Tomb Raider: Grittier but Worse

Film Review |By Christian Tesfaye - Exclusive to Fortune

The Tomb Raider franchise has been resurrected, ditching Angelina Jolie for Alicia Vikander. The film, Christian Tesfaye found, was just as unsophisticated as all the previous video game adaptations ever made. He awards 4 out of 10 stars.

Some of the most celebrated movies ever made have been adapted from a book. That is because novels offer full-rounded characters and adult themes. Some could say the same about comic books, which have also given us worthwhile films. Take Oldboy, a brilliant thriller adapted from a Japanese Magna.

But no one can claim there has ever been a good movie adapted from a video game. It has been one atrocity committed on the film watching community after another. Last year, we got Assassin’s Creed and Angry Birds. The former was confused while the latter felt as if the filmmakers did not want anyone to watch the movie.

It has been the same since Hollywood attempted to adapt video game movies, from the 1993 it-is-so-bad-it-is-good movie Super Mario Bros to the terrible 2007 film Hitman.

Tomb Raider does not fare better. It has almost all the makings of the below-par Hollywood movie. It only has one-dimensional characters, an unoriginal plot and no adult themes to speak of.

The heroine is Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander). We know she is a heroine because although she is from a grossly wealthy family, she prefers to make a living as a bike courier. This is because she refuses to claim her inheritance by having her father declared dead after he goes missing.

But she finally gives in and finds that after all her father might not have died. She finds documents and videos that show he went on an expedition to an unhabited island along the Devil’s Sea, a region inside the Pacific.

There lies the tomb of an ancient Japanese queen (based on an actual historical person) that had evil superpowers. She could kill anyone with the mere touch of her hands. Lara’s father believed the myth was real, and that an organization known as Trinity is looking to unleash the queen’s supernatural powers. He went there to stop this.

Lara goes after him. She contracts an offspring of another missing victim of the expedition, and sails to the island. She almost dies getting there, only to find that there indeed might have been some merit to her fathers ‘delusions’.

The film is full of gritty action, and it is one of a long line of recent movies where women are brutally hit, while also brutally hitting back.

Most recently there was Red Sparrow, starring Jenifer Lawrence. Before that, there was Proud Mary, with Taraji P. Henson in the baddy’s shoes. It is unfortunate that even though both movies were gritty, the former more than the latter, none were willing to offer anything more than shooting and kicking.

But I liked last year’s Charlize Theron-outing Atomic Blonde. It was almost the Bourne Ultimatum, with a feistier protagonist. By virtue of the sex of the lead character, the film was darker in tone. It is not just an action movie with villains in it, but one where the bad guys are willing to severely beat up a woman.

I am as much an advocate for women’s rights as the next liberal, but too often I feel the debate slips into an unintended territory.

I am sure Tomb Raider would be seen as a torchbearer for the notable women’s movements of today. But it is possible that movies such as this can spectacularly backfire on the cause they are meant to stimulate.

Does seeing a woman getting mercilessly beaten up by men give a psychological boost to a young girl when she finally sees the heroine stand up and hit back? Or is it just a masochistic exercise playing into the hands of misogynists?

Tomb Raider does not reflect on such issues. Instead, it concerns itself with the fantastical tests of its heroine. Lara gets to jump space more time I doubt any other female protagonist has done before.

People will be interested in this movie at least for one reason. It would be whether or not Vikander would get to fill the shoes of a character that was played by Angelina Jolie.

That is hard to say for that is not a matter of talent per se. Both actresses do a good job, but both have been severely restrained with a poorly drawn character. It would be like trying to tell which fish is delectable through muddy water.

But I think Vikander is the better actress. Her performance in The Danish Girl was exquisite. She was even better in Ex Machine, one of the most exciting sci-fi movies of this decade. She played a robot – equally as believable with emotions as without.

She may have been excited enough for this part to get in shape, but it was beneath her. It is OK for an actor to star in a commercial movie, but the leap she has taken now should disorient even Lara.

By Christian Tesfaye
Exclusive to Fortune

Published on Mar 24,2018 [ Vol 18 ,No 934]



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