REVIEW: ‘Tomb Raider’ Sets A New Standard For Video Game To Film Adaptations

After decades of waiting, a video game has successfully been adapted into a film with good execution.

While the early 2000s “Tomb Raider” pictures were based on the games of the same name that came out around that time, this film is based on the video game reboot that came out in 2015. The picture introduces the audience to a younger Lara Croft, the main character of the series, played here by Alicia Vikander.

The movie begins by showing Lara as a rebellious young woman who believes that her father Richard (Dominic West) is still alive, despite being missing for many years. Her refusal to believe that he’s dead puts her in a predicament, though, as her father has tremendous wealth and Lara has to sign off on legal documents to ensure that she receives the inheritance. As she starts dealing with those documents, she uncovers clues about her father’s location and sets off on an adventure to the Pacific to find out what happened to him.

A really great asset that this “Tomb Raider” has is its pacing. The movie lets Lara’s story unravel naturally, giving her a proper introduction as a character in the first act and featuring her growth as a person in the second act. The film doesn’t rush itself, as Lara isn’t shoved right into the adventure without context, and at the same time it doesn’t slow down to where things get boring.

“Tomb Raider” also features a compelling adventure that mixes a gritty survival thriller together with a mystery that Lara has to solve. The latter providing some good intrigue, leaving the viewer wondering what exactly the villains in the film are after.

The movie isn’t without its flaws, though. For example, “Tomb Raider” stumbles a bit in its third act. Reveals are made with some fairly dull dialogue and the final half hour or so features a scene that feels too much like a video game. Yes, this is a video game adaptation, but there’s a sequence where Lara has to problem solve and it just drags a bit too long.

Fortunately, “Tomb Raider,” even through that third act, remains a solid picture for the most part, thanks in part to its lead actress. Vikander is has great screen presence and charisma, which instantly hooks an audience into following her character. Additionally, Lara is a very passionate, driven character and Vikander sells it. Lara is a real character here, her vulnerabilities, her emotions and her courage are all believable.

Credit also has to go Daniel Wu, who does solid work in a supporting role. Wu plays a ship captain Lu Ren, who sails Lara to the island where the action happens. The film provides Ren just enough background and Wu makes the character fun and engaging.

The villain Mathias Vogel is a bit disappointing, though. The actor, Walton Groggins, isn’t bad here, but he isn’t given all that much to do other than explain things. This is similar to the Richard Croft character, who also explains a lot of the archaeological info. However, Richard does have some compelling moments because the film explores the father-daughter relationship, and West is fine in the role.

“Tomb Raider” is also quite entertaining, featuring intense battles, dangerous traps and other threats for the protagonist to over come which can keep an audience invested. While there are moments here and there of the CGI not looking like the best in Hollywood, there are still many great sequences that put an audience on the edge of their seats. One example is Lara trying to survive a waterfall and another is her having to fight off a mercenary who tries to ambush her at night.

As an action/adventure flick, this isn’t the most groundbreaking piece of cinema. However, as a video game movie, it sets a new standard. “Tomb Raider” is a fun movie with a great protagonist, fine acting and engaging action. 3.9 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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