It’s a truth universally acknowledged that video game movies suck, and yet they show no sign of stopping. One can’t help but wonder why. Although the better adaptations tend to surpass $100 million, they never turn a decent profit – or even rate well. Based on the 2013 reboot of the 1996 action/adventure game, Tomb Raider is just the latest addition to this disappointing canon – though with Minecraft and Sonic the Hedgehog on the way, it may not be the last.
Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is a Deliveroo-like cyclist in a Shoreditch-y area of London, who loses rough boxing matches in her spare time and lives off a thin wage. She’s meant to inherit a large fortune from her father (Dominic West) in the event of his death, which is presumed after seven years missing. He left to explore a desolate Japanese island for the tomb of Himiko, a queen with supernatural abilities. When our heroine discovers a secret video-message from her father, she travels to the island to find him.
Lara’s introductions are good fun and we immediately like her. She is strong, fierce and deliberately de-sexualised – as was the intention of co-writer Geneva Robertson-Dworet, who wanted to avoid the objectification shown in the previous Angelina Jolie adaptations. The script by Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons nicely builds the characters – particularly the relationship between the protagonist and her father – but doesn’t invest the audience into the tomb-raiding plot. It’s as if the writers and director Roar Uthaug were bored with the main story.
The action sequences start off exciting, with a bizarre cycle chase in London, where George Richmond’s speedy, physical visuals are filled with an animated energy. But it’s not long before these scenes become dreary and formulaic, often shoehorned in without motivation and desperately trying to imitate gameplay. And the same goes for the life-or-death puzzle solving, which is surprisingly scarce.
Tomb Raider is boring, but not unbearable. The film has good moments of thrill and emotion, sustained by Vikander’s brilliantly charismatic performance. But it’s let down by a lack of intrigue – especially from the villain played by Walton Goggins, who’s been roped into a role that’s far too bland for his talents. This adaptation is just another million-dollar billboard promoting a video game.
Tomb Raider is released nationwide on 16th March 2018.
Watch the trailer for Tomb Raider here: