When I was younger, I used to avidly play the Tomb Raider games. I say “play”, when – in reality – I mean struggle through the tutorial level, get creeped out by the ever-present butler, and then cry as soon as a pixelated wolf came on to the screen.
So you can imagine my disappointment when I was asked to review the third Tomb Raider movie, aptly named Tomb Raider, only to see that it just wasn’t that good.
And most annoyingly, Lara Croft didn’t even have scarily pointy, pyramidal boobs like she used to in the old PC games.
Alicia Vikander stars as Lara Croft, a woman whose problems aren’t really problems. She’s a skilled athlete, who’s good at mixed martial arts, and a pro-cyclist, while I can’t even blink without getting out of breath. She also struggles to fund her lifestyle, despite inheriting her father’s multi-millionairdom. I just want you to know how easy you have it, Lara – when I was 14, I couldn’t afford credit on my phone for a whole fortnight. So there…
After being forced to face the facts that her father is dead*, Lara goes in search of his last-known destination, a distant, foreign island possessed by an ancient curse. Because why would we want a strong, kick-ass female lead, when we could have someone who just wants to be daddy’s favourite again?
* Spoiler alert: When Dominic West, an actor in one of TV’s most successful series ever, is cast, don’t be surprised if his character isn’t actually dead after two and a half milliseconds of airtime.
Expectedly, Alicia plays Lara well enough. It’s a shame, however, that there’s not really a lot to the character – in comparison to the rich video games. From watching Tomb Raider, I could tell you that Lara has a six pack. That’s it, really.
Tomb Raider tried to mimic the success of the 2013 video game of the same name, with many scenes being direct replicas of the game; from the cascading down rapids, to parachuting through trees, and pulling shrapnel out of Lara’s abdomen. While it was impressive to see the movie take a much grittier, less sexy approach to the explorer’s story, I feel it needed more set pieces. Aside from a few dodgy booby traps (which wouldn’t look out of place with a shit 90s catchphrase, like “Ouch! That’s gotta hurt…”), there were very little scenes that blew me away, physically. And considering Lara is 99% about the physical, that’s kinda like selling Matey bubble bath, but really getting cheese sauce. (That actually happened to me once. I love cheese, so I didn’t really mind. Best. Bath time. Ever.)
On the other hand, Tomb Raider (the movie) took a bit too much from Tomb Raider (the video game). Lara seems almost invincible, and – unless she’s actually from the video game world, and has a stash of golden rings on her, a la Sonic – she’d be pretty damn dead by now. And the bad guys. Don’t even get me started on the bad guys…
Well, you did it. You got me started on the bad guys. Each one is a perfect stereotypical baddie, if you asked a toddler on blue food colouring to describe them. They’re all ripped, with sports sunglasses on, and mean, snarling tribal tattoos, because only ‘ard nuts could inflict such pain on themselves. Even the script seems to be trying to walk you through the movie, as if you were struggling on a level. At one point, Lara must solve a riddle, using different coloured glass, in order to create the colour of life, before she and her (not dead) father plummet. Rather than just speedily solving the clue, she exclaims “GREEN!” before completing the task. Who is that benefiting? Am I supposed to sit back in relief and say “Ah. Green’s the colour of life? Thanks for spitting that on me. I always thought hazelnut was the colour of life.”
Finally, just when you think the movie might take a fresh twist; by introducing Himiko’s curse – a plague that infects those around her – it goes down some pretty boring zombie root, which turns several of the characters into crazed, feral monsters… For all of six seconds, before one shot kills them. This happens to three characters, and nothing else really happens of that. At least that’s what I think happened. It ended so quickly, I actually missed it while I was picking up the remote control to launch at the television screen.
At the end of the day, if you’re a diehard fan of Tomb Raider, it might be a nice, refreshing watch after the even worse Angelina Jolie outings as Lara, but with it’s predicability – of Lara chartering an ocean no-one’s survived before, and coming across her dead father who’s not dead; just a bit hairy now – it’s not really going to be an enjoyable watch. And it certainly won’t be one you do for a second time.