New “Tomb Raider” leaves much to be desired

When you’re making any movie, it is important to establish a strong plot and deep characters. A film based off a videogame usually requires some beefing up of those elements to compensate for their lack in general gameplay. The new “Tomb Raider” does none of these things and while I’m sure it is better than Angelina Jolie’s previous fetish films, it is still a boring, monotonous “action-adventure” flick.

Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is the daughter of the archaeologist Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West). When he goes missing during her youth, she faces years of anguish and wonder about what happened to him. Discovering clues to his exploits, she takes it upon herself to follow his trek and hopefully find some answers. The tale pushes her to a mysterious island and a secret organization called Trinity who seek a powerful, medieval weapon. Led by Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins), Lara must stop them before a WMD falls into their hands.

To say the film is uninspired is an understatement. It’s a perfect example of by the numbers, formulaic action film. Insert protagonist. Give goal. Give backstory to drive character. Plug in antagonist. Make him seem evil. Action sequence #1. Action sequence #2. Midpoint revelation. On and on. It’s as stale as four-week old bread. The inability to create fun and exciting sequences hampers the film even more as even if the plot were boring at least it could be fun, but it’s not. We’ve seen the dangling over the waterfall, the boat crashing into a rock and the booby trap temple before. It’s all so boring.

Imagine this instead. Perhaps the film is a commentary on the action-adventure genre. Lara Croft has a sidekick who continuously points out the tropes of the story as they are about to happen (Do you think those shrunken heads spit poisonous darts? I bet they do), playing the comic relief to her serious persona, adding some fun to the proceedings. Throw in some interesting action sequences that take place in exotic temples and you’ve got a fun hit. Or perhaps the film is full on serious, ditching the campiness for an intense, gritty drama with Croft beaten by thugs after being captured, having to heal herself a la “The Revenant” after her escape, facing death in her quest for truth as she goes up against a small band of mercenaries with guns in the jungle. The villain is a complicated lunatic with an interesting backstory with a personal connection to Croft’s father. The quest to stop Trinity is given added weight because of what this villain means to Croft. Just something interesting for the audience would have gone a long way.

Films need deep characters and ingenuity and surprising revelations. Just because a movie is part of the action genre or horror genre is not an excuse to avoid basic filmmaking effort. “Tomb Raider” is devoid of anything memorable or inspired, a purely cash-grab effort. It’s a shame for anyone who enjoys archaeological action films.

 

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