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'Tomb Raider' is far from great, but it's probably the 'Citizen Kane' of video game flicks

March 16, 2018

For almost as long as playing video games at home has been a thing, Hollywood has been trying to find a way to separate those often ravenous fans from their cold hard cash.

 

Alas, the road to video game adaptation gold is littered with the twitching corpses of many a well-respected, or at least beloved game.

 

Yes, from “Double Dragon”to “Street Fighter” to “Max Payne,“ “Assassin's Creed,” and the entire “Resident Evil” series, the genre – to put it in the nicest possible terms – pretty much sucks.

Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures’ action adventure “Tomb Raider,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures © 2018 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER PICTURES INC.)

Knowing that, when I saw that Lara Croft was coming back to the big screen (remember those Angelina Jolie clunkers?), I was excited, yet hesitant about the whole thing – especially given the fact that it's based on my favorite “Tomb Raider” game (the 2013 release).

 

This time out Lara (Alicia Vikander) is a twentysomething bike messenger in London who, despite her family's vast fortune, is struggling to make ends meat. Her predicament is, however, by choice, as she would need to sign paperwork declaring her missing father, Richard (Dominic West), dead to claim her inheritance.

 

Eventually Lara relents and begins the process of putting her father to rest. And it's then that she stumbles upon his dirty little secrets. Richard was not only the sophisticated and savvy businessman he allowed people to see, but also the globetrotting archaeologist who held the key to supressing a supernatural entity that could literally end the world.

 

Desperate to find, or at least find out what happened to, her father, Lara sets out for the uncharted island and all of the dangers – including her father's arch nemesis Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins), whose lone goal is to unleash the aforementioned entity.

Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures’ action adventure “Tomb Raider,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures © 2018 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER PICTURES INC.)

The first thing that really stood out to me is just how much “Tomb Raider” feels like a video game. It moves smoothly (and frequently) from the action sequences to the slower, dialogue-filled ones, much how games flow from the actual gameplay to the dramatic cutscenes in between.

 

In this regard, the film stays quite true to its source material.

 

It also stays pretty true to the storyline of the game … at least from what I remember, as it's a good game to imbibe to. It takes some of the more memorable moments from that game and elaborates on them to make them more “movie” and less “insert story to give gamers' thumbs a break.”

 

There are some things that are cringe worthy – namely a couple of CGI scenes of Lara running through jungles and caves, and, if I'm being completely honest, well over half of the dialogue. But as my +1 reminded me: it's a movie based on a video game, and video games are filled with awful dialogue. I carried that persuasive argument over to the over-the-top CGI, as going that route is pretty much the only way to stay true to the game.

 

Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft and Walton Goggins as Mathias Vogel in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures’ action adventure “Tomb Raider,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Photo by Graham Bartholomew © 2018 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER PICTURES INC.)​

 

In terms of casting, Vikander more than holds her own as Croft, and looks about as close to 2013 video game Lara as could be hoped for. She's probably the strongest actor to take on a video game role, and she's able to make the most of the cheesy lines she's provided with.

 

Goggins also plays a pretty convincing villain. He's got a face that just screams sneaky, conniving, and generally unlikable, which is pretty much perfect for Mathias.

 

When compared to other action/adventure movies, “Tomb Raider” would probably be considered average, or maybe even a little below average. But if you compare it to basically every other video game movie ever made, it's basically a masterpiece.

 

★★1/2 of ★★★★★