The days of tremendous thematic mistreatment of the ever-growing genre of entertainment known as video-games are finally over, at least for the time being. Norwegian filmmaker, Roar Uthaug, has finally brought a grounded and sincere treatment of a beloved character from the realm of joysticks and keyboards to the silver screen. Eidos Interactive’s, and now Square Enix’s infamous video-game franchise has been brought to screen before by a prominent former actress and now a notable filmmaker in Angelina Jolie. Those movies have their own unique essence of guilty pleasure nonsense that any film fan can appreciate with enough alcohol, but Mr. Uthaug’s rendition of the feminized Dr. Jones is anything but fooling around.
“Tomb Raider” is a film that focuses upon building a grounded and authentic origin story of the infamous Lariska (that’s Russian for Lara if anyone’s keeping track) that provides some genuine moments of emotion and thrilling action. The sincere storyline revolves around Lara’s (Alicia Vikander) journey to heroism that is built with the character components of independence and tenacity, as she travels to a treacherous land in the middle of the devil’s sea in search of discovering the truth behind her father’s disappearance. The story homages that of Crystal Dynamic’s 2013 release of the heroin that focused on building a more grounded character than in years past. Some critics claim this as a lack of inspiration, but I prefer to call this style of screenwriting as proper use of resources.
Don’t get me wrong; there is a lot of this film that takes massive leaps and bounds with both its physics and believability. Lara (Alicia Vikander) seems to survive just about anything which is familiar to the video-game genre of entertainment, but that kind of intertextuality doesn’t blend with the realm of essential believability like that of filmmaking. Video-games can take substantial risks with believability to continue the story. Film on the other hand, usually attempts to maintain a sense of authenticity. There is always room to make logical arguments against the screenwriting, but there should be more difficult to gather as Lara (Alicia Vikander) seems to become a superhero in the middle half of the film.
There are the physics and believability that is a noticeable flaw that can become admittedly comical in certain moments, but the screenwriting behind this film is nothing short of surprising. There is a tremendous showcase of teamwork between the direction and the screenwriting. While the screenwriter is in charge of crafting a story, the director is in charge of instructing a team of filmmakers to piece the story together in a coherent and meaningful fashion. While the screenplay has more than one flaw to point out in that of its amnesia of specific character motivations and over the top storytelling, “Tomb Raider” does so much more right than it does wrong.
The use of momentum is the most prominent takeaway for myself which almost segues me into a talking point of how successful blockbusters are built on a blended foundation of storytelling and momentous sequences. Films like “Raiders of the Lost Ark” which has just as much charming character building that it does adventurous action, or movies like “Jaws” which has just as much shark as it does dialogue-driven storytelling. There is a needed blend to formulate the perfect blockbuster. “Tomb Raider” isn’t perfect by any means, but these notions of construction can be found throughout the film. We as an audience get to see moments of brilliant emotion between Lara (Alicia Vikander) and her father (Dominic West) as well as a masterful use of these building blocks of the character to construct a legitimately resonating arch.
The opening bike chase sequence in which Lara (Alicia Vikander) is attempting to earn some much-needed money by recklessly biking through the busy streets of London in a gambling race of sorts is incredibly entertaining. It’s a sequence that most studios seem to throw away or rarely even attempt nowadays, but “Tomb Raider” decides to use this sequence for character building in a magnificently entertaining way. This character could not be built in this shockingly spectacular fashion though, without the exceptionally raw and emotion-filled performance of Alicia Vikander. Her ability to use her movements, subtle vocal expressions like screams and grunts, and her insane athleticism allow her to manifest a surprisingly inspiring heroine. She’s also given great character moments from her screenwriters that she devours as an actress to depict a character that is growing before our eyes in a brilliantly grounded fashion.
We watch her kill for the first time and how that sinful action affects her emotionally which is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in an origin-like story. How her sacrifices affect her, how her choices reflect upon her decision making, and how her emotions spur her past physical limits in both a believable and over the top fashion. Jolie was over-sexualized in her role, but she did have some great moments as the character, moments that pails in comparison to the magnificence depiction from Alicia Vikander that in a matter of hours has become one of my favorite female heroes of modern-day filmmaking. That is probably the highest compliment I can give Alicia Vikander in this excellent depiction of a character whose deserved this kind of genuine approach since the first film.
“Tomb Raider” is by far not a perfect movie, maybe it’s not even a great movie. There is a lot of flaws to be found, but the performance from Alicia Vikander and the momentous direction is enough to keep me going back to the theater for another viewing or two. The film may have flaws with that of its believability, plot elements, and balancing of its characters. But with all of those mistakes accounted for, “Tomb Raider” is the best video game movie by more than a wide margin. The closest project is that of “Mortal Kombat” which is admittedly fun to watch but noticeably below par.
2018 seems to be the year of ever-expanding change in filmmaking from the needed representation of “Black Panther” to the furthering of media identity in “Love, Simon.” We’re witnessing a historic year of filmmaking thus far where the marginalized have become the focal point, and who's to say video-game movies shouldn’t jump into the fray? Alicia Vikander, Roar Uthaug, and fellow screenwriters seem to think its time for some change, and I for one agree.