Grade: C+/B-
Entire family: No
2018, 118 min., Color
Action-Adventure Fantasy
Warner Bros.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and for some language
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: Dolby Atmos TrueHD
Bonus features: B
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
Trailer
Amazon link

Critics didn’t care much for Tomb Raider. At Rotten Tomatoes the film earned just a 49 percent fresh rating with critics, while 60 percent of the audience liked it. That sounds terrible until you consider that the original 2001 film, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie, tallied just a 20 percent fresh rating and a 47 percent happy audience share.

The problem with Tomb Raider is that for all the action, for all the accomplished CGI and special effects work, and in spite of everything that Alicia Vikander does to shine on camera, the film is saddled with an origin story that feels a little heavy for a film adaptation of a video game. More tongue-in-cheek humor would have helped, but so would more a more original plot. When the end credits roll, you’re thinking, that was entertaining enough, but you can’t really escape the feeling that you’ve seen it all before.

That’s a little unsettling, because while Alastair Siddons is a relative newcomer, his co-screenwriter Geneva Robertson-Dworet is signed up to work on screenplays for some pretty high-profile films: Captain Marvel (2019), Sherlock Holmes 3 (2020), and Dungeons & Dragons (2021). So Geneva, let me protect everyone’s interests moving forward by saying, please don’t take those films too seriously and try especially hard to come up with at least two action sequences that are both original and memorable—because I’ve already forgotten most of the action from Tomb Raider. And there’s no shortage of searching-for-lost-parent films, most of which manage to feel more original than this one—with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade coming instantly to mind.

Curiously, our family was split: the females thought it was worth a solid B, while the males (who had watched a bit more in the way of action/superhero films) were a little more jaded and gave it a C- or C. So that’s your break point. What do you want out of an action film?

Like the first Tomb Raider, this 2018 reboot was based on a video game—in this case the 2013 video game by the same name. The plot is simple: Lara (Vikander) decides to follow clues to the last known place where her long-lost father was seen, mostly out of curiosity but partly out of hope that he may still be alive. She goes to Hong Kong, where she finds a charter ship captain to take her into the Devil’s Sea and after the ship breaks up in a storm she’s washed ashore on the island of Yamatai. There she meets Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins), who is funded by an evil organization to locate the tomb of Himiko, a mythical queen who had power over life and death—the same thing that her father was trying to find. Predictably, Lara finds her father (Dominic West), and the two of them tangle with Vogel and the other Trinity forces in order to keep them from getting a power that could enable them to take over the world. I won’t say anything more except to note that while Lara gets her butt beaten way too many times, at least the third act plot twists are slightly more original, and they lead up to the point where the video games begin.

Vikander makes for a buff and earnest action hero, but it would fun to see her in a story that resonates more. This one felt too much like a Scooby-Doo feature-length film, with scenes that make you flash back to Indiana Jones, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, National Treasure, and others.  We’ve seen most of it before, and Vikander herself said that she was thinking, “’There’s not enough women, where are they?’ I was running around looking for them.” Aside from Kristin Scott Thomas, Vikander is the only other female main character, and neither of them is the feminist icon that Wonder Woman or the supporting cast of Black Panther projected. More than a lost father, that’s what this film’s hero should have been looking for, and maybe she’ll get another chance with a more original script. The final grade is a compromise among family members.

Language: Fewer than a dozen mild profanities, with one half-uttered f-bomb.
Sex: n/a
Violence: Lots of shooting, stabbing, choking, impaling
Adult situations: Some intoxication (which sets up a joke), a scary skeleton, and a part of that skeleton broken off
Takeaway: Vikander should have held out for a Marvel hero

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