Review: TOMB RAIDER Picks Dull Exposition Over Thrilling Exploration

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When you think of the Tomb Raider video game reboot, what do you think of?  For me, it’s a series that tells a coming of age story driven by adventure and wonder.  Scenes of breathtaking ancient structures and the dangers they hold give off a true feeling of escapism.  While its moments of action and peril shape its protagonist Lara Croft more than any word of dialogue.

The story in 2018’s Tomb Raider movie reboot is very close to the 2013 game.  Lara travels to an island known as Yamatai where her father Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West) disappeared nearly a decade ago.  After a shipwreck strands her and the boat’s captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) on the island, they fall into danger.

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As a military group known as Trinity is also on the island trying to discover a dark relic.  Like the game, there are moments where Lara is put through Hell physically.  Making the threat of her dying feel possible, adding good elements of suspense.  But in-between those scenes the movie is very exposition heavy and boring.

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Despite all of the exposition given, moments (especially emotional ones) between characters feel unearned.  Especially because there is not enough substance to them due to them being away from each other for most of the movie.  There is also little feeling of adventure in it as well.  Instead of discovering multiple sites, only one tomb is discovered and explored.

Tomb Raider

Even when it is, there’s nothing about it that stands out, it just looks like a dark cave with a couple of traps.  At least in the 2001 movie, the settings had distinguishing features.  Which leads to another problem.  Listen, puzzles in games is fun, watching a movie that spends five-minutes showing someone solving a puzzle is not.

The only way it’s fun is if their lives are in danger which the movie only shows one time.  Tomb Raider is a property that uses discovery to create tension and develop characters.  The movie uses chase scenes to re-interest people in keeping their eyes on the screen instead of closed.  Even Walton Goggins who plays the movie’s antagonist Mathias Vogel is basically sleepwalking through the movie.

Tomb Raider

When it comes to Alicia Vikander‘s portrayal of Croft, there are certain aspects that make her interesting and relatable as a character.  Despite being an heir to a fortune, Lara is the type that wants to get by on her own.  She’s not a brat either.  She’s someone who refuses her fortune because accepting it means accepting her father’s death as a reality.

So there is a certain type of weight to her decisions in the movie.  When it comes to her personality, in general, she isn’t a pushover either, though she does have a sense of charm.  But the movie’s lack of adventure makes her character come off as one note.  She’s the same person at the end as she was in the beginning.

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There was no inner conflict or flipping of the switch like in the game.  She even says before she leaves for the island “I’m not that kind of Croft” when talking about her father and his expeditions.  So why not show her transition into becoming that type of Croft with every conflict and near death experience she encounters?

I love how strong she is as a character, but there was nothing really added to her as time progressed.  No new skills, or traits.  Which again is something the video game does that the movie does not.  Is this movie bad?

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Not at all.  But it just comes off as a movie that had it been structured a bit differently it could’ve been pretty good.  If it used the setting as a character and not just a place, then less exposition would have been required.  Characters built through experiences are more memorable than ones who just give dialogue.

I just hope given the way this movie ends, the next one does the inverse of what this one does.  Fix those issues in the sequel and we may have a good movie based on a video game.


Nick Battaglia
Nick is a staff writer who enjoys all types of video games and reminiscing about past pinball experiences. As a gamer who has one arm, he also aspires to one day be cast in a live-action adaptation of Mega Man.