Movie Review : Tomb Raider (2018)
Hollywood hasn't given up on turning a profit off video game adaptations. Their track record obviously isn't great, but there is still a world of unexploited intellectual properties with built-in audiences that scream "PROFIT" out there, so they're not going to stop. One of the most successful video game adaptations that direly needed a contextualized reboot was Tomb Raider, a fantastic game series who's tone dramatically changed in the midst of the gamergate and #metoo eras. Does the new adaptation starring talented and gorgeous Alicia Vikander get the job done?
Well, yes and no. It's one of the best video game adaptations I've had the pleasure of seeing, but it's still filled with problematic choices.
Tomb Raider is loosely adapted from the 2013 video game of the same name, which is more or less of an origin story. A young, restless and seemingly orphaned Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is looking for her father Richard (Dominic "Jimmy McNulty" West) who mysteriously disappeared seven years ago. A puzzle he left behind leads her to a hidden study of his, where he lived a secret life: stricken by grief after the death of his wife, he searched the world for proof of another realm, so he could be with her again. That lead him to Queen Himiko and the forbidden island of Yamatai, which might offer answers to young Lara.
So, Tomb Raider captures the kinetic joy of playing a video game better than anything I've seen in movies. Without ever calling attention to itself, there was nods to every gameplay mechanic of a Tomb Raider game throughout the movie: breathtaking platforming sequences (which a scene I believe was swiped from an Uncharted game), firefights with a cover system, puzzle solving, boss battles, etc. Tomb Raider isn't emotionally deep in the conventional sense of the term, but the constant state of urgency and immediacy Lara is caught in once she reaches the island of Yamatai is reminiscent of how video games make you empathize with their character. There is no greater context, you feel emotionally connected to the here and the now.
So, let's talk about the gender politics aspect of Tomb Raider. Because it is definitely there and Alicia Vikander's Lara Croft is aggressively sold to you as the badass female lead you see on the Netflix section of the same name.
And is she?
Yes and no. Vikander's Croft is strong-willed, stubborn, fearless and doesn't even come close to fucking any man in the movie, which is great. She has this hot Asian co-star and they both keep their pants on without bragging about it. So, that was great. Sex is not even considered in Tomb Raider because the situation doesn't call for it, not unlike for Rambo movies.
But let's not kid ourselves. This version of Lara Croft is still somewhat of a low-karma sexual fantasy. She's all sweaty, glistening and flexing her muscles under a suspiciously appropriate lighting. Man, is she climbing and grunting a ridiculous amount of times in this movie? Also, Lara is wearing a tank top when every other character but one are wearing long sleeves. I mean, c'mon! Alicia Vikander offers a great performance, the script has solid gender politics, but she is still awkwardly sexualized in order to pander to a masculine demographic.
Sidenote: I don't know who was the fight coordinator on Tomb Raider's set, but fire this person right away. The mixed martial arts match at the beginning was painful to watch and Lara's big move is a freakin' headlock. A headlock is not a good movie. It can get you hurt in a dozen different ways. She also pulls a very complicated and risky triangle choke on Walton Goggins at the end and almost get killed because of it. Anyway, I somewhat enjoyed Tomb Raider. It did more things right than it did things wrong and video game enthusiasts will enjoy it. But it's not quite the film it brags to be. It will ultimately be debated and forgotten, but it did leave enough breathing room for a sequel, so you never know...