Director: Roar Uthaug
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West & Walter Goggins
Rating: 12A Duration: 118 minutes Release date: 16 July (UK)
Video game to film adaptations have not had the easiest of rides. It all started back in the summer of 1993 when some bright spark thought that adapting the Super Mario. Bros was a good idea. The next few years saw the likes of Street Fighter & Mortal Kombat hit the big screen. A few years passed before Resident Evil, Doom and Silent Hill all took their turn at cracking this particular corner of the film going market, as did Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. It spawned one sequel and arguably made a household name out of Angelina Jolie, much like playing Batman did for George Clooney.
Whenever a new film based on a video-game is released, the phrase “will this finally be the one” gets banded around quite heavily, mostly because all the adaptations have been wretched. The key element being that you simply cannot immerse yourself in a film like you can in a video game. Obvious I know, but when you play a video-game you control what is happening, whereas in a film you simply do not get that chance. In a video-game, poor dialogue and immense plot-holes are forgiven, because of the experience you get from playing the game. Lend this same material to a film and you have a boat full of crap waiting to capsize.
15 years on from Angelina Jolie’s turn as Lara Croft and we now have Oscar Winner Alicia Vikander in the role. To say that director Roar Uthaug has gone for something completely different is an understatement. This is, after all, based upon the video-game reboot of the franchise which placed events in a much more realistic light. Gone are the skimpy shorts and the trademark braid. Replaced instead with a leather jacket, street smarts and a will to do her own thing – Lara Croft is edgy now. Living in London as a bicycle courier, Lara refuses to acknowledge her fathers death & sign the papers which would give his company over to her. After finding a secret tomb (ooh) where her father, Lord Croft, kept many of his secrets, Lara defies her fathers late wishes and embarks on finding out what he was really up to during her childhood.
Tomb Raider attempts to cover similar ground that Christopher Nolan did with Batman Begins. Orphaned child, goes missing for years, has big mansion & company waiting, becomes a hero. More grounded than before, Tomb Raider aims for realism while still wanting to be entertaining. Its attempts are noble, but it ends up feeling more like a B-movie than a Hollywood blockbuster. There are stabs at humour and pathos, while trying to capture some of the magic that made Indiana Jones so popular, but again it misses the mark. The plot is thinly drawn and likely makes less sense the more you look into it. Similarly, the script is hapless, while Oscar Winners and renowned actors look at each other wondering whether the money was worth it.
There are some excellent moments however. Nick Frost pops up as a pawn shop owner/small time arms dealer who has lots of fun in a minor role, while Derek Jacobi’s time on-screen as a Croft board member is time well spent. There is little time for any other women in the film though, with only Lara’s friend and Kristin Scott Thomas having any significant part to play. Vikander is wonderfully able in the physical roles and completely sells the look of Lara Croft, but she suffers from a poor script that does not do justice to her talent. Dominic West and Walter Goggins are both mostly wasted as Lord Croft and big bad Mathias Vogel. Goggins is one of the best character actors of his generation, and his inclusion in anything is to be celebrated, but the film only calls for him to do anything when he has a gun in his hand and a goon to shoot.
Tomb Raider is a bit of poor show all round. There are some good moments, and if it kept the B-movie feel going throughout, we may have something much more enjoyable on our hands. Despite the end product, I would still like to see another adventure with Vikander leading the way, but on this evidence that seems highly unlikely to happen.