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Review Tomb Raider (2018): Very plain and boring!

genre: video game adaptation, action, adventure

Once upon a time a younger Chrichton got introduced to a gem called Tomb Raider. A flat mate was playing it on his laptop and had urged him to check it out as well since according to him it was spectacular. And back then it truly was since it it did took old school adventuring to a whole new level. Tomb Raider had plenty of action but first and foremost was a puzzle game. In order to advance you were required to overcome some obstacles and get certain items. Only on occasion you were given hints. But most of the time you had to figure out for yourself how to solve the puzzles. Exploring the areas you were in was vital. It was more than the usual pixel hunting. You had to look out for traps and other dangers like wolves and bears. Fortunately you had enough tools and acrobatic skills to deal with those including the dual guns. That and you could save everywhere whenever you felt like it (at least on the pc version). It was very much needed since some levels were too big and complex and spared you a lot of frustration. And no it didn't make the games easier. The controls weren't as smooth and fluid as we are used today so the save system was to balance out things. This game was putting you in the shoes of an Indiana Jones type of adventurer with focus on tension and atmosphere. Gradually the games became less about puzzles and atmosphere and were more about big action sequences and spectacle. Ideal to make film adaptations of. The early films with Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft were based on the older games, the ones that have a special place in my heart and this reboot based on the rebooted game Tomb Raider 2013 which I also like but do acknowledge as something that has very little to do with the original games I love and cherish. 

When this film was announced I was astonished. Who was this made for? Since I don't think that there were many people wanting another Tomb Raider film. However since the rebooted game franchise was incredibly more cinematic it could have done something good with it. Reboot Tomb Raider was filled with high tension and adrenaline pumping action sequences. Too bad that this reboot film doesn't. If you have seen the trailer you will have seen all the spectacle that the film has to offer. If it weren't for the big names I could and would have mistaken this for an Asylum production with a little more budget they usually have. Although I did see the first ten minutes of Tomb Invader and was forced to stop watching since I almost became physically ill. So Tomb Raider obviously has better production values. But compared to the Angelina Jolie ones it's not. For some reason the scale of this project is small. So small that it never feels epic. However that might be explained due to this being intended as an origin story and how Lara becomes the icon we love. Completely overlooking the fact that only people who are familiar with the Tomb Raider franchise will be watching this in the first place. I don't believe for a second casual viewers would be interested in watching this. Basically you will be served a story you already know where nothing new or different is being told.  

One highlight though is the relationship between Lara (Alicia Vikander) and her father played by Dominic West. It's not perfect but done with a whole lot more respect than they did in the Jolie films. Lara's character is fleshed out a little more and it does make her more sympathetic. However for a film that is supposed to be based on the reboot game it has taken very little from it. Lara Croft in the game is young, naive and inexperienced. She has to go through a lot to arrive where she is at the end of the game. The character development in reboot film is laughable at best. She has little to no obstacles she needs to overcome. For example she already knows how to use a bow and arrows properly. In the game this was one of the most essential tools she had to learn to master. They could have at least given us a training montage of some sort instead of that flashback scene. It's also implied that Lara is highly and fully educated even when it's stated that she didn't go to university. Yet she manages to solve puzzles and avoid traps like she has been doing that all of her life. It's all a bit too convenient and takes away from what the game was set out to do. 

The story and events are far too predictable. Even the killer twist at the end. I knew it was coming the second I was introduced to this character. Now I rarely watch adventure films for their story. Often it's the thrills and action that make them more interesting. Unfortunately the thrills are absent. The action is adequate yet never exciting. At least in this department I was hoping for more. What's the point of having Daniel Wu (Into the Badlands), a martial artist, and someone who has starred in a high number of successful Hong Kong action flicks to do so little? Have the people who made this film even played the game? At one point it's one shootout after another. Granted one could argue they were going for the old school vibe and the more exploitative and atmospheric nature tied to the franchise even though technically there was very little of that in the reboot game. However there is not that much mysticism and discovery to marvel about. I would have applauded a Tomb Raider film where Lara had to face challenge after challenge and come out on top. 

Overall Tomb Raider is very forgettable. There is nothing that makes it stand out and actually makes the earlier films look like masterpieces. As an adaptation of a videogame you could say it's decent. Still judged as standalone film it doesn't do nearly enough to make it worth your time.    

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