Monday, June 25, 2018

Review: Tomb Raider

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Bland rocks vs artistic temple
Sums up the different in a nutshell.
This will actually be a dual review. In large part because the film is trash. Garbage. I have never in my entire life walked out of a movie before. The only reason I didn't walk out of this one and into Death Wish down the hall is that my fiancee wanted to see the end of the movie.

Let's get this straight: Tomb Raider (2013) was a magnificent game with a beautifully crafted story, well-developed and rendered setting, and had depth of plot and character that I will set as a standard against other movies. Not other games. Films.

Yes, it is that good. If you don't believe me, play the game. If you don't feel the same way after you leap from the top of a burning temple, into a helicopter, seconds before the temple explodes .... then you're just lying.

Now, I know what you're going to say. "But, Declan! A film can't jam 10 hours of gameplay into a two-hour movie."

Alicia Vikander in Tomb Raider (2018)
Excuse me, but Tony Stark had a character arc and growth in Spiderman Homecoming, and he was barely on screen for 5-10 minutes. Don't tell me that two hours of screen time isn't enough for a character arc of your protagonist.

Which brings me to the film, Tomb Raider, starring Alicia Vikander.

In the video game, we start on the mysterious island of Yamatai, home of the Sun Queen, Himiko, a legendary empress of a long-deceased nation in the Pacific that makes the Bermuda Triangle look like theme park. Why? Because Lara is a newly-graduated archaeology student, and she's assembled a team to go in search of the island. That's it. That's the motivation.

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Get used to this view of Lara.
She spends a lot of the film like this.
In the film, we spend at least half of the movie just getting to the island, with no fewer than two gratuitous chase scenes, a lot of talking at one another, and instead of Lara doing all of the research herself, showing off that she's a bright woman with a future ahead of her .... she's merely following in the footsteps of her father. She's not doing any of the heavy intellectual lifting, and it's fairly boring to watch her plod along.

Because that's what we expect from a Tomb Raider movie -- Lara Croft, running through paperwork, audio tapes, camcorder footage, and dusty offices in her family's mansion... which, come to think of it, was DLC, not the main campaign.

Image result for tomb raider mmaOh, and of course, Lara's an MMA fighter, because of course she is. Let's check box all of the "Strong Female Character" tropes needed in the movie .... but yet, somehow, the film infantilizes Lara by makes her unable to take charge of her own damn life (oh, she's the heir to a billion-dollar Croft empire, but she works as a courier because she won't touch a dime of Daddy's money because "I can't believe he's dead." Sigh). Also, she gets her ass kicked in the fight.

Oh, and the flashbacks. So many flashbacks. You know what? I don't care how she grew up. There was exactly one flashback that added anything.... and you have to believe that, just because Lara had some training with a bow and arrow when she was 12, she can hit what she aims for over 20 years later.

And then, an hour in, we finally get to the freaking island of Yamatai.

In the game, they very subtly hint that Yamatai is haunted by supernatural dealings. The boat Lara's team arrives on is taken out by a horrible storm that tears the ship in half. It is a gloriously rendered sequence, taught with tension. And this is the first few minutes of the game, where you don't know any of the characters, and you barely even know Lara -- technically we don't even know Lara, especially in this version / reboot of the franchise.

Image result for tomb raider boat movieIn Tomb Raider, 2018, the ship is a rust bucket that's sunk because Lara browbeats some poor drunken schmuck into trying to find their fathers, because both of their parents were lost trying to find Yamatai. (Coincidence!!!!!)

I will give the film props for at least trying to get the same cinematic feel as the game. Except that, even though we're an hour in, I don't feel any connection to the two characters who are supposed to be at risk in this situation.

A lot of this film from here is paint-by numbers.

Tomb Raider (2013) has Lara crashed on Yamatai, and immediately kidnapped by insane cultists. We eventually learn they believe that Himiko lives, and that the Sun Queen will never let them go unless they find a sacrifice that will make her happy.

Tomb Raider (2018) has Lara land on Yamatai ... and she encounters an evvviiilll organization who is evil for the sake of being evil, led by a sad man who is running an archaeological dig at gunpoint by his shadowy bosses. They want to find Himiko because of her "powers," that she could kill by touch.

Tomb Raider (2013): Lara escapes and begins a desperate journey of survival, collecting weapons, learning to kill, in order to saves her friends. She goes from apologizing to a deer she kills for food, to killing a cultist, to eventually becoming a badass with an array of weapons and eventually goes on to cut through over 400 gun toting lunatics..

Tomb Raider (2018): Lara escapes, gets dropped off of a cliff, wounded, and kills a man three times her size with her bare hands without so much as a whimper on her part (despite having been run through the abdomen with a bit of tree branch). There are a collection of slaves on the island that we don't know and have no connection to, and I don't think even the protagonist cares.

