Tomb Raider (2018)
Popular movies have always been subject to the process known as the remake, or of current parlance the reboot. In most examples, the results are unfortunately less than exciting. A significant contributing factor generally attributed to the failure to meet the expectations of the pre-established fan base. The movies most commonly targeted to this treatment are inevitably those that have accumulated a strong, dedicated following. That is a double-edged sword. Those expectations are frequently so deeply ingrained in the zeitgeist of the fans that any deviation is vehemently rejected. Simulations, there are demands by both the studios and retain a proper perspective of the original while insisting for a fresh approach. For the filmmaker approaching such an endeavor, this dichotomy poses a nearly insurmountable obstacle to the production of quality entertainment. In the case of the movie subjected to this consideration, ‘Tomb Raider,’ was able to make substantial gains in this arena. Although the consensus of the critical community, as gauged by the most prominent aggregate review sites, the film received less than stellar reception. The sited audience rank was notably higher albeit still mid-scale. It is inherently difficult to objectively review a remake isolated from any preconceived impressions of the original. Admittedly, I have found myself contending with such baggage, but in this instance, I felt it was possible to experience the 2018 version of ‘Tomb Raider,’ largely on its own merits. The original, 2001, a variation of this live action movie of a popular video game, staring a certifiable A-list star, Angelina Jolie, never struck me as a fully realized action/adventure film. Perhaps my complete late of exposure to the video game denied me the proper foundation for fully enjoyable experience. I found that despite the flaws and missteps made in the technical aspects of the movie, it presented itself as an autonomous story independent of and requisite understanding of the game-based franchise.
It is germane to the basic plot of the story that the titular character, Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander), is a member of the English nobility, Lady Croft. While royalty usually plays well in progressing a storyline, in the States, it’s diminished in inherent impact. This Lara is substantially more relatable to the general audience, a bike messenger. This vocation affords an efficient means to establish the personality of the primary protagonist. Lara is a risk taker, an adrenaline junkie who prefers to live her life at full throttle. To make a few, much-needed funds, she volunteers to be the target in a city-wide chase called the fox hunt. The details the competition is imaginative, encapsulating the community in which Lara thrives. After a harrowing chase, Lara is arrested which leads to her being located by the family solicitor. Her father, Richard (Dominic West), was an archeologist lost seven years while on an expedition. His business partner, Ana Miller (Kristin Scott Thomas), informs Lara that unless she signs papers assuming control of the estate, it will be sold. Before putting pen to paper, Lara attention focused on a puzzle box. After easily opening it she realizes that it contains a clue left by her father. Lara sets off to his tomb where she discovers a secret chamber where she finds a video message from Richard detailing his research into Himiko, the mythical Queen of Yamatai who was said to command the power over life and death. He implores her to destroy all his research to prevent it falling into the wrong hands. Lara’s curiosity overwhelms her, and Lara embarks on a quest to finish Richard’s final mystery.
Both films reflect the primary format of the video game, a quest requiring overcoming sequentially more difficult challenges. Her first stop is Hong Kong where she engages the services of a boat captain, Lu Ren (Daniel Wu). He is an ideal counterpoint to Ms. Vikander, providing palpable chemistry between them. Ms. Vikander’s background includes credits in dance and production. Trained at the Royal Swedish Ballet, highly skilled dancers are especially adept at the transition to action star. They are accustomed to grueling training and long hours of arduous practice. They are trained to control the bodies and unerringly hit their mark on stage. Ms. Vikander increased her public presence with popular and exceptionally thought-provoking films as ‘Ex Machina,’ Ms. Vikander has dabbled in action-oriented characters, but this formalizes her ascent into a full staring role. Opposite her, Mr. Wu leveraged a highly successful career in Hong Kong martial arts movies cementing his State-side popularity e=with the Spike-TV original series, ‘Badlands. His command of the genre is formidable translating into a worthy contributor to this offering. As an aside, the actor portraying his character’s sidekick, Nick Frost, is featured as a pawn shop owner. The synergy created by Ms. Vikander and Mr. Wu is more than enough to carry the movie beyond the unfairly low ranking many have attributed to this movie.
The usually unavoidable consequences of translating a video game to the career are the utilization of the all-important action sequences. After all, that is the primary reason that millions of people spend their hard-earned money on tickets, discs and streaming services. In recent years games have become increasingly concerned with a cohesive plot. Still, the action is the only realistic metric generally applied. The early action movies were constructed along similar lines but the recent rise to ascendancy of the superhero movie. Offerings encompassed films including groundbreaking examples as ‘Spiderman 2’ ‘Iron Man’ and ‘The Avengers.’ They ushered in a new age for the genre where character development, fully established backstories and, most importantly, a narrative capable of permeating the entire production elevating the special effects-driven action to the spice in a fine meal, not the primary ingredient. This incarnation of ‘Tomb Raider,’ embraces this revised paradigm. A possible contributing factor to the poor ratings the movie has generally received is the myopic viewpoint of fans and critics belonging to the millennial generation. In the sense of transparency, I am part of the Baby Boomers. This generation witnessed firsthand the most radical advances in technology and their resulting sociobiological changes in the history of our species. Deprived of this underlying foundation encompassing a grander perspective, they can only gauge forms of entertainment within the confines of their immediate understanding.
The story is not neglected rather it expertly establishes a baseline for the five major action scenes critical to the progression of the film. The provision of context to the CGI intensive battles elevates the film above the simplistic drive for mayhem to the exciting punctuation in a properly creative narrative. This accomplishes a ploy device practically unheard of in this genre, especially movies sourced from gaming. The characters are no long mere avatars for unseen players, confined to actions ordained by their character definition sheets. The principal characters here are free to execute complex actions. With a cast of such exceptional abilities, the effect is freedom to build their respective characters showcasing what they do best properly. The technical missteps are insufficient to justify the low rankings generally attributed to the movie. It has created a world genuinely deserving of a sequel, but considering the increasing popularity of the leading actors, it is doubtful that would ever happen. Thankfully, Warner Brothers decided to release DVD, standard Blu-ray and both 4K UHD and Real 3D versions of the film. I only watched the 1080p and 3D versions and the use of the illusion of depth achieved by the filmmaker is superior to many movies in the genre. This excludes the 3D use in the MCU but compared to most action movies the additional perspective genuinely enhances the experience. One caveat, the 3D release was made in the UK and requires a region B or region free player.