struggling to make ends meet. This sequence also shines a light on Lara’s adventurous spirit and introduces the audience to her friends. This part of the movie, which is interspersed with memories of Lara’s father who disappeared years ago, is actually endearing and splendidly organized, but it is when Lara gets thrown in jail that the movie begins to fall downhill.

It is revealed after Lara’s brief stint in the slammer that she is much more than a simple delivery woman with a mischievous side; in actuality, she is the daughter of a rich businessman who disappeared years prior, a fact which allows one of her father’s employees to bail her out of jail. This leads to Lara signing a document which allows her to benefit from the inheritance her father left her, something she had refused to do up until that point based on her belief that her father was still alive, even though he had been gone for seven years.

Before she actually puts pen to paper, however, Lara discovers a puzzle box belonging to her father and manages to uncover his most closely guarded secret: he was searching for an ancient Japanese queen said to be cursed with the powers of death because of his grief over his wife’s, Lara’s mother, death. The reason for his quest is not explained outside of this, leading to a bit of confusion as to why this ancient ruler was connected to Richard Croft’s wife in any way.

Of course, being the adventurous spirit she is, Lara immediately sets off on a journey to try and find her father, pawning away a priceless artifact her father had left her as a child instead of using her rightful inheritance — the first of many plot holes. This is where the cliches begin. Outside of a wonderfully designed scene of Hong Kong harbor, a setting which beautifully encases Lara’s free-running skills, the movie plummets down the pit where countless other movies based on video games — a cursed genre on the silver screen, it seems — have fallen into previously.

On the island where the main events of the film take place, one blatantly stupid action cliche follows another. For example, brutish mercenaries are killed immediately by an arrow to the shoulder even though the secondary main character, Lu Ren, can take a bullet to the shoulder and metamorphosize from a drunken sailor into a bona fide action hero with only a sling on his wounded limb. Of course, he can still accurately fire a semi-automatic assault rifle with only one arm and do so better than the mercenaries that were trained and paid to kill.

Unfortunately, the acting in this flop is less than spectacular as well. Outside of Alicia Vikander, who clearly did her best in a role as cheesy as could be, stars such as the esteemed Walton Goggins failed to deliver a convincing and passionate performance. Other, lesser known actors such as Dominic West and Daniel Wu also provided lackluster performances, factors contributing to the movie’s overall failure.

However, the shoddy performances of the actors in the film is not wholly their burden to bear; the writers must take some of the blame, too. For most of the movie, the dialogue between characters was unconvincing, dry, and poorly written. Certain characters were at first portrayed one way through the dialogue but were then flipped on their heads and made to be radically different in just a short amount of time. Writing dialogue to create an image or character that is not as they seem at first glance is, of course, one of the hallmarks of a great movie, but not to a degree that makes a character completely different in under a minute of conversation.

One of the few redeeming qualities that came from the main chunk of the movie were the hand-to-hand combat scenes. These were gritty, raw, and very well-shot, and they managed to encapsulate the fact that Lara is merely a young woman from England, albeit one who knows how to fight, who is out on her first dangerous adventure — not some battle-hardened explorer. In these certain scenes, especially one scene in particular that occurs early in Lara’s time on the island, the emotion that one unleashes during a fight is clearly seen, a key factor missing from the bland, fast-paced, and unrealistic combat scenes with weapons.

Despite all of the major flaws in this installation of Tomb Raider, more movies — hopefully with Alicia Vikander, one of the few positive pieces in the picture, as Lara Croft — are likely to be released at some point considering the major cliffhanger at the end of the film. And seeing as how Tomb Raider managed to rake in $134 million, which surpassed its $90 million budget, further movies are certainly financially possible.

Ultimately, Tomb Raider is a movie built on the back of the success of the video game series and should be treated as such. This film is not meant to be a revolutionary project that redefines the action genre; it is meant to be something which brings in money. Any people who are disinterested in quality acting and do not mind an outrageous number of action cliches might possibly enjoy this movie, but otherwise my personal recommendation to moviegoers is to spend money on tickets for the many other, far superior films that are in theaters now.