Directed By: Roar Uthaug
Written By: Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Dominic West
Review By Mike DeAngelo:
There’s a stigma these days about video game-to-film adaptations – they all suck. There are some that have their followings, namely, the Resident Evil franchise – but, for the most part, you’d be hard pressed to find a successful film (creatively or financially) amongst the long line of truly awful gamer flicks. Let’s name a few and cry inside, shall we? Prince of Persia! (yikes) Warcraft! (yawn) Max Payne! (oof) Street Fighter (not you too, Jean Claude!) Super Mario Bros. (OK, I acknowledge this is a bad movie, but I love it).
The list goes on and on (and on!), and yet studios keep rolling the dice. Surely one will come along that breaks the streak. I thought this would be 2016’s Assassin’s Creed. I figured the combination of acting powerhouse Michael Fassbender and a game that lends itself to a cinematic adaptation so easily would break the curse – not so much. Turns out Assassin’s Creed was just as poorly written and ham-fisted as the rest of the pack.
Now, Tomb Raider, both a video game adaptation and a reboot of the mildly successful yet groan inducing films starring Angelina Jolie, is next up to attempt to break the curse. Like Assassin’s Creed, the studio recruited an acting powerhouse in Alicia Vikander (Hey, that’s Fassbender’s wifey!). Also like Assassin’s Creed, the recent games really do lend themselves well to adaptation. The question is, will the writers and directors actually know what to do with the material this time around? Will this be the movie that lifts the curse?! Can I build this up any longer?!!…………………………………………………………………………………………
Sorry, folks. I wanted to love it, but Tomb Raider is an absolute disaster. Not only does it keep the curse in-place, it heavily reinforces it. Director Roar Uthaug (The Wave) and screenwriters Geneva Robertson-Dworet (the upcoming Captain Marvel film) and Alastair Siddons (Trespass Against Us) have given us one of the more cliché and truly thick-headed action films in some time. In fact, with a film so bad, one wonders how Gerard Butler is not in the cast; however, Dominic West seems to fill his shoes just fine. And yet, the saddest bit for me is that Tomb Raider, a character/franchise so steeped in adventure, just isn’t any fun.
Time and time again, it comes right down to the script for me. Tomb Raider is packed full of clunky expositional dialogue and things we’ve seen in bad action movies for years – all of which play to the dumbest member of the audience. I was a big fan of Roar Uthaug’s The Wave, but good director or not, you can’t overcome a bad script – a script that’s absolutely devoid of any actual heart and humor. Just manufactured and recycled bits meant to seem like heart and humor.
For those not familiar with the games or old movies, Tomb Raider follows Lara Croft, a young and rebellious woman who gets swept up in a quest to find her long-lost and presumed dead father. For the sake of keeping things as spoiler-free as possible, we’ll leave it at that.
I will say that it’s not necessarily the actor’s fault that Tomb Raider is so bad. Alicia Vikander, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, and Dominic West try their damnedest to elevate the material their given, they’re just working against some truly cliché and befuddling material. Goggins is clearly having some fun – maybe it’s the paycheck. Who knows? The movie also doesn’t spend most of its time ogling Lara like the old films – there’s some of that. Just less so. (so…win?)
The only minor spoiler I will wade into is the following scene description that condenses a lot of what’s wrong with Tomb Raider in one scene. It’s the scene in which Lara (Alicia Vikander) meets the film’s villain, Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) in a tent on an uninhabited island. Mathias acts a bit loopy and apologizes to Lara for his blunt behavior, chalking it up to, “I’ve just been alone on this island for 7 years…” An understandable issue; however, Mathias is literally living among and commanding an army of people on the island – many of which speak English and are right outside the tent. It’s one of the many thick-headed clichés shoved into Tomb Raider to give the characters color, but don’t make any sense in the context of things.
I will say the action scenes aren’t terrible, for the most part; however, good luck finding a single one that hasn’t been spoiled by the trailers. The boat escape, the plane scene, the tomb raiding bits – they’re all over the trailers, so you won’t find much that’s new here. The real issue is when the action becomes more of a one-on-one scenario. Inevitably, things devolve into a series of kicks and head locks. And who would’ve thought Lara’s weakness throughout the entire movie would be a head lock? Seriously, it happens quite a lot and is more and more eye-roll inducing every time. And then there’s Lara’s insistence on using a bow and arrow even when up against men with guns, all the while she’s passing up guns that she could use along the way. It’s minor, but isn’t this a character known for her gun fetish?
By the final act, I’d thrown my hands up in confusion or out of sheer exasperation more than I ever have in a theater, and I surely wasn’t alone, as there were multiple scenes met with audience giggles that most definitely weren’t meant to illicit such a reaction.
Tomb Raider is one of those movies that’s so bad that it may find an audience in those looking for laughable B-movie action, but it most definitely won’t find many serious defenders of the material. It’s a film that will equally disappoint general audiences and gamers alike by virtue of how truly unremarkable and gob-smackingly dumb it is. Powerful female lead or not, this one just isn’t a step forward in any way.
Sorry, gamers, but it looks like you’re going to have to wait on that curse being lifted a little longer…