As soon as Tomb Raider starts, you know it’s going to have a very different flavour to the Angelina Jolie films. You know there aren’t going to be any sexy open-mouthed shower scenes. And you know there won’t be any crash zooms into gun-strapped thighs with suggestive sound effects. And it’s refreshing. Tomb Raider is the origin story of Lara Croft, so this film captures her journey to becoming the tomb raider we all know and love – without the sexualisation!
Tomb Raider is based on the 2013 game of the same name (published by Square Enix who also produced the film). Although the setting is the same, the general story line has been changed completely. As in the game, Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) follows her missing father’s research to an island in the middle of the Devil’s Sea. But that’s where the similarities end. After getting shipwrecked, Lara’s picked up by a crazy guy named Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) who commands a well-equipped army. Vogel has been stuck on the island for seven years, and isn’t allowed to leave until he unearths the tomb of a despised queen for some unknown benefactor.
To completely change the flow of the original story was, in my opinion, a very good idea. It means that Tomb Raider actually makes for a great game-to-film adaptation (which are very hard to come by!). There were certainly elements of the game’s story that would not have translated well onscreen, nor would it have such wide appeal.
Despite diverting from the game’s plot, there is still a lot of story, even before we reach the island! We see Lara Croft at the gym, at work, getting told off by her guardian, participating in an illicit and arguably pointless bicycle chase. Usually I’d say, “Ew, what’s with this unnecessary padding?” but it was all very enthralling so I didn’t care. The Fox Hunt, the guy who can’t ask her out, being attacked in Hong Kong, all these small scenes that could have been seen as unimportant left a lingering feeling of admiration. This girl, despite not being the Tomb Raider yet, was very capable. From very early on, I was rooting for her.
Now, don’t you go saying “Oh, but you’re a big Tomb Raider fan! Of course you’re going to like her!” Let me tell you that I was never invested in Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft. I watched her film a couple of days before Tomb Raider in preparation, and throughout the entire thing I never once cared what would happen to her or Daniel Craig. Even when Daniel Craig died I thought, “Oh. Ah well.”
That being said, I’m comparing two very different Lara Crofts. Vikander is playing a baby Croft, while Jolie started with a fully-fledged Tomb Raider. So does Vikander even feel like Lara Croft at all? The short answer is yes. Despite the obvious lack of twin pistols throughout the main chunk of the film, watching Lara’s journey from Richard Croft’s daughter to Tomb Raider was believable and engaging. From losing her fight at the gym to the poignancy of her first kill, we start to see young Lara turn into the Tomb Raider.
I watched Tomb Raider with Di, and she said the film was “quite perfect.” I’m going to disagree with her. And there’s one big reason why: Goggins, who played bad guy Mathias Vogel, is quite disappointing. Instead of creating a villain with presence, Vogel was like watching wallpaper. He was just … there. He only had two faces: a straight ‘meh’ face when he was talking; and his wide-eyed, open mouth ‘WOH’ face when he was surprised, afraid, or about to kill you. I was never worried when he came on screen. From the moment I saw him, I truly believed Lara Croft could beat him.
But that doesn’t mean everything was all rainbows and kittens for Lara Croft. While I didn’t care much for Vogel, I was afraid for her as she battled to survive against the island. From cascading through rivers, nearly plunging to her death, and running away from gun slinging mercenaries, all of this left me anxious and hoping beyond hope that she would make it. So while the head villain wasn’t the main source of concern, the film was still an exciting ride!
When Tomb Raider ended, I was content. I wasn’t left reeling and I didn’t walk out of the theatre amped or pumped. My cup of excitement wasn’t overflowing, if you will. I just felt satisfied. And that’s why I’m shying away from a nine out of ten. But I still believe this movie is definitely worth seeing in the cinema. I had a lot of fun while I was watching it!