Although I consider myself a gamer, I have not played the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot game. I did however watch my partner play it extensively and know the storyline and visuals very well. The 2018 Tomb Raider film starring Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft is based on the 2013 video game by Square Enix. Although this is a film inspired by the famed video game franchise (specifically the 2013 game), Tomb Raider 2018 has its own identity and is not a retelling of the 2013 video game storyline.
Tomb Raider is very much an origin story for Lara Croft. In this film, Lara is a lost and vulnerable young woman who hasn’t fully explored her strengths yet. She is reluctant to sign the papers to obtain her inheritance as this would be signing off that her father is officially ‘gone’. This is something Lara cannot emotionally come to terms with yet and has been avoiding this for seven years. When Lara is presented with a puzzle which unlocks a key, Lara’s aimless existence transforms into a woman on a mission. Seeking the help of Hong Kong seaman Lu Ren played by Daniel Wu, the two set out to the uncharted island of Yamatai to find out what happened to their fathers.
The storyline is quite slow. I feel the film spends more time showing Lara growing up and being a normal girl, brooding, than her fighting to survive and ‘tomb raiding’ on the island of Yamatai. Although there is nothing wrong with this as the film is clearly setting up for a possible trilogy, I would have liked to have seen more action sequences. The visuals in the film are much like the visuals in the 2013 video game, how Lara can fight, jump and climb around everywhere in high risk situations that would make your heart race.
Alicia Vikander paints Lara Croft in a new light. She feels real, she has emotions, problems, things that haunt her and she is a lonesome soul with no evidence of friends throughout her life. In one scene I was immensely impressed with Alicia’s talents; when Lara is struggling in the mud for her life, I genuinely felt fear. Alicia’s superb acting exerts the different levels of pain Lara is suffering both emotionally and physically. If anything, ‘impressed’ is an understatement and ‘mind-blown’ would be a more accurate description.
I also enjoyed Daniel Wu as Lara’s companion Lu Ren. Although they don’t have nearly enough scenes together as I would have liked, I really enjoyed their chemistry and how their personalities bounced off each other. It was also interesting hearing Daniel Wu’s accents change from speaking in Chinese to speaking in English with an American accent. Not to mention, he is quite talented, handsome and is pretty nice to look at whenever he is on-screen, despite how minimal his screen time was (I’m saying this because I’m a fan of his already from his Chinese movies).
The 2013 video game leans more to supernatural themes. I was quite worried this film would take the same path, but it cleverly twists and turns in its own direction. There are some stories and themes that work better in games than they do on film. The proof being that many past game-inspired-films failed so miserably and were utterly terrible. Tomb Raider 2018 however breaks the mold and the ‘game-to-screen’ curse by borrowing only the iconic elements from the video game franchise and developing its own story.
I went to see this film twice, both at launch and in IMAX, and I must say the IMAX experience was more immersive and exciting. Because the screen was so crisp and large, I felt a part of the action sequences and even in the tomb with Lara. I admit, there are some films that don’t make much of a difference viewed in IMAX but this one definitely does.
I thoroughly enjoyed Tomb Raider. I was impressed, I was scared, and it made my heart beat like crazy. Not once did I look away from the screen. I was sucked in and attentive to every moment. Although I can’t say I loved it, I did like it a lot and really hope that the film is successful because I want a sequel already.