Conventional nerd wisdom states that no one has ever made a decent movie out of a computer game. Every time someone has a go this comes up in the reviews with the query always being whether the latest attempt will be the one to buck the trend. This is obviously relevant to this new Tomb Raider picture but by my mind the more interesting question here is why in 37 years no one has managed to make a mystery adventure film anywhere near as good as Raiders of the Lost Ark? There have been a number of attempts; the Mummy films, the National Treasure movies, Spielberg’s own Indiana Jones sequels and Tin Tin, but nothing has really come close. Interestingly, I think the reason for this is the same as the reason why there has never been a good film made from anything that originated on a computer console; these films have all concentrated too much on the game and not enough on the story and the protagonist. This is certainly true of this new Tomb Raider movie.
Tomb Raider is entertaining enough but it takes itself far too seriously and it feels very episodic as the protagonist goes from one obstacle to the next; get off the sinking boat, cross the waterfall, fight the man, escape the derelict aeroplane and so on and so on. It is best when Alicia Vikander’s Lara Croft finally lives up to her reputation and actually raids a tomb but it takes quite a long time to get there and a lot of the lower levels aren’t as engaging. Worst of all is the attempt to inject some action into the London based opening scenes with a road race which is essentially trying to do Fast & Furious on push bikes and failing. Still, once Lara has found her missing father’s secret man cave and opened up a big cardboard box full of exposition things start heading in the right direction.
Of course the hook with this boy’s own adventure is that it’s not a boy’s adventure at all, at least not in terms of the lead character (I suspect the audience will be predominantly male). This clearly isn’t the first time we’ve seen a female action hero. We’ve even had two previous Tomb Raider films but this has a much stronger feminist theme than Angelina Jolie prancing around in bikinis and hot pants. The male director, Roar Uthaug, and his male writers have tried demonstrably to make Lara Croft a real woman here and not a superhero. It is interesting to see her struggle to succeed and wrestle with what she has to do to do so and Vikander’s version of the iconic character is a lot more Katniss Everdeen than Wonder Woman. As much as it will please the fans, it is a shame then that by the end she has morphed into the two handgun toting chick we are more familiar with. Origin stories are often the least interesting in a series of films but I fear this won’t be the case here. From here on, and this film is clearly setting up a sequel, it looks like it will be business as normal.
Essentially Tomb Raider feels like a bit of a B-Movie; the dialogue is a little cheesy, the plot predictable and there is nothing that spectacular or groundbreaking. It is good that when a load of Hollywood actors put their hands up for being action stars, Alicia Vikander can say me too but in the end this still feels too much like watching someone else playing a computer game. At one stage the hero has to place bits of coloured glass in holes in the correct sequence to open a door and you can practically hear the Candy Crush music playing in the background. It’s too much like a computer game and, despite thinking it is, not enough like Raiders of the Lost Ark.
(My recommendation is to give this one a miss and search out a copy of French movie The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec instead.)