TOMB RAIDER [Movie Review]: Finally! A Good Video Game Movie.
“MONSIGNOR” TRAVIS MOODY: [First off, I must applaud any studio that gives film critics free popcorn before a screening. That there’s an automatic extra 0.25 bibles!] All joking aside, Tomb Raider is a terrific popcorn movie and super faithful to the source material. It’s almost funny, even, since a gentleman at the theater bar asked of my critical approach heading into this video game adaptation, whether my attention would steer more towards the film’s story or action (you know, seeing how 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was less grounded in reality and clearly more focused on bombastic set pieces and Angelina Jolie’s cup size). I replied, “neither”; as a mega-fan of the two newest Xbox/PlayStation games from Crystal Dynamics/Square Enix, my chief hope was for something that could capture a similar aesthetic. And boy, does it ever. Fans of the 2013 Tomb Raider game reboot and its Rise of the Tomb Raider follow-up are going to enjoy this flick as much as Director Roar Uthaug — all the more apparently — enjoyed playing the games.
“The TRAVELING NERD” LANCE PAUL: [When did we start giving away additional scores for popcorn? Have we became so heavy handed with our accolades that we’ve become the next IGN?] But to get serious, my dear nerd friend Moody here is correct: Tomb Raider is an exceptional on-point take of a much beloved video game. Dare I say, that Tomb Raider is, perhaps, the first film based off a game to be well-written, acted and directed! While he won’t forever change the face of The Academy, Uthaug stepped into some near impossible shoes when he signed on to direct the reboot of a most cringeworthy Razzie near-miss! Thankfully, and especially due to todays climate, MGM steered away from the scantly clad teal bouncing image of Lara Croft; instead, their current millennium Miss Croft was in the capable hands of Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, The Danish Girl), who trades in the sunglasses and khaki boyshorts for a much more battleweary motif armed with exceptional bow and ice axe skills.
MOODY: Yes, I remember the day Vikander was hired–didn’t care. Never saw or remembered her in anything, so I falsely pushed this wayside as a whiff. Her performance was so good it should make Camilla Luddington (current video game Lara and an ol’ pal of the Monsignor’s) proud. Vikander, in fact, captures many of Camilla’s signature huffs-and-puffs and grunts-and-groans from the games. Many of Vikander’s fight sequences and injury recoveries send off that sort of Daredevil Netflix level of “oh shit, she’s fucked” realism. It’s also clear by the third act that Vikander is a more than capable stuntwoman too; there are shots in this film that only she could be a part of, and — this side of some incredible leaps off a cliff, a waterfall, and a shifty horizontal ladder-bridge or two, all signature to the game, mind you — nothing from Lara felt too unrealistic or “video gamey”; yeah, hilarious, since the best compliment I can give this Tomb Raider is that it feels like the video game. Maybe that’s also why this one is a winner; Raider‘s not going to oust Black Panther from 2018 Nerd Film Superiority or anything, but it captures enough familiar beats from the modern day games in such a cool and invigorating way that its familiarity warrants applause. Gas can environmental explosions, FTW! Also kudos: Walter Goggins tones it down from the Vice Principals‘ office to play evil explorer Vogel, and Dominic West‘s infamous detective from The Wire is nearly unrecognizable as Lara’s dad, Richard. 3.75/5 Ancient Texts.
LANCE: Vikander has been on my radar for sometime. I can see why you may have missed her Moody, since her performances aren’t usually based off of a video-game nor does she usually star in action films. Before seeing the Tomb Raider I did some research; Vikander has never been formally trained in acting, she’s an award winning ballerina (which might explain how flawlessly she moves on screen) and she is married to Magneto himself, Michael Fassbender. Vikander is just a natural. She holds her own against the likes of West, Goggins and Into The Badlands‘ Daniel Wu. I guess I have to agree with you Moody (shucks); besides the usual action that you’d expect from a genre like this, I never once thought that Tomb Raider was falling back on a video gamey schlock. All the ancient puzzles, amazonian atmospheres, tomb raiding, and, hell, duck-and-cover “gameplay” are here. While the film itself took just a bit to get going (it’s 2018; we got to establish that she’s some sort of British hipster person of sorts!), Raider is looking at a start of $27-29 million from 3,854 screens, with WB projecting a start of $23-25 million against a reported budget of $90 million. Does this mean that Black Panther may finally be knocked off of his throne? If Lara can manage it, this is one nerd that would be okay with it. She deserves it! 4/5 Ice Axes.
Warner Bros/MGM’s Tomb Raider is in theaters this Friday.