Tomb Raider – should have stayed buried. – a review

     I have great admiration for actors. The ability to bring to life, believably, words written by someone else and craft a character that is real and emotive and exist in a make-believe scenario is an extraordinary, precious talent. 

     As a would-be writer myself, I also hold writers in high regard when they demonstrate, especially in scripts, an ability to craft a compelling story with free-flowing, realistic dialogue. Tomb Raider, the Alicia Vikander headliner, is not a good example. 

    Tomb Raider crashes into my list of high budget films that I just could not get through. Along with the abominable Terminator Genysis and the God-awful, A Good Day To Die Hard – both films, incidentally, star Jai Courtney, but that is an entirely different blog! – Tomb Raider is a film I could not get through on first viewing. For the purpose of this blog, I watched the entire film. You’re welcome.

   The film opens with A voiceover from Lord Richard Croft, played by Dominic West, telling the story of his necessary – for the sake of mankind –  expedition to Himiko, a secret Japanese island. Unfortunately, he must leave his young, beloved daughter, Lara, to undertake this trip.

   We first meet Vikander’s Lara Croft in a boxing ring, having a mixed martial arts sparring session. The scene displays Vikander’s fantastic, physical condition – her trainer, Magnus Lygdback, did a great job – but that is about all. The fight choreography is weak, the camera work not much better and the script for the scene is woeful. Every actor looks bad. 

    Hannah John-Kamen’s Sophie – she also appears in 2018’s fun, but slightly farfetched, Ant-Man And The Wasp as the antagonist Ava/Ghost – is her friend, cheering on as she gets a beatdown from a stereotypical looking lesbian, I’m-a-dyke, sparring partner. I think the scene is meant to show her stubbornness. I think I actually displayed more stubbornness by continuing to watch this film.

   The boxing gym trainer, Terry (Duncan Airlie James), points out that she owes money for her use of the gym. She is broke, making what little money she has, working as a bike courier. When at the courier base she hears a couple of the other couriers discussing a ‘Fox-hunt’ race, she is intrigued.

   They tell her that it is not a real fox-hunt, they just all chase a courier who has a paint trail to follow. Whoever wins, catches the ‘fox’ or if the ‘fox’ escapes, wins the cash on offer. Of course, she volunteers to be the ‘fox’. 

   We are subjected to a mildly exciting, though still not quite believable, ‘fox-hunt’. Lara is fast and clever and manages to outwit the chasing horde. She is distracted by a businessman who reminds her of her father. When she sees it is not him, she narrowly avoids a taxi door before crashing into a police car. 

    Her guardian, Ana – the always regal Kristin Scott-Thomas – turns up to bail her out and burdens us, the audience, with clunky and ham-fisted exposition. Her father, Richard, has been dead, or missing, for seven years and Lara is the sole heir to his estate, which seems to consist of a sprawling country mansion, grounds – that includes a massive mausoleum for all of the dead Crofts – and his secret hideaway, where all of his mission obsession/secrets are kept. No money though.

    Lara sells a jade necklace to raise funds to follow her father’s obsession. Led by an old letter to Hong Kong, she tracks down a man called Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) in an effort to find the mystery to her father’s death/disappearance.

At this point, after another pointless action scene, Lara meets Lu Ren and they take his rust bucket of a boat, just the two of them, and sail off in search of the island. Two people on a big boat, one a novice sailor, have to navigate stormy waters to get to the island. It does not go well.

    The boat gets wrecked in the storm, they end up in the hands of Mathias Vogel – reliable, rent-a-villain actor, Walter Goggins – who is the head of a mercenary band who, seemingly, forces random ethnic people to work mines for them. Mathias tells Lara he killed her father – I do not believe it and I have never even played the video game! – and one of his henchmen takes her to work the mines. Shortly afterward, they move camp.

    An old man starts coughing and Lu Ren and Lara try to help him. Mathias shoots him dead because he’s a mean dude. Lu Ren then hits a henchman with a spade so as to allow Lara to escape. She outruns bullets, bounces off of rocks and trees and is thrown into rapids, taken by the currents toward a waterfall. She is saved by a rusty plane wedged at the top of the fall. Her massive fifty-five-kilo frame, causes a two-tonne plane, that has been battered by harsh currents for what looks likes years, to dislodge. 

