This pseudo-review contains some light spoilers for the Tomb Raider movie. Stop reading now if you want to enjoy the movie experience blind.
Videogame movie adaptations don’t often translate well to the movie screen, not because of the lack of interactivity, but because most mainstream games last way longer than the duration of a normal film. How do you take a videogame like Tomb Raider (2013), which requires about 8 to 20+ hours of playtime to complete, and condense it into a two to three-hour film, while keeping most of the story and characterisation intact?
For Tomb Raider (2018) director Roar Uthaug, the solution was quite simple: Remove 90% of the game’s original cast, and place the focus squarely on protagonist Lara Croft and her father.
Based on the rebooted 2013 Tomb Raider videogame developed by Crystal Dynamics, Lara is depicted this time as a hardy, gritty warrior-woman who has to find a way to survive on a harsh island inhabited by a group of mercenary thugs. Prior to the reboot, Lara’s character was more of a femme fatale — she was a pistol-wielding badass, but also a voluptuous one with her tight, busty tank-top and low shorts. It was also probably the reason why Angelina Jolie was cast as Lara in the original 2001 and 2003 movies.
I remember watching both movies but I honestly can’t remember anything noteworthy. It was so forgettable that not even Jolie’s charisma and star power could save the films. Alicia Vikander replaces Jolie for this reboot, and the difference is like night and day. She’s leaner, more athletic, and portrays the rebooted Lara with believable credibility. She’s a rich heiress to a family fortune, but refuses to inherit her father’s wealth. She’s figuring out what to do with her life while struggling to make ends meet. She’s mortified after being forced to kill another human being in order to survive.
By getting rid of all of the other unnecessary characters in Lara’s crew from the original game, we can easily emphatise more with Vikander’s Lara. She isn’t exactly a superhero like Wonder Woman, but she’s a British girl that we can identify with and relate with. I really applaud Square Enix for giving Uthaug and his crew the freedom to try something different that veers away slightly from the original story. Even Princess Himiko, the main antagonist, has been drastically altered from her videogame form.
Despite the changes, there are many subtle references in the film that pay homage to the original source material for fans to spot. From the parkour sequences, to the puzzle solving, to Lara sneaking around with her bow, and the notorious ice axe, it’s clear that Uthaug’s team have done their homework. This is a film adaptation created by people who respect and understand the original game, and it shows.
What makes a good videogame movie? I’ve asked myself this question repeatedly over the years after subjecting myself to a neverending highlight reel of some of the worst movies I’ve ever watched based on videogames (King of Fighters, Warcraft: The Beginning, and
the fucking Resident Evil films that have absolutely nothing to do with the games to name a few). And I still don’t know the answer.
All I know is that, I enjoyed the Tomb Raider movie reboot because it perfectly captures the game’s spirit. It also has its own identity and soul, something that the Warcraft film seriously lacked. Go watch it if you liked the rebooted games.