She then trips over her father, who is alive, has been on the island for years trying to prevent our villains from making progress. And "It's a good thing I told you to burn my notes, otherwise they could use them" ... I think I liked it better when Sean Connery said it in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as "Why did you think I sent you my diary? So it wouldn't fall into their hands! I should have sent it to the Marx Brothers." Our hero's father is kidnapped by the bad guys, and they threaten to kill him unless our hero does their bidding; at which point, she navigates through a series of booby traps, where the floor falls out from underneath their feet and "In the Latin alphabet, Jehovah begins with an I."

Did I mention paint by numbers?

... Lara kills a few people with a bow and arrow, because guns are bad? I guess?

SPOILERS (game and film)

Tomb Raider (2013): The ghost of Himiko is real. Not only is she a witch who can control the weather, but she is an evil monstrosity that leaps from body to body. She's been trapped in a corpse for centuries, and the cult that runs the island wants to give Himiko one of Lara's friends as a fresh body.

Tomb Raider (2018): Himiko was just so misunderstood. She was a Typhoid Mary whose touch was death, and she sealed her corpse away behind all of these booby traps because she cared just so much....  yet couldn't be bothered to arrange for her body to be burned? What? Even Europe figured out that the Black Death could be destroyed by fire.

Tomb Raider (2013): The final battle is Lara cutting a swath through monsters and beasts and cultists using an array of guns, grenades, fire bombs, as well as a bow and arrow. She has learned to survive in a brutal environment.

Tomb Raider (2018): Lara takes on a guy about a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier in hand-to-hand combat, using skills she had at the opening of the film. No evolution happens. I would say this film was made by Anita Sarkeesian, but our heroine is attractive.

Tomb Raider (2013): Lara has learned that the supernatural is real. Her father wasn't crazy when he talked about legends being real. Because legends are real.

It's time for her to go out and fight legends, and prove her father's legacy, as well as start her own.

Tomb Raider (2018): Lara knows that her father is dead, and he was totally insane for believing in the supernatural. But there's this evil organization out there that she is going to personally hunt down and destroy, setting up a sequel that will not happen, because no one signed the actress to a three-movie deal, and she's already moved on.

I can only imagine how the script writing worked for this film.
HEY! I KNOW!  Let's take this AWESOME, truly cinematic game about Lara Croft's survival on a mysterious island, haunted by the ghost of a witch, and witness Lara's growth from a timid, scared college girl into a woman hardened by circumstances as she uses multiple guns and weapons to cut through legions of insane cultists. ..... 
And then make a movie about Strong Female Character wood carving #3, that spends most of her time getting to a bland island, overrun with cardboard cutouts, so they can get their hands on a glorified biological weapon, and then take EVERY SINGLE PLOT POINT from Indiana Jones at the Last Crusade.
Gee, I wonder why "video game movies make no money."

They made a thrilling, gripping game with character depth into a bland, boring, aggravating exercise in naval gazing. They made Lara a "strong female character who needs no one," losing all of her evolution in the game, giving her almost no character development in the film.

I'm not even saying "They didn't mimic the game perfectly." I'm saying that there was NO CHARACTER EVOLUTION OR DEVELOPMENT AT ALL.  But then again, it would help if she had a character to start with.

And you know what? The marketing people knew this movie was going to suck. They knew it. Because none of the trailers, none of the behind the scenes interviews, none of them focused on the entire first half of the movie. They all focused on the Yamatai sequences, and the handful of images and set pieces that mimicked the best parts of the game.

I actually liked Vikander. I don't like how she was written, but she definitely put an effort into being Lara Croft. She put more effort into being Lara than the writers put into the script.

Image result for tomb raider video game movieOh, and the visual design people. You know they played the game. The makeup, the wardrobe. Any side-by-side comparison shows you that the visual design people did their damnedest to make Alicia Vikander look like Lara Croft. You want effort, it's here.

There were obviously a lot of people who worked their hearts out trying to make this film look awesome.

But the writing team?

And yes, it was a team. Three people developed the script. Two people worked on the story. Two people worked on the scrip. Only one person worked on both. Oh, and that one person who worked on both? She wrote the screenplay for Marvel's upcoming Captain Marvel film, a D&D movie, and Sony's Silver & Black film for Silver Sable and Black Cat. Because Womyn.

Oh, yeah, and this woman, Geneva Robertson-Dworet? This was her first writing credit, and yet she's already part of another major franchise. Who is this woman, and who did she have to blackmail to be put on this film?

And the director is ... Norwegian. That's it. That's his claim to fame.

I hated this movie. At this point, you can make a better investment paying $10 for a used copy of the video game for Playstation or Xbox.

Film rating: 4/10





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