The curious case of Tomb Raider (2018)
Like the original, the best thing Tomb Raider has going for it is its star. Alicia Vikander is excellent and I was especially taken with how well her protagonist arc was written. And yet, this 2018 reboot is less than the sum of its parts.
I don’t know the Tomb Raider games, but I do have a basic understanding of story structure. For the uninitiated to Laura Croft like me, this movie lays out in a similar way to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (Maybe this is a plot also found in the games, but again, I don’t know anything about that.) Our hero is going to save their father and (of course) everyone on Earth from the bad guys, who are on a quest to obtain an ancient power that would enable them to rule the world. The first problem is that the reality we are immediately thrown into in this new Tomb Raider movie is the very familiar and realistic setting of our own world. Even Laura herself doesn’t believe in a supernatural threat; this makes the journey she’s going on less impactful because of the way it’s set up. She’s going to save a father that she has mixed feelings about from a threat she doesn’t entirely believe in. This is not great storytelling.
On the other hand, Laura’s personal Arc is a well-crafted Journey. We first meet her in the ring, sparring in a gym and losing. Then we see her trying to make ends meet with a dead end job, next hoping to win money in bicycle race that she seems to have the intelligence to win but ultimately loses, and so on. We keep learning about her character: her strength, her intelligence and her grit, but she’s not an unstoppable killing machine. She loses fights and people take advantage of her, then she fights back. This makes Laura relatable and we can identify with her struggle.
So it seems like the people who made this movie knew what they were doing… to a point. They knew how to write a protagonist, they knew how to create and photograph action, but the story… It’s not full of holes, but it’s the opposite of compelling. I found myself getting board, to the point of almost falling asleep during the third act, when I should be on the edge of my seat. A woman to my right was watching videos on her phone, doing her best to respect the other theater goers by awkwardly positioning it inside her sideways held purse on her lap – but not willing to leave the theater for whatever reason. (The seats are plush, recline and since I was fighting the sandman, I couldn’t say sh$t to her.)
Is it worth seeing Tomb Raider? I guess I’m saying no. Vikander is great, there are several fun action sequences, but what’s here just isn’t enough. Maybe fans of the series will enjoy this, but I don’t think there’s enough here for general audiences and maybe not even action/adventure fans.