As I said earlier, the film is more an adaptation of the 2013 video-game and the 2015 video-game that followed, both of which provided a darker, grittier approach than what was seen with the Angelina Jolie films. The film follows Lara Croft embarking on a journey in-search of her father’s last-known destination, only to undercover a secret organization called Trinity and more questions about her father’s mysterious disappearance.
A fan of the video-game series, I would say that I think the film is a faithful adaptation in-terms of establishing what was important in the series itself. A criticism I heard in-regards to the portrayal of Lara Croft is that she was a bland, punching-bag of a character in this film. Something curious I find about that is it’s an actual criticism I heard about the 2013 video-game, although, in that regard, it had more to do with how her environment outmatched her again and again. I think this is deliberately how they’ve chosen to portray Lara Croft. I’m benefited by happenstance since it’s unlikely we’ll see a follow-up sequel to Tomb Raider, but, if we look at the video-game series that inspired it, it’s clear that Lara Croft isn’t the bad-ass, roll with the punches character we’ve seen in years prior. It isn’t that she’s a weak character, she’s a more-grounded character that is slowly developing into the phenomenon that is Tomb Raider. This is an origin story of her coming into her own like the 2013 video-game and if 2015’s Rise of the Tomb Raider would’ve been a little like where they were headed, her character will continue to develop and succeed.
As far as the criticism that Lara Croft is portrayed as bland in this film, I think Alicia Vikander injected more personality into her than what we’d seen in the source material. This statement comes with an asterisk, because I also think the Lara Croft character has never been very developed or colorful. The whole appeal of Lara Croft isn’t that she is a well-written character, she’s the survivor that soon transitions from hunted to hunter.
The reason that the Tomb Raider video-games work is because, while she’s passable enough for a character, the character itself isn’t under a microscope for prolonged amounts of time. For instance, in this film and in other video-game entries, they have the “emotional” subplots about Lara’s father Richard Croft, but, the honest truth, from my perspective, is that, while I care about her plight, I care only enough to wait for what I really came for – the fun plat-forming, puzzle-solving, tomb-raiding game-play. And, without that “fun” factor, Tomb Raider as a whole isn’t left with very much.
The action-sequences feel enjoyable and, at times, like they’re brought straight out from the source-material, but, without any substance, it’s difficult to register worth beyond that. The opening minutes of the Tomb Raider film are fun and enthusiastic, but everything thereafter feels paint-by-the-numbers and workman-like. It feels like it’s checking off boxes, introducing a large-scale organization called Trinity, but never actually doing enough to make me care about them. The dynamic with Lara and her father is shown about the same respect as it was in the video-games, but the video-games had the added crutch of being a lot of fun and thereby I was willing to overlook clichéd or wishy-washy moments.
This is actually where I want to leave my thoughts on Tomb Raider, because I think what I said earlier at the start of my review pretty well summarizes what I think went wrong with the film. Like the Ratchet & Clank film or many others, I think you could take the script of this film, even take the voice-actors, all of it, and, scene for scene, I think we’d be singing its praises as a video-game experience. However, looking at it as a film, it doesn’t have enough interesting things to say or inspired ideas to really carry itself as a feature-length cinematic experience. It isn’t an awful film, it simply isn’t one that draws very much reaction at all.