Film Review: 'Tomb Raider' (2018)
In 2018, Roar Uthaug released Tomb Raider, based on the 2013 video game of the same name by Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix. Starring Alicia Vikander, Daniel Wu, Walton Goggins, Dominic West, Hannah John-Kamen, Gintare Beinoraviciute, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Emily Carey, the film has grossed $212.2 million as of Monday, March 25.
Lara Croft, daughter of a successful archaeologist and heir to the Croft business empire, finds herself at the police station after getting arrested for tearing through town on her bicycle. The incident persuades her to return home and accept the inheritance she’s put off ever since her father went missing several years ago. However, a new clue into her dad’s whereabouts sends her to Hong Kong. There, she crosses paths with a sailor named Lu Ren, whose father worked with Croft’s dad before they both disappeared. Croft and Lu Ren soon find themselves fighting for their survival.
Tomb Raider delivers us a sexy thrill ride full of nail-biting action sequences even while the story as a whole fails to inspire anything more than faint amusement. Certainly, the only solid appeal of this film is its lead actress, Vikander, who convincingly embodies the agile, smart Croft, wielding a bow and arrow and leaping over many dangerous obstacles. Yet, Vikander’s allure simply could not overcome the generic plotline or the unsatisfactory portrayal of the emotional narrative between Croft and her father, Richard.
Vikander, a Swedish actress, shows off a capable performance as the lead character. While she fills the role mostly as a physically fit action hero doing all sorts of stunts, Vikander also provides a soft touch to the character. She comes across as a real girl, insofar as she misses her father and is trying to figure out her life. This allows the audience to relate to Croft and gives the character a genuine charm. Additionally, Croft’s relationship with the sailor Lu Ren, played by Daniel Wu, adds a compelling emotional layer to the story as both the characters share the same sorrow over their missing fathers. Unfortunately, Lu Ren doesn’t have much of a purpose in the film after the pair reach the island of interest in the story.
Of course, reaching the island is when the real action begins. After a tense shipwreck in which the pair narrowly escape, we find them captured by a mysterious group who has been searching the island for a tomb. The story progresses in a somewhat common motion: Croft escapes custody with the help of Lu Ren, discovers her father is still alive and has been living in a cave all these years, and sets out to stop the bad guys from getting to the tomb. The director keeps things interesting with suspenseful action sequences. Especially gritty and memorable is the fight scene between Croft and an armed guard who was searching for her.
The most compelling moments in the film happened during Croft and her captors’ exploration of the tomb. The director keeps things mysterious, walking the line between the natural and the supernatural. As in any good adventure film, there is at least one scene where the group must solve a puzzle to save themselves from certain death, although the answer to the puzzle could have been a little clearer. Still, the whole thing concludes with a race to escape the imploding temple, a ho-hum way of ending an adventure film at this stage of cinematic history. It does all look very cool, nonetheless.
A strong complaint could be filed against the narrative describing the bond between Croft and her father, which in this case, is supposed to evoke an emotional connection with the audience. The director employs numerous flashbacks at first, revealing just how much Croft looks up to him, but this powerful plot point evaporates as soon as Croft reunites with her father. Their relationship becomes insignificant as the film gives way to one action scene after the next before ending with the father’s unnecessary death. It seems the father had to die just so there would be a moment of tragedy in the film. Nevertheless, it felt too contrived and cheap.
In the end, Tomb Raider offers nothing more than a few cool action sequences, some melodrama, and a straightforward storyline. For what the movie is, it could have been more compelling. The end result simply is not memorable.