"Never take off the mask."
"Never take off the mask."

Unmasked: “Tomb Raider”

As we already know, video game adaptations usually suck. This is the reason why every person who declares himself to be a true gamer but also a movie fan approaches every new attempt in this genre with a certain amount of scepticism (and we have every right to do so). Despite that, there are certain adaptations that ignite a little bit of optimism in us but only in case we’ve played the game and have really liked it as well. In my case, this is the exact thing with this movie.

Before we start talking about anything, though, I’d like to do a little explanation for the newcomers. “Tomb Raider” is a movie based on the game with the same name that came out in 2013. I want to stress the fact that neither the movie nor the game have anything in common with the average at best adaptations of the series which star Angelina Jolie. The reason is simple – “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” and his even worse successor are based on the first couple of games in the series (loosely based on the story, more on the character itself) while this year’s one is based on the so-called restart of the franchise where, as I already mentioned, we see an entirely reworked heroine, new gameplay mechanics and, now that I think about it, apart from the weapons, in a way almost everything else is actually new and different. I only say all of this to avoid pointless questions such as: “Why has the heroine been changed?”, “Why is the story different?” and “Where’s Angelina Jolie?” (I have a very simple answer for the last one – I believe Alicia Vikander is not only more beautiful but also more suitable for the role,  unlike what all the critics think).

The first details about “Tomb Raider” that rose when the film was announced were not really promising as I understood that it was going to be directed by Roar Uthaug. Guys, does anyone of you know who the hell this person is? I needed to do a little bit of googling to find out that I still have no idea who he is. After some time (meaning at the moment when the trailer was released), however, his directing work seemed to be going fine (from what I’ve seen in the trailer, of course). Well, now I can say that the director’s crew has done a pretty decent job given the fact that we’re talking about a Norwegian guy we’ve never heard of who was given the terrible task to create a blockbuster movie with 100 million in a genre where succeeding is only a myth. Despite some weird directing-related decisions, Uthaug has managed to capture and present to us the core of the game without trying to advertise his own work or altering the original too much in accordance with his vision.

This is one of Uthaug’s coolest ideas for breaking the ice before the beginning of the real action and as weird as it may sound, this was probably the best action sequence in the whole movie.

Where the movie really impresses, though, is the whole feeling of being extremely close to the source material that it leaves the audience with. I really appreciated the fact that they’ve actually tried to adapt the plot as well and even in spite of some pretty big differences (a lot of details missing which is understandable since we’re talking about an open-world game and also the level of brutality is much lower than in the game but that comes mainly from the PG-13 rating), Uthaug and his crew have managed to properly present the main concept of the game and give us a much more realistic view on the adventure which is a big achievement itself.

The straightforward and predictable plot is kind of obvious but in the end we’re talking about Lara Croft and her games have never had the best and most complicated story yet they still offer tons of cool and diverse gameplay and loads of exploration options which I think are introduced in a decent way in the movie (well, they could have put a little bit more tombs, we’re talking about a “tomb raider” after all, and therefore exploration should have been the top priority. Still, for a 2-hour movie I don’t think they could’ve prolonged it more especially when some back story and events leading to the current adventure are necessary).

As far as visual effects are concerned, we have a couple of pretty good shots in the intense moments but nothing really special or impressive in general. The 3D is absolutely unnecessary and I’d recommend watching the movie without it, if possible, because the only think it could bring you would probably be a headache. “Tomb Raider” can, however, offer you a great audio effects part. The “Survivor” song remix in the trailer is a pretty good catch and an appropriate choice that goes with the movie’s tone and then, as you will see for yourselves, we also have a great soundtrack through the movie and its credits.

And this is one of the most realistic and at the same time most well-shot (considering the original) scenes in the whole movie or as the motto of the game goes – “A Survivor Is Born”.

Apart from that, the small but at the same time exremely important details such as the pickaxe (the main tool for climbing in the game), the bow (respectively the main tool for handling your opponents), the outfit (which is almost identical to the one game-Lara wears) and to a certain degree the parkour elements are here and if I ignore the fact that I expected more climbing with the pickaxe, everything else is pretty well-made. The last scene of the movie gives us the icing on the cake when we finally see Croft’s prominent weapons which you either already know very well or will get to know and which, I hope, speak only of a potential sequel (“Rise of the Tomb Raider”, maybe? – I definitely hope so!).

All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the required cast and here we have a single (beautiful) face that stands out and that is the face of Alicia Vikander. The differences with Jolie are obvious (especially the physical ones) but it’s also apparent that Uthaug has chosen a very different approach for Lara on purpose (but from the game’s point of view – a very accurate one) and that’s why this is probably the best aspect in the movie. Lara is young, inexperienced, with a pretty confusing and somewhat illogical past and therefore a similar way of thinking but still very tough, agile and creative. It is evident that the months of hard work have paid off and Vikander could easily get another award for her evolution from a plain AI to the female version of Indiana Jones.

In her background we see Daniel Wu, whose presence is only noticeable because of his role in initiating the journey and nothing else as his 10 lines throughout the 120 minutes of run time have zero impact on Lara or the events that are happening. There’s also Dominic West who plays the gone mad ol’ Croft and has basically the same role as Wu but with a little more drama and ancient evil fights attached to it. Vikander has a worthy opponent too and we find him in Goggins’ character (who also plays one of the best characters in “Justified”) who in this case is not your usual villain which gives him a strange charisma (he creates similar feelings to those that I had when I watched him in “The Hateful Eight”) and thus helps him find his place in the otherwise idyllic picture and surprisingly make him a pretty likeable character. The rest of the cast is pretty much there only because there should be some people who die either in one of the tombs’ traps or from Lara’s bow but then again the movie should have a couple of these as well, shouldn’t it?

It is obvious that the creators have put a lot of effort to properly recreate Lara Croft  at least visually and I sincerely believe that in this aspect at least, they’ve done an amazing job.

All in all, “Tomb Raider” wasn’t something epic or never seen before but it also didn’t disappoint me (unlike “Assassin’s Creed”, where Vikander’s boyfriend tried everything to fix things but in the end both members of the couple became somewhat victims of the mediocre cinema that’s related to the otherwise catastrophic genre of video game adaptations) which, after all, is a positive. The movie definitely can’t be called a “blockbuster” as it’s cool nowadays but I think it has enough qualities to give the audience a very good idea how the new Lara looks like and is also very well presented having in mind the background it comes from. I don’t know what your (or in particular – the gamers’ part of you) opinions are, but I’d personally like to replay the source game one more time and in contrast to the other attempts on the subject, to include the movie among the top-rated positions in my Top 5* video game adaptations list.

7.1 / 10

* – With the risk of repeating myself, as there isn’t a good movie in this genre, this is not a sign of a good movie, but I still have to mention that compared to the others, this movie is almost an untouched diamond.

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