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Tomb Raider (2018)

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 6/12/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/19/2018

It's been a while since we've had a big discussion about remakes and reboots. When it comes to movies which revive an old franchise or character, and the question of "why?", the simple answer is usually money. Rarely has there been some sort of clamoring from the public which warrants the re-introduction of the character. But a movie can resurrect an old idea for another reason. In 2013, the Tomb Raider video game franchise was brought back with a new take on Lara Croft, which was met with critical and commercial success. So, it's not surprising that the character is now back on the big-screen with the simply titled Tomb Raider.

Tomb Raider introduces us to Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander), a twenty-something woman who lives in London, working as a bike messenger. She could be rich and live in Croft manor, but in order to do so, she would have to agree with the idea that her father, Richard Croft (Dominic West), who has been missing with several years, is legally dead. Lara stumbles across her father's hidden lab and finds information about his lifelong quest to find the tomb of a Japanese queen. Lara assumes that she find clues as to her father's disappearance if she retraces his steps. So, she travels to Hong Kong and hires Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) to take her in search of a mysterious island. They soon run into bad weather, but Lara quickly learns that the elements are the least of her problems, as the mystery deepens.

The point of this review is to discuss Tomb Raider, not to talk about why the movie industry has such a hard time adapting video games into movies. But, I'm afraid that it will go in that direction. I have not played the 2013 Tomb Raider game, but from what I've read, the story is very similar to the one presented in the film. This is actually a good thing, as far too many movies taken from video games discard the game's story and make up their own plot. So, where is the disconnect? It appears that filmmakers still don't grasp the difference between actively playing an exciting video game and passively watching a movie. There are some set-pieces in Tomb Raider which smack of big moments from the game. But, when playing the game, there is a certain amount of suspense, as the player doesn't want to see their character die and thus lose their progress. In the movie, we know that Lara probably isn't going to die an hour into the movie. (Although, that would be a hell of a twist.)

The other big problem with is that it's shockingly bland from top to bottom. I realize that this is supposed to be a different kind of Lara Croft, but Alicia Vikander is miscast here. (Apparently, the marketing department agrees with me, as the person on the front cover doesn't really look like Vikander.) She simply doesn't have the intensity necessary for the role. It doesn't help that the script has Lara being a helpless victim for most of the movie. From the outset, the story is very pedestrian and there are no twists or surprises here. Once the movie finally reaches an actual tomb, it turns out to be the tomb which we've seen time-and-time again in many movies, complete with incredibly cliched booby-traps. Walton Goggins appears as the villain here...but he's an odd villain. He's incredibly violent, and yet also apathetic at times. It's an obvious statement to say that Lara Croft is a spiritual successor to Indiana Jones, but a great deal of this film feels like it was lifted from Raiders of the Lost Ark or one of its sequels.

Not unlike the recent Annihilation, I liked the opening of Tomb Raider and the fact that it felt as if it was slowly building towards something big. But, the second half is an exercise in mediocrity which is never exciting or truly engaging. The movie has a great look and it never looks cheap, but none of that matters if we aren't clicking with what is on the screen. The biggest insult comes at the very end when the movie lays the groundwork for an obvious sequel. (Which we'll probably never see, as the film didn't do very well.) Given the popularity of the games, there are a lot of Lara Croft fans out there, and they deserve a movie which will live up to the character's legacy.

Tomb Raider needed more details on that paint-chasing game on 4K UHD courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 55 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, most notably greens, and the image is never overly dark or bright, even during the dark storm scene. The level of detail is good, as we can make out textures on objects and the depth works well. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Despite the somewhat low bitrate, the action sequences deliver impressive sound. The subwoofer effects work well, most notably during the storm. The scenes in the jungle provide good surround effects, some of which are nicely detailed. We also get good representation of sounds coming from off-screen.

The extras for Tomb Raider are found on the accompanying Blu-ray Disc. "Tomb Raider: Uncovered" (7 minutes) has the creative team and cast discussing the approach towards this new take on the character and what it was like to show Lara before she became an action hero. "Croft Training" (6 minutes) shows Vikander working out and training for the role, and what her diet was like. "Breaking Down the Rapids" (6 minutes) examines the various steps it took to get the river chase scene, including stunt doubles and visual FX. "Lara Croft: Evolution of an Icon" (10 minutes) offers a discussion of the video games and how Lara has changed over the years. (And yes, they do touch on her looks.)

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long