Ever since the very first “Tomb Raider” video game made its debut way back in 1996, it seemed inevitable that someone would try to make a franchise of films based on it. A mere five years later, “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” was unleashed with Angelina Jolie in the title role. It was promptly slaughtered by critics, but was rather successful at the box office, meaning a sequel would be coming as soon as one could be thrown together. Two years later, we were given “Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life,” which was once again savaged by just about everyone who saw it, but this time, audiences didn’t flock to see it as before, meaning the franchise would have to be put on hold. 15 years later, and now at a different studio, it was determined that it was time to unearth the material and try again. With so many years having gone by and a new creative team behind and in front of the camera, would things be different now, or was cinematic history merely doomed to repeat itself?
As the film opens, we meet Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander), a bike courier who has yet to claim the inheritance of her father who vanished seven years earlier. After an incident that sees her getting arrested, she finally decides to accept it, subsequently gaining possession of a puzzle that her father left behind. The puzzle ends up being a clue that leads her to her father’s office, where he kept various bits of research into the paranormal (a field he studied obsessively following the death of his wife). His parting message tells her to destroy all of his research regarding an ancient and deadly Japanese sorceress known as Himiko, but instead, she uses the material to track his last known whereabouts. This puts her in the company of Lu Ren (Danny Wu), whose boat they travel on to a fabled island that is said to be the resting place of Himiko. There they encounter Vogel (Walton Goggins), a man who will stop at nothing to accomplish his task of acquiring Himiko’s power for a mysterious organization known as “Trinity.” Because of this, Lara suddenly finds herself in a desperate fight to save the world from the destructive force contained in the sorceress’ tomb.
When it comes to the “Tomb Raider” video game series, you would think that such material shouldn’t be all that hard to adapt into a fun and exciting film that has Lara Croft globetrotting on a thrilling adventure. However, a lot of it is also going to depend upon the skills of the writers tasked with bringing it to life, which clearly were lacking when it came to those first two films. Was it their lack of experience (both films were penned by writers who had never had a screenplay produced before) or did the material just stump them? Judging by the criticism of the films’ senseless plots and lack of thrills, perhaps it was both.
This latest rendition of the iconic character comes with its own set of problems that stop it from being the stimulating experience it should be, though it too shares the curious trend of having writers with little to no experience (studios must think these films are good starting points for some reason). The plot here is not so much senseless as it is just dull and uninspired. All we’re given to work with is a young woman who wants to find her father, but comes across an evil stooge for a shadowy outfit. There simply isn’t a lot to get invested in throughout the overly-long two-hour runtime, a fact that even the writers seem to acknowledge as they thoroughly pad it out with unengaging action sequences. It’s never a good sign when the scribes try to go about replacing substance with mindless thrills.
What makes it all the more disappointing is that there is a rather skilled cast on display here. Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander is more than up for the challenging task of playing Lara Croft, but the screenplay just isn’t worthy of her talents. Likewise, you have the incredible Walton Goggins as a villain who feels like even less than a stand-in. This is not to mention bit parts from Oscar nominee Kristin Scott Thomas and the marvelous Sir Derek Jacobi, both of whom are severely underused. One can only imagine how good a film like this could be with this cast if the writing was up to snuff.
What “Tomb Raider” really boils down to is a bland take on what should be a thrilling adventure, all stretched out to a two-hour runtime that it can’t fill. As to whether or not we’ll see a sequel to this new reboot, I suppose time will tell. If they should venture forth into a continuation of the franchise, hopefully they’ll really take their time to crack the story first, infusing it with more than a half-baked plot and tiresome action sequences. This is another one of those ideas where there’s no reason it shouldn’t work, but it’s going to take a writer with experience and skill to take the material and turn it into something ultimately worthwhile.
“Tomb Raider” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.4:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. Much of the film is somewhat dark and dreary, but the picture remains sharp and focused throughout the entire two-hour runtime. Likewise, the Dolby Atmos-True HD audio is fantastic, giving you all of the dialogue, score, and sound effects in outstanding quality. Overall, there’s not a single complaint to be had about the treatment the film has received, leaving you with a great experience in both departments.
Tomb Raider: Uncovered (7 Minutes): A behind the scenes featurette that has the cast and crew discussing various aspects of the film.
Croft Training (6 Minutes): A featurette that explores the training Alicia Vikander underwent for the film.
Breaking Down the Rapids (6 Minutes): A featurette that goes behind the scenes of the rapids action sequence.
Lara Croft: Evolution of an Icon (10 Minutes): A featurette that discusses the history of the popular video game character.
With its unengaging, stretched-out plot and tiresome action sequences, “Tomb Raider” is yet another failed attempt to bring the beloved video game franchise to the big screen. What should have been a fun and thrilling adventure instead turns into a plodding and uninspired take on the material that wastes its cast in a film that you’ll more than likely forget every detail of a mere 30 minutes after it’s over.