“Tomb Raider” brutally stumbles into mediocrity

Illustration by Steck Von
Illustration by Steck Von

While “Tomb Raider” captures the look of the new Lara Croft, the film hardly justifies its own existence.

The “Tomb Raider” franchise of video games began in the late ‘90s as a take on Indiana Jones-style adventure films. The twist was that they followed an overly sexualized polygonal woman, Lara Croft, who soon became a pop culture staple. The game was hugely successful, leading to two film adaptations with Angelina Jolie. The series was not without obvious controversy over the way they objectified Croft.

In 2009, “Tomb Raider” was rebooted into a new game which aimed to make Croft a more complex character, putting her on a dangerous island as she fought for survival. The game was well received by critics and fans alike, and so, Hollywood has decided to try and adapt this new story into a movie.

Croft is the daughter of a rich man who went missing seven years ago. Despite her intelligence and physical strength, Croft decides to live a “normal” life instead of inheriting her father’s fortune. One day, she discovers her father went to a secret island to find the tomb of an ancient Japanese queen. Croft immediately sets out for the island to find her father, facing threats along her journey.

“Tomb Raider” fails at almost everything it sets out to do. As an action film, it’s quite generic. The fight scenes and escape sequences are by the numbers, to the point where I zoned out during most of them. The camera work, the choreography, the deaths and take-downs are all so mediocre it comes off as lazy.

The only scenes that manage to capture the nail-biting tension found in the 2009 videogame are the ones they take directly from it. An escape from a ship as Croft first arrives is chaotic, while her ordeal on top a rusted airplane over a waterfall is entertaining and intense.

The rest of the movie is beyond dull. This can be attributed mostly to a lack of consistent tone.

During the intense scenes discussed earlier, it feels as if the film wants us to understand Croft’s struggle to survive as she pushes her body to the limit. Yet these moments are undercut by overly dramatic music and a senseless plot that invades the quieter scenes. Comedy attempts rarely work, instead they come off as confusing or annoying.

Oddly enough, “Tomb Raider” attempts to be adventurous near the end with an entire tomb raiding sequence that does nothing to make it stand out. There are death traps, betrayals and even a slightly fun puzzle-solving scene, but it’s not enough to salvage this celluloid fire.

Despite all these issues, I’m not sure it’s worth anyone’s time to hate “Tomb Raider.” It’s not insultingly bad, though the lack of character logic can be frustrating at times. Alicia Vikander does a good job as Croft, but she isn’t given much to do with the flat characterization.

Even worse, all of the strong character development from the beginning is thrown out the window once she begins her search for her father. From then on, Croft simply runs around an island as male characters make the big decisions or give her things to help her out.

And herein lies the film’s main problem: it doesn’t understand itself. The advertising, and even the source material, sell Croft as a strong, self-sufficient, resourceful woman pushed to her limits in order to survive. In “Tomb Raider,” Croft is barely a character and more of a vessel for what the filmmakers are hoping will become a film series in which she can be further developed.

“Tomb Raider’s” biggest offense is that it just doesn’t try hard enough, full of cliches and ideas that are neither done exceptionally or insultingly poorly. There were many moments when the film could have become something more, but all that’s left is a confused but average action film. It’s a forgettable flick hardly worth anyone’s time.

Sam Goodrich Staff Writer 

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