   As she struggles not to die, she grabs a parachute – really? Yes – just as she falls. Surviving the fall, she is hunted by one of Mathias men, who catches up with her. He grabs her and she bites him. He throws her around like a rag doll for a bit and then she kills him. With her bare hands. Really. Then her father turns up babbling and she clears his mind with a hand gesture. They reconnect.

    Meanwhile, Vogel has found what he is searching for. Back with the Crofts and papa Croft, his mind clear and now completely lucid is not happy at all. Lara’s stubbornness has led Vogel to exactly what he was after and now the world is in danger. Lara decides she must go back. 

    Now equipped with a bow and arrow – where it has come from is anybody’s guess – she makes Oliver Queen and Hawkeye seem as though they never carried a quiver in their lives, such is her proficiency with a bow. After freeing the rebels, she goes after Vogel to….I have no idea why she goes after Vogel, but she does. 

    Richard, who had been somewhat reluctant to get involved with any sort of rescue mission, turns up to put a spanner in the works and force the resurrection of Himiko. Under threat of death to her father, Lara, who of course remembers the secret code that is needed to get into the tomb – it’s always a tomb – opens the tomb. 

   Inside the vast tomb is an elaborate Raiders-Of-The-Lost-Ark-esque deathtrap, killing random henchmen and throwing up puzzles to overcome so as to get to the tomb proper. They open the tomb and find a…corpse. Unfortunately, the corpse is highly toxic and as soon as one of the henchmen touches it he dies horribly. Well, he starts to and is shot by Vogel. 

    Vogel, unperturbed by the thought of unleashing a deadly plague into the world, severs a finger of the corpse and tries to make his escape. The Crofts fight to stop him. Richard ends up infected and Lara must leave him to die. Lara pursues Vogel. Papa Croft decides to seal the tomb with explosives.

   Lara catches up with Vogel and decides a fist fight is the way to go. He throws her around like a rag doll – she really doesn’t learn – she punches him in the groin. He proceeds to hand out another beat down on her, before being distracted by papa Croft blowing himself and the tomb up, giving Lara the opportunity to free herself, feed him the severed finger and kick him into a ravine. 

   Lara then outruns the collapsing masonry of the tomb to escape to Lu Ren and his band of freed ethnic slaves and miscreants who had come back to find her. They did not help at all with anything else. A military helicopter finds the island and rescues everybody. Yeh. 

   Back in London Lara, who has given up her bike for product placement, I mean a Volvo, finds out her guardian, Ana, is the power behind the unknown about conspiracy that her father was investigating. This is where the film ends, hoping to set up a sequel. 

   Dear god, I hope not! This film is not good. The best scenes are when she goes into the pawn shop and one really could not make an entire film around those. The biggest problem with this film is it takes an extraordinary story and does not make it believable at all. 

   Lara does not seem to have a life or friends or a purpose. We have no idea why she learns to fight or wield weapons. We have no idea what drives her. Her grief over her father’s disappearance makes her shun her inheritance, why? There is no mention of a mother or how the family came to be so wealthy. Not that it is important, but it would, perhaps, give one a sort of connection to the Crofts. 

   The actors are, as ever, game enough and with the quality on show, one would expect nothing less. The chemistry between Vikander and West is believable and – aside from the ridiculous reconnecting scene – you can see them as being related. Why Daniel Wu’s Lu Ren would risk his life for her is less clear. He, however, is an instantly likable character, his roguish charm apparent. 

    The film is directed by Norwegian Roar Uthaug, which is probably the nicest thing I can say about his directing. With the exception of the ‘fox-hunt’ scene, every other scene is okay or meh. 

    Geneva Robertson-Dworet’s script and story are lazy and too reliant on bad exposition. The exchanges between characters, especially in the first half of the film, are horribly mechanic. 

     Worryingly, a quick peruse of her IMDB credits shows Tomb Raider as one of her few writing credits. Somehow she got the Captain Marvel writing gig. One can only think she knows someone in the business because there is no way she would have got the job on the strength of Tomb Raider. One can only pray she does a far better job on Captain Marvel.



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