Tomb Raider (2018)
★★ / ★★★★
Although ultimately a respectable reboot of a popular video game series, “Tomb Raider,” based on the screenplay by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons, is light on dramatic gravity the longer one thinks about it. This is a shortcoming that cannot be overlooked so easily because the lead, Alicia Vikander as central figure Lara Croft, is solid in her role as she attempts to sell the emotions demanded by the plot. In order to become more than yet another mindless action-adventure, it is necessary that the material takes its time to lay out the foundations of the story so that we have an understanding of character motivations and what is at stake. However, content-wise, it is during these extended periods of time that the picture is most uninteresting.
Vikander commands a style of acting that demands that we regard and study every part of her, from the way her body posture changes as more details of the dialogue are revealed to the smallest evolution of emotions gracing her delicate features. I enjoyed her performance because she approaches the role as a dramatic actor first and a potential action star second. Notice I picked the word “potential” because I am not sure her look will appeal to the modern audience. Can viewers of today embrace someone as an action heroine when her body does not showcase well-defined muscles and her mannerisms, including the way she takes up space, lean toward feminine? It is a vastly different interpretation of the character compared to Angelina Jolie’s, the Lara Croft of the early 2000s.
I hope the modern viewer appreciates what Vikander puts on the table because she dares to offer something fresh and different. I can imagine her growing into the role if the series were to continue. She absolutely has the range for it. But what must grow with her, significantly, is the writing—specifically, the way the dialogue is written so that it comes across as mature, highly intelligent, commanding a sense of mystery and wonder. In this film, there are instances when the dialogue is so skeletal, to claim it is merely expository is generous. We see through the charade so easily, we get the impression that the performers are more intelligent than the characters they play, creating a most distracting experience. Furthermore, I saw the twists and turns of the plot coming from a mile away. Building slow burn intrigue and the ability to surprise are not the picture’s strong points.
Expectedly, and appropriately, the film’s strong suit is the action sequences. Unlike numerous modern action pictures, it never feels the need to shake the camera vigorously in order to create a sense of realism. Instead, it is still and it welcomes the viewers to appreciate how the action unfolds. Credit to director Roar Uthaug for the enjoyable scenes set underground where Croft must solve deadly riddles and evade booby traps under a time crunch. There are creepy images, but the place remains curious and inviting. In addition, notice how the editing attempts to match the energy of the images unfolding on screen.
The villainous Vogel is boring, non-threatening, and uninspired. When holding a gun, he looks like a wimp who is out of his depth. When not holding a gun, he just looks pathetic. The fault lies in the screenplay, not the actor (Walton Goggins), since it does not bother to provide good reasons why he is much more detestable or threatening than his henchmen. The writers merely rely on the fact that Vogel is bad because he is the leader of a group that enslaves folks to locate a tomb containing the remains of mythical and deadly queen.