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Tomb Raider is a solid action adventure flick that will remind you of better films

By Leigh Monson
   Films based on video games don't have the best reputation for quality, often existing merely as cash grabs based on brand recognition rather than any desire to tell any sort of quality story. And when you think about it, this makes sense. Plots in video games, where they exist, are often told in broad, arch terms to allow the player to insert themselves into the hero role, and they aren't concerned with dramatic stakes because, well, those aren't necessarily as fun to play.
  There are certainly exceptions to this truism, particularly with the rise of high definition gaming, and one of those, arguably, is Square Enix's 2013 reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise, which played heavy on the drama to go with the game's running, climbing, and shooting gameplay. So if there was ever a game that probably could survive the translation to the big screen, it's probably Tomb Raider. And, yeah, it's mostly intact, though it's still apparent why this makes for a more memorable game than a movie.
  Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is a young woman struggling to find purpose in life after her father (Dominic West) left on a business trip seven years prior and never returned. About to finally give in and declare him dead, Lara discovers a puzzle among her father's effects that leads her to a secret study, where she learns about her father's secret quest to track down mystic relics from around the world. This leads Lara to travel to her father's final destination, a remote island with secret coordinates, where she encounters a secretive corporation trying to track down the same relic as Lara.
  So what we essentially have here is a female-led Indiana Jones riff, with a plot that takes heavy, heavy cues from The Last Crusade, though the hook here is that rather than being good with a whip and charming as hell, Lara has a skillset that marries Indy's puzzle-solving with the athleticism and bow skills of Rambo. Pair her with a quietly ominous villain played by Walton Goggins, and you have the recipe for a relatively engaging flick full of stuntwork and adventuring into the unknown. On the more human side of things, Lara is pretty well realized for how comparatively flat her character is, balancing a lack of experience with the mental and physical competence and determination to overcome her tribulations.
  Where Tomb Raider is lacking is in the absence of identity outside of being just another adventure flick. There's nothing terribly wrong with it, but there's a distinct lack of memorable lines or "hell yeah" moments to pull one into the experience. It's a pretty film, decently performed and dynamically shot, but none of its set pieces feel particularly original and are hampered by a need to remind the fan audience of the games of origin. It's all functional, but perhaps a little underwhelming when compared to even the last time they tried to make this franchise happen with Angelina Jolie in 2001, which at least had the temerity to go for broke with a James Bond-esque take on the character.
  Tomb Raider isn't a bad film, but it's a pretty tame and mindless popcorn flick. You'll probably have fun with it, but it's not likely to stick with you long after it's over. This is the kind of story that works well for video games because the archetypes and tropes have been worked to death already in cinema, and virtually putting yourself into those situations is the next level of escapism. While you can still make a decent movie out of that kind of plot, Tomb Raider serves as a good reminder as to why it has thrived on game consoles rather than on the big screen.

3.5/5 stars
Leigh Monson is technically a licensed attorney but somehow thinks being a film critic is a lot more fun. Leigh loves both award darlings and hilariously bad films, does not believe in superhero movie fatigue, and calls it like he sees it.