Raid a tomb, fire a bow
Lara Croft’s coming-of-age adventure leaves much to be expected in the new ‘Tomb Raider’
Directed by Roar Uthaug
Screenplay Written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons
Starring Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas
Lara Croft has lived a long life, starting from a polygonal mesh in 1996 that was part teenage fantasy and part reality. But, the 2018 reboot falls short of being either. Roar Uthaug tried to to juggle two disjoint goals of making Lara more relatable and creating a blockbuster. But he ended up with a mundane movie that provides little more fun than watching hours of gameplay on YouTube.
Tomb Raider goes wrong in many obvious directions — it has an uninspired story, miscast lead, tedious dialogues, and action scenes better suited for a limping horse. A valiant effort to redefine Lara can be seen from the very beginning. But it seems misguided; taking out the character tropes associated with Lara Croft won’t work unless the producers put in more content to fill that void, and Uthaug and his team simply didn’t seem up to the challenge.
The biggest put-off of this movie is the unfortunate casting — the capable actors are squandered by a dull dialogue and writing. No one doubts the abilities of Oscar-winning actress Alicia Vikander, but her role could very easily be reduced to going through the motions. She had no room for personalizing the character like Angelina Jolie did in the 2003 series. Dominic West looks his part as a missing zillionaire father to Lara, but two of his reunions, one with Lara and another with his nemesis Vogel, squander emotional investment by being flat-out emotionless. Some props should go to Walton Goggins — he did add a touch of soul to the otherwise generic, mustache-twirling, evil character Vogel. But it takes two to tango, and he was the only one dancing. Finally, the addition and the amazing squandering of Daniel Wu seems nonsensical — here, they had a capable actor, but they couldn’t think of anything else for him to do other than being a mostly inert, under-hinted love interest of Lara Croft. We could only ask, “Why is he then only a token minority in this movie?”
Editing is another aspect where the film falls short of expectation. The movie has its fair share of action scenes. But, most of the time, the action feels very discrete, with the cuts interrupting the fluidity of the movements and destroying immersions in the scenes when they are most necessary, like the final combat between Lara and Vogel.
The only aspect of the movie that should be praised highly is the puzzle scenes. The few puzzles that exist are engaging, and the scenes capture the tension so appropriately that it almost felt like solving a puzzle in a video game. Few other scenes also have a distinct video game flavor. One could almost imagine them being divided into introductory short cutscenes, action sequences with narrow escapes, and the resulting cutscenes once the player succeeds after numerous tries. But, such a strong video game flavor doesn’t work well in a blockbuster setting — engaging can be difficult if you haven't played a puzzle-based action-adventure before.
If you really had no plans for this weekend or any weekday night, you could go and watch Tomb Raider. But, in my opinion, you would be encouraging the already lazy studios that keep churning out movies like this hoping for a mindless blockbuster. Why don’t you go and support your local theater groups instead?