Tomb Raider: a Spoiler-Free Review

Videogame lovers rejoice.  You finally have a good movie based on a videogame (besides, maybe, “Ratchet and Clank”).  This is one of the few times I can confidently say that you can ignore Rotten Tomatoes because this movie was fantastic.  May I count the ways?

First, the lead actress, Alicia Vikander, is perfect as Lara Croft.  She’s quietly confident, smart, and strong while being as emotionally nuanced and vulnerable as the new Lara Croft is supposed to be.  She embodies the character and feels 100 percent believable whether she’s messing around with friends or trying to survive in a jungle.

The best thing about her performance, in my opinion, is the silent strength Vikander exudes.  She does not always talk or give sarcastic comebacks, but you are never bored while watching her and you never doubt her abilities.  You can follow her thoughts and see how her mind is working.

Being able to act without dialogue like this is important when playing a videogame character because of the atmospheric nature of videogames themselves.  There are usually long stretches during videogames without dialogue when the player is exploring and figuring things out for themselves.  If an actor doesn’t know what to do with that silence, they become bland and the audience gets bored.  If they do, great actors will stay interesting.

I can’t exactly explain it, but somehow, Vikander knows how to stay interesting and keep the audience interested without saying a word.  That is why she is perfect for this role.  I honestly hope she is asked to work in more videogame movies in the future, especially ones with mostly silent protagonists.  I can see her being perfect as Chell from “Portal” or as Samus from “Metroid.”

Second, this movie is a great example of an adaptation done right.  Videogames can really be best described as a book and a movie rolled into one.  They have the extensive detail and story development found in books with the immersive experience of the visual medium.  Cutting down all these details into a 2 hour long movie is just as difficult as adapting from a book if not more.  With that said, this movie did what was necessary to pull it off.

The movie condenses the number of characters into a smaller cast, so that Lara Croft and the most important characters were given the attention and development they needed.  The action from the game is adapted well enough so that even if it’s smaller and more intimate it feels much tenser because of good decisions in camera editing and stunt choreography.  Even the sets and twists in story-telling felt more grounded in reality as a live-action film.  The bottom line is that all the right decisions were made when adapting this movie.

Third, unlike “Ratchet and Clank,” this movie is accessible to newcomers.  You do not need to have played any of the games to understand what is going on in this film.  For full disclosure, I have only watched my sister play a bit of the newer Lara Croft franchise.  I have never played it through myself (though that’s probably going to change because of this film), but I didn’t need to.  The film made enough sense to me on its own that knowing the source material wasn’t necessary.

I honestly do not understand why Rotten Tomatoes gave it only 50 percent.  It earned a better rating than its predecessor but still.  This film was made almost as well as it could have been.  The few problems that were there involved a little bit of pacing in some parts and a lack of character development for one of the characters.  Besides this, I saw no other problems with this film.  It was at least as good as “Wonder Woman” or the first Iron Man movie, so why did those movies fare better in the eyes of Rotten Tomatoes critics?

If I had to hazard a guess, I think the answer comes down to one thing.  The critics do not understand the source material.  “Lara Croft” is significant for being one of the first action-adventure series where the main character is a woman.  It was a significant step for female representation in videogames in the ‘90s, and as the character has evolved over the years, so have her adventures.

The critics on Rotten Tomatoes do not understand that.  When they see this movie, I think what they see is someone who’s trying to be Indiana Jones.  They don’t understand how the source material has been trying to evolve past Indiana Jones in terms of character nuance and adventures because they haven’t played the games for themselves.  They won’t play the games for themselves probably because they don’t play videogames period, and thus, there’s a disconnect, which is truly a shame.

In conclusion, this film is a well-made adaptation that stands on its own while staying true to the roots of its franchise.  I completely recommend it.  As a woman, Vikander made me feel more empowered than I think even Wonder Woman did the first time I saw her.  Go see this film so it makes enough money for sequels.

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