A year and a half ago, there was a video game movie with obscure and ineffective dialogue, a lack of plot focus, horrific character development, and an unnecessary twist that was so stupid, it ruined an already awful movie.
The film was called Assassin’s Creed, and a large majority of critics and audiences panned it for its flaws.
This year, a movie that fits this exact same description above opened in theaters. Despite it being just as bad as the film that was released a year and a half ago, the reviews have been significantly more mixed.
The biggest substantive difference between the two movies is that Assassin’s Creed stars a man; Tomb Raider stars a woman.
It is significantly difficult for me to wrap my mind around why a lot of people consider Tomb Raider to be “okay” or even “good” when most of these same people said that Assassin’s Creed is bad. There’s probably going to be one person that throws the “film is art, and art is subjective” argument at me, and fine, I can accept that on a surface level. What I’m saying is, while watching this movie, I was getting some major Assassin’s Creed vibes.
Tomb Raider fails as a story on so many levels. The number of clichés and tropes this movie falls into is exhaustingly expansive. The dialogue is breathtakingly infuriating. The character development is inconsistent and sporadic.
Alicia Vikander is fine. I don’t particularly have any attachment to Lara Croft as a character because I never played the games. Even if I did though, my general standards for characters are simply that they are interesting, relatable, and/or understandable. Lara Croft is none of these within this film. She’s set up as a woman who is insanely good at athletics (something the movie marginally develops), a prodigy in solving ancient puzzles (something the movie doesn’t develop at all, and simply hopes you’re just satisfied with her inexplicably solving them in front of you)… and of course, by nature of being a female protagonist, say it with me readers: she’s strong and independent. She also loves her dad a lot… and the movie spends most of her development explaining this.
This movie has a lot of flashback scenes to Lara Croft’s childhood. This is an obnoxious, unnecessary trope frequently found in bad movies like this, but it would’ve been great if they utilized them to show the audience why she’s so perfect at athletics and puzzle solving. Instead, the flashbacks serve to beat you over the head about how much Lara Croft loves her dad, something that was explained enough just through the events of the story.
Thus, like most bad movies, the flashback scenes were merely created for emotional pandering and spoon-feeding.
Speaking of terrible movie clichés, the film starts off with a clip montage explaining Lara Croft’s father’s journey… and then not twenty minutes later, we get an additional explanation of the exact same information when Croft discovers her father’s work during the story.
The dialogue is excruciatingly inorganic. Much like Assassin’s Creed, Tomb Raider apparently thinks most people talk in unhelpful roundabouts during stressful times. There were dozens of times where I was wondering why characters weren’t being more straightforward with each other. The answer was almost always because they wanted to be mysterious or just wanted to drag out the plot.
The script is illogical and inept, and there were numerous occasions where what was happening on screen made no sense. To the many people who thought this movie was okay/good, you’re probably wondering what kind of illogic I’m talking about.
Fine. I will give you four examples. They will all spoil the movie.
1. When Mathias Vogel captures Lara Croft, and he then immediately tells her that he killed her dad. Afterwards, you would think this cruel man would either see Lara Croft as a liability and kill her. Or at least see her talents in map reading and puzzles (since she was able to get to the island) and force her at gunpoint to help her find what he’s looking for. Instead, he leaves her barely supervised to carry cargo with the rest of the slaves. Why? So that the plot could give her an easy chance to escape.
2. When they finally enter the tomb, instead of showing any sort of expertise of a professional expedition, Vogel, Croft, and company just bumble around the tomb and set off not one, but two traps. So why wasn’t the company more careful in not setting off such obvious floor traps? Because the movie needed more cheap tension.
3. If Lara Croft’s dad truly believed that the entire world would be in danger if Vogel got into the tomb, why does he then do nothing to sabotage Vogel once they get into the tomb and actually helps them get through? Because screw it, I guess.
4. When Lara’s dad starts dying while Vogel escapes with the weaponized disease, it’s sure a good thing they wasted precious time having a cheap sentimental scene instead of realistically trying to chase Vogel as fast as Lara could (good thing she caught up to him anyway, I guess).
The only thing this movie does do well is the gritty action and danger they put Lara Croft through (which is apparently iconic to the video games, especially the newer ones). They were the most entertaining part of the movie, but they would’ve been more entertaining if the movie was intelligent enough to make you care for Lara Croft as a character.
Unfortunately, the movie uses its non-action times to make her either a bumbling fool lacking any sort of street smarts, or they showcase her puzzle skills that the movie doesn’t even develop.
Or, you know, they use even more time to emphasize just how much she loves and misses her dad.
The obligatory twist that this movie had to have at the end was overly convoluted and broke apart the already flimsy narrative.
It’s really quite a shame that this film is such a narrative disaster. It wastes time with stuff that’s not needed, and it forgets things that should be focused on. Most of the film relies on conveniences and bad writing to get through the whole series of events. It’s bad, uninspired drivel that most people come to expect from video game movies.