- Movie Rating -

Tomb Raider (2018)

| March 15, 2018

The new reboot of Tomb Raider is 118 minutes of “Who Could Care?”  Seriously, there’s nothing here.  It gathers points for looking appropriately grungy and having stuff move around on the screen but ultimately it leaves you empty and dissatisfied.  Here is a movie that is passionless, joyless, unoriginal and drags a perfectly good Oscar-winning actress through a role that gives her nothing interesting to do.  Yes, the filmmakers can be credited with taking a highly sexualized video game character and giving her a human dimension (albeit largely limited to daddy issues) but the story is like being served a hamburger without cheese, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, condiments or even salt; a flavorless lump of government beef that nobody wants.

Whatever this movie does over the weekend might be predicted by the screening that I attended.  Sitting there Thursday night, the movie was attended by 199 empty seats and me.

I might have seen empty seats as a positive if I suspected that the movie was made as a soulless product.  It’s not.  Despite my objections, I can say that the movie does try to make its character into an actual human being.  In the new age of feminine visibility in film, a kick-ass action heroine might be just the thing that we need right now.  And the movie gets some points for desexualizing a character who started life in a video game character who was little more than oversized breasts and an hourglass figure.  Yet, one step forward is two steps back in this case.  The screenwriters succeed in giving Lara Croft a human dimension, but it’s still only one dimension.  That’s not progress, that’s a regression.  Either they genuinely don’t know the difference or they’re hoping that we are too stupid to notice.

Alicia Vikander tries to give this vapid character some kind of heart, but the story and the characters are still so thin that it doesn’t really matter.  She’s wasted here.  She is a ridiculously talented actress who has thus far played the Queen of Denmark in A Royal Affair, a vengeful cyborg in Ex Machina and the understanding wife of the first man to get a sex change in The Danish Girl – for which she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.  What was the thinking here?  Why take a extraordinary actress and run her through this chunk of indifference?

The story offers nothing of interest, borrowing and stealing plot points from much better movies, most egregiously the Indiana Jones movies (the good ones).  As if you could care, the story deals with Lara’s emotional instability wrought by her explorer father Richard who apparently died on an expedition some years ago.  A lot of the movie is given over to her relationship with dad (Dominic West) as we see flashbacks of their early years together – a LOT of flashbacks.  Too many flashbacks.  You could cut out the flashbacks and make another movie there are so many flashbacks.  Stop with the flashbacks already!

Poor Lara is a struggling courier who bides her time boxing and getting arrested for participating in an illegal bike race where she is able to hoist herself up onto the back of a truck and then pull herself back down again at 40 miles an hour without a massive injury.  Uh huh.  All the while she is still burdened by whatever happened to her dad who (shades of Last Crusade) spent his life researching the whereabouts of an ancient legend whose history sounds like it would make a much better movie than Tomb Raider.

Legend has it that Himiko, the mythical Queen of Yamatai commanded power over life and death and was capable of killing people at a simple touch.  So, one day, her generals chained her up and sent her to a remote island to be buried alive so that she could not harm anyone.  Richard had been looking for her tomb largely to keep nefarious forces from opening it (shades of Raiders of the Lost Ark) and unleashing a devastation upon the world.  And believe me, what is waiting for Lara and Richard when they find the tomb isn’t nearly as interesting as it sounds.

So, Lara puts the clues together and travels to the island to find the tomb only to discover (more shades of Raiders) that Richard’s adversary is there looking for it as well.  He is Mathias (Walton Goggins), leader of a nefarious expedition to find the tomb using slave labor (shades of Temple of Doom).  Naturally, he’s an all-around jerk and ignores the dire warnings about the tomb and its devastating effects.  Blah Blah Blah.

What happens next is not really surprising to anyone who has ever seen a movie like this – or just Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom or Last Crusade.  There are action set pieces, dire warnings, bawkings at said warnings and lots of kinetic action, all strung together with characters who are basically soulless pieces to move around the plot – much like a video game.

This could work, and it has before.  The problem is that a movie like this needs to be dialed up to 11, but it remains safely at a 2.  Why?  Why make an adventure movie so lackadaisical and safe?  The movie is rated PG-13 and there is evidence on the screen that the filmmakers are working hard to stay within that parameter.  The violence here is so muted that it feels like a TV edit.  There is a moment Lara gets a metal shard lodged in her side but unless I missed something, I don’t think there was ever any blood.  There is actually a scene late in the movie in which a man disintegrates (Raiders again) and it is edited so sheepishly that I am not even sure if he died.

This movie is frustrating.  It needs to have the chains pulled off.  It needs to sing and dance and run and jump and play.  It needs some characters, some joy and delight.  It needs to pull us along with a story that we care about.  The biggest irritation is that this movie isn’t even interestingly bad, it is just 118 minutes of thudding mediocrity.  When it’s over you’ll forget about by before you reach your car.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2018) View IMDB Filed in: Action