Film Review: Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider (2018) is one of the very best video-game movies of all time. Regrettably, that’s really not saying a lot.

Tomb Raider tells the story of the 2013 game of the same name… sort of. It features a young Lara Croft on a quest to the island of Yamatai to investigate her father’s mysterious disappearance. Along the way she must learn to adapt and become the legendary crypt kleptomaniac.

Look. Like I said, this is one of the best video-game movies out there in that it’s more or less fine. I’d put it on a similar level to 2016’s Warcraft in that I left the cinema shrugging and thinking ‘I’ve seen worse’. Which is a shame because I absolutely love the game it’s based on.

What I liked though. I liked Lara herself. Alicia Vikander is very likeable in the role and you spend a lot of time learning how she reacts as a character. Her motivations are clear and she doesn’t act like those painfully ‘badass’ female leads that Hollywood screenwriters often spit out. Looking at you Resident Evil. Lara’s flawed. She makes mistakes but she isn’t an idiot. That’s a hard tightrope to walk. I also liked how they streamlined the story, the major cull of characters from the game means we get more time with the ones we do see. The action scenes are, for the most part, exciting and suitably gritty.

That being said, some story choices made me scratch my head. The wrong stuff has been cut in favour of stuff that isn’t as interesting. The first half of this movie is also basically redundant exposition that we get later anyway. It’s only when we get to the point at which the game’s story starts that the film really gets going. The 12A rating also bogs it down a bit. Where the game was bloody and punishing, the film is bloodless and tame. I would have preferred more of the survivalist, learning to be ruthless Lara than we ended up getting.

The most infuriating aspect of this movie, though, is how stupid it thinks you are. It constantly repeats flashbacks and voice-overs to make sure you’re following along with plot-lines that aren’t at all complicated. Sometimes these are within minutes of the thing they’re flashing back to actually happening. This is a lot of why the first half of the movie is slow and unnecessary. It’s lazy writing, it flaunts the games satisfyingly intelligent puzzles and it’s extremely annoying for those who are paying even the slightest modicum of attention.

All said. If Tomb Raider came on telly just after Christmas dinner, I probably wouldn’t turn it off. And I would like a sequel. But to say it’s broken the video-game movie curse, is jumping the two guns a little.