A VIDEO GAME TO FILM ADAPTATION THAT ISN’T PERFECT, BUT CLOSE ENOUGH!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
WARNER BROS. PICTURES AND MGM
Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider
World-famous video game adventurer, Lara Croft returns to film in Tomb Raider, based on the Square Enix (The current owner of the property) video game series of the same name. This isn’t the first time Lara Croft fell victim to the video game movie cash grab craze, the role was previously portrayed by Angelina Jolie in the 2001 film, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and its sequel, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.
Now Academy Award® winner, Alicia Vikander (Ex-Machina, The Danish Girl, Jason Bourne) dons the blue tank-top, bow, and arrows under direction by Roar Uthaug (Magic Silver, Escape, The Wave). I was expecting something terrible as video game film adaptations have a very negative reputation, but for what they’re doing with the source material, Tomb Raider surprisingly isn’t half bad.
Why does a film adaptation of Tomb Raider work compared to other video game movie attempts like Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie (and trust me, we’ll get to that along the road)? Well, Tomb Raider is a perfect fit for a movie, the games were adventure based and very reminiscent of Indiana Jones or even the Brendan Fraser Mummy movie, and for the most part it translates to film quite nicely.
The movie captures the look and feel of Tomb Raider literally right down to having scenes recreated from the games in live-action. Obviously, the filmmakers have done their homework and gave us a decent adaptation of the game and a flawed but fun adventure movie to boot, take several notes Boll.
The film follows, Lara Croft (Vikander), the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West-Chicago, 300, Punisher: War Zone) who left her when she was a little girl and vanished without a trace. Now a 21-year-old woman without any real focus on purpose, Lara believes her father is still alive and discovers a puzzle that could help her solve the mystery behind his disappearance.
Going against her father’s “Final Wishes”, she leaves everything she knows and loves behind and embarks on an adventure in search of her dad’s last-known location, an ancient tomb on a mysterious island somewhere off the coast of Japan with the help of a ship captain named Lu Ren (Daniel Wu-House of Fury, Tai Chi, Overheard). But her mission will not be easy, just getting to the island will be extremely treacherous and the stakes getting higher as Lara must push herself beyond her limits into the great unknown to save her father and possibly the world.
The film also stars Walton Goggins (The Bourne Identity, Predators, Lincoln) as Mathias Vogel, Kristin Scott Thomas (Four Weddings and a Funeral, The English Patient, Darkest Hour) as Ana Miller, Hannah John-Kamen (Killjoys, Ready Player One, Ant-Man and the Wasp) as Sophie, Antonio Aakeel (Skins, City of Tiny Lights, Eaten by Lions) as Nitin Ahuja, Derek Jacobi (Gladiator, The King’s Speech, Cinderella (2015)) as Mr. Yaffe, Nick Frost (Cornetto trilogy, Paul, The Boxtrolls) as Max, Jaime Winstone (Wild Bill, Powder Room, Love, Rosie) as Pamela, and Duncan Airlie James (Starred Up, ID2: Shadwell Army, Autumn Never Dies) as Terry.
Overall, Tomb Raider isn’t a great film (it’s debatable whether or not it’s even a good film) but it’s certainly the best video game movie adaptation we’ve gotten so far. It succeeds where most adaptations fail, representing the source material and being faithful to it while still being an adventure movie.
We’ve had several adaptations in the past that tried to be so different from its source material to the point where they were unrecognizable to fans like Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and pretty much every single video game movie directed by Uwe Boll. On the other hand, there have been video game film adaptations that were extremely loyal to the source material but never really delivered much to the mainstream like Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, or the Ratchet & Clank movie that came out a couple years ago.
Tomb Raider finds a decent middle ground between fan-service and being an entertaining movie, and I had fun with it, which is more than what I could say about other game adaptations. It doesn’t shove the game references in your face or completely destroy them, even if you’ve never played the Tomb Raider games you can watch this movie and figure out visually what was probably taken from the games.
Specifically, this film takes more references from the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot game than the original, which I think is for the best. Don’t get me wrong, I have fond memories of playing the original games on PlayStation as a kid and will always hold a place in my heart but let’s face it, the reboot gave Lara Croft more of a character than the original where they passed her off as a sex symbol with pixelated breasts for teenage boys and that’s it.
I was concerned at first with Alicia Vikander being chosen to play Lara since the 2001 Angelina Jolie film is admittedly a guilty pleasure of mine, but after seeing her take on it, she plays the part quite well. She’s strong but has her limits, adventurous, can deliver a one-liner or funny joke once in a while, arrogant but never to the point where she’s unlikable, and Vikander already won me over as an actress with two of her movies in a row.
But like all video game adaptations, Tomb Raider does have its flaws, the very beginning of the movie is pointless and doesn’t really connect to the story (Like a less enraging Killing Joke opening), the dialogue is really bad and corny, and the story gets predictable at times and falls victim to a lot of adventure movie clichés. If you’ve seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Mummy, or even the Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider movie, you pretty much know the plot of this one.
Fortunately, the problems don’t ruin the movie and as a whole, it’s fun and proof that a decent video game movie can be made with the right amount of care. Plus, we got Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, Rampage, and Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 coming out later on this year, maybe Tomb Raider was the movie that made Hollywood wake up.