Video game movies are terrible. This isn’t an opinion, it’s a verifiable fact. I’m not talking about fun send-up’s on the video game style like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, or the upcoming Ready Player One. I’m talking about Super Mario Bros. Assassins Creed. Dragonball Evolution. These are flat out some of the worst movies ever made.
They, along with many others, have established a “curse” for films adapted from video games, and every time a high profile video game film is announced, murmurs begin speculating that this might finally be the one to break the curse. While Tomb Raider may not be the first great video game movie, it’s certainly set a new standard for all going forward.
Most video game films suffer an improper adaption. They try to capture the experience of playing the video game, rather than taking an idea and finding the best way to make it a film. This often has the result of a of weird cutscenes like the first-person section in Doom.
Also, since many video games are playable versions of classic movies (Dead Space = Aliens), an adaption of a video game can result in movies that just feel like rip offs. Tomb Raider certainly borrows (see: outright steals) from Indiana Jones and other adventure flicks, but brings enough to the table that it can stand on its own.
The largest asset Tomb Raider brings to said table is the spectacular Alicia Vikander. I was initially skeptical, but as it turns out she’s a remarkable choice for Lara Croft. The film takes it’s time showcasing her character, and we get a thorough explanation of who she is and where she starts her journey.
Through a few scenes right up top, we are introduced to important qualities about Lara that are featured prominently in the final act of the film. The script may go overboard on the exposition, but Vikader is more than capable at bringing life to this character.
The other feather in Tomb Raider‘s cap is Walton Goggins antagonist. I’ve already forgotten his name, and honestly, he may be one of the most generic, blandly written villains of recent years. However, much like Vikander, Goggins elevates this thin script and delivers a fun, foreboding villain.
The time spent on this island has driven him psychotic, and Goggins is clearly having fun chewing the scenery and hamming it up, but he never gets into parody territory. He’s clearly dangerous, but if it weren’t for Goggins’ spectacular performance, he would be ultimately forgettable.
Let’s not forget about the title here, as Croft does inevitably have to start raiding some tombs. The set pieces are exciting enough, and if you don’t think about the physics and technology too much, you can really have some fun with them. A few times the fights and traps can suffer from shaking cam, and you can tell director Roar Uthaug is inexperienced at directing action, but when it matters it’s clear enough.
You won’t be surprised by any of the fights or set pieces, and if you’ve seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, you’ll see every beat coming, but there’s enough of a spin on them and how they’re used that they’re plenty entertaining.
This isn’t a technically well produced film, and it certainly won’t be on anyones Top Ten list come December. But not all film is about how inventive the camera tricks are or how twisty-turvey the script can be. I left the theater having enjoyed myself, and sometimes that’s all that matters.
Tomb Raider is fast moving (I was shocked it was almost 2 hours long), exciting, and boasts some rock solid performances from it’s stellar cast. It stands far above any video game film that’s ever been made, and it’s a perfectly serviceable Action/Adventure flick. If you have MoviePass or time for a Sunday Matinée, this is definitely worth a trip to the theater. It certainly won’t blow your mind, but there are plenty worse ways to spend a couple hours.
Rating: 3.0 — Fine