Video game adaptations don’t seem to fully embrace the material with which they are based from. It seems that either the writers don’t know what they’re doing or the director doesn’t understand the script all too well; maybe both. Mortal Kombat, Silent Hill and Wreck it Ralph are among the best of the video game adaptations and while that isn’t saying much there is still Resident Evil, which is probably my most hated film. With Angelina Jolie playing the title role of Lara Croft in the first two movies- Tomb Raider (2001) and The Cradle of Life (2003), a third film was cancelled leaving fans to wonder who would take over for the role of the female crusader. Now that Tomb Raider starring Alicia Vikander has been released, does it hold up to the first two films or is it another bad adaptation?
I enjoy video games and the characters that I’ll remember for years to come, but with these games being brought to the big screen, it seems that the characters we love aren’t as cool, memorable or ass-kicking as we remember. Why is that, I wonder. I remember when Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was released and what people were thinking at the time. Yes, Angelina Jolie was perfect for the role, she had the look, the tenacity, and of course, she had the physicality to match the character. People were excited to see the film and what Jolie could do with it. The film itself was rather lackluster and hardly memorable, but it was dumb fun for the time. If you were to ask me what the film was about now all I would say is, “Oh yeah, Angelina Jolie kicking some butt and looking good while she does it right?”
The Cradle of Life was even worse than the previous film. Sure Jan de Bont (Speed and Twister) had made good action films before but what went wrong with this one. It’s simple: the script. Both films featured a story that lacked in thrills and while Jolie was charming in the role, I felt that she was trapped in a film that didn’t understand what the games were built on- high flying action and interesting puzzles to solve. To me, it’s just another example of bad filmmaking. The people involved took some things from the game: the iconic weapons, the style of Lara Croft and her action moves. The movies felt that there was no heart in it. It’s nice to see Daniel Craig (prior to Bond) and Gerard Butler (300) but their characters are plain, uninvolving, almost cookie cutter type.
I don’t want to sound like I slamming these two films, each have moments that are cool and for better use of words, a guilty pleasure for some. But why should we settle for something that is less than the games that are the inspiration for these films? Shouldn’t we as consumers and movie watchers expect more from the filmmakers? I believe we should which could explain my hatred or Resident Evil– it lacks scares, horror, and features characters who are so stupid that I can’t stand watching five minutes of it.
It took fifteen years for another Lara Croft adaptation to come back to the big screen and this time Alicia Vikander (Ex-Machina) took over the title role. Now this movie is based on the game from 2013 and tells an origin story of the woman who would become the Tomb Raider. The movie doesn’t settle for cool action scenes or matching the physical traits of its character, instead the film goes for a brutal survival story of a young woman who’s on a quest to find out what happened to her father. Personally, when comparing Angelina Jolie to Vikander, one thing is certain, Jolie was and always will be Lara Croft. She has the look and the charm, but don’t be thwarted by what I’m saying because Vikander does great work as well.
One of the biggest differences between these films is the villain. As the quote goes, “A story is only as good as its villain.” Walton Goggins (TV’s Justified) is mean, gnarly, and while not the best villain ever, is still better than the ones I forgot about in the previous installments. While watching Tomb Raider, I felt that I was watching a female Indiana Jones movie. The puzzles kept me engaged and gave one thing that I enjoy seeing- a vulnerable hero. This Lara gets nearly killed several times and continues to fight and get back up. Also, she makes mistakes that could cost her life. Take for instance a moment where the villain is walking a bridge to escape, Lara jumps onto the bridge instead of pulling it out allowing the villain to fall to his death. Most people would criticize her character, but not me. I saw this as a young woman who wouldn’t think about the consequences at that moment, something that wasn’t in the previous installments.
Tomb Raider actually has a cohesive story and a character that we can feel for. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was built more on style instead of substance. The action scenes were cool but everything else is simply forgettable all except for that moment when Jolie shares a scene with her real-life father Jon Voight. Tomb Raider enthralled me and kept me on the edge of my seat when Lara was all alone in unknown territory trying to survive. Director Roar Uthaug (The Wave) brings us a Lara Croft that I’ve been waiting for since I was a kid. I didn’t care that Vikander doesn’t have the physicality of the character because that’s something that is small and it’s her character traits that make me remember her more. I like this take on the games because its features Lara as a young woman who isn’t trained, skilled and mature as Jolie’s character was. She’s vulnerable, gets beaten and continues on.
Tomb Raider was a very engaging film and very thrilling for me. I feel that it surpasses the previous installments, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch them. Appreciate what came before and at least give Angelina Jolie a chance if you haven’t seen them yet. If you did enjoy the early ones, then give Vikander a chance too. You must understand that these films are quite different from each other. They keep the character alive and is an entertaining welcome to a promising spring/summer release of movies. The only thing that I will say is better in the previous installments is that Angelina wore the French braid better than Vikander.
I surely hope that one day video game adaptations will be as good as the comic book films. We enjoy the games, the adventures and the craziness with the games we play; and we should expect no less from the people who want to bring them to the big screen. Video game adaptations have plagued the industry with being lackluster and deviating from its source material. While Tomb Raider doesn’t quite get the story on par with the game that’s it’s based on, it’s a step in the right direction in bringing a character to life. Alicia Vikander was amazing in this film and I hope to see her again as the Tomb Raider. I only wonder what Angelina Jolie thinks of this film.