If nothing else, Tomb Raider 2018 has shown me that I was way too harsh on The Incredibles 2. If I thought Incredibles 2 was a mediocre offering of studio dictated lukewarm piss, I was severely lacking imagination. I never thought a movie as dull, predictable and safe as Tomb Raider 2018 could possibly exist. I assumed at the outset it would be crushingly uninteresting. They adapted the Uncharted clone reboot series rather than the iconic, cheesy 90s originals. However, I didn’t expect it to be this bad. This is like getting on a rollercoaster that you suspect will make you puke, but you cack your pants instead.
Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is a wayward young woman who returns to the life of luxury and wealth she left behind when her father disappears. However, she finds something in the middle of signing the document that will give her control of the Croft estate. After receiving this puzzle her father left for her she takes off to find him in the middle of the Devil’s Sea. Once there, she finds a group of generic bad guys lead by their generically crazy leader (Walton Goggins). She also vows to find the tomb of some dead Chinese queen before they do… for some reason.
Deciding where to start picking this thing apart is like trying to decide which pile of dog poo you’re going to scoop first. The story pacing is flimsy and goes from one cliché plot point to another without much thought. First, it’s about Lara finding her father, then it’s about her finding the tomb of this queen. But by the end, both plot lines come to together in a climactic moment of “who the hell cares?”
I feel like you can trace this problem back to the characters, Lara specifically. The writers base her off of the “character” from the rebooted video games. Therefore, the Lara in this version doesn’t have much personality to her. The only things I can say for sure about her are entirely negative. She’s a bit of a wimp and she ultimately has a negative impact on the story. If she hadn’t shown up on the island, the bad guys never would’ve found the tomb. Say what you like about the Angelina Jolie version, but we at least knew what she was about. She was an adrenaline junkie, doing what she does for the thrill of the moment. You certainly remembered her when you walked out of the theater and not just because it’s 90s Jolie in a skin-tight outfit.
With Tomb Raider 2018, I couldn’t tell you anything about her as a character. Is she brave or cowardly, emotional or cold, smart or stupid? The answer seems to be “Whatever the writers want her to be”. Which leads to a bland character I can’t latch on to. To her credit, Vikander does her best to do something with the cardboard cutout she has to play. But there’s only so much one Academy Award winner can do.
The other actors try their hardest, but they’re trapped in the same vortex of vague motivation their characters are. They completely waste Into the Badlands star, Daniel Wu. His role might as well have been a cameo for the amount of effect he had on the plot. Props for hiring Walton Goggins as the bad guy, but maybe give him a little more direction beyond “just imitate Vaas from Far Cry 3“.
The blandest aspect of the film as a whole, however, is the production design, which I find disappointing. This a film about traveling and fighting in exotic locals. Surely they can throw the budget into the sets to make them look authentic, right? The answer is, obviously, no. It never convinced me I was looking at a vast, dense jungle or an ancient tomb cracked and dusty with age. Instead, I felt like I was on the theme park ride for a film with much better-looking sets. Even the CGI looks like something they scraped off the bathroom floor of Industrial Light and Magic. I actually cringed in second-hand embarrassment at one point when Lara was supposed to be hanging onto an iron bar to keep from falling to her death. It was clearly just Alicia Vikander hanging just above a green screen.
The overarching annoyance that pours acid rain on the pile of rusty metal is that Tomb Raider 2018 is about the safest, least interesting movie I’ve seen this year. The script is unbelievably cliché, just so the audience won’t get scared off by original dialogue. The score is the action movie standard over-percussion. Plot points that were already given are repeated in dialogue later just so the audience doesn’t miss anything (because apparently, we’re idiots). The cinematography does nothing at all engaging.
Honestly, I could go on, but I’ll end this review by saying this. Tomb Raider 2018 is the culmination of every lazy, focus-group dictated, committee-designed decision made in action movies since the release of Jurassic World. It’s a complete waste of time that provides neither a gripping emotional narrative nor a well-made, energizing distraction. I’d let you know that this is available on 4K UHD and Blu-ray, but if you take my advice you’ll skip out on this one.