Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of my favorite films of all time. It may actually be my favorite film overall, but sometimes it’s hard to pick. It’s just a 100% pitch perfect action adventure film, though. It’s exciting, tense, brutal, dramatic, and overall, just plain fun. You don’t need a deep, introspective look into the character of Indiana Jones. You just need to go along with him on his adventure and have a good time. It’s the pinnacle of action adventure pulp that has never been topped. It’s often been imitated, though, with films such as Romancing the StoneNational Treasure, and many others. While a lot of the imitators never quite reach the heights that Dr. Jones does, what really matters is, is it fun? 

Tomb Raider follows the young and reckless Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander), a lowly bike messenger deep in debt and with no cares in the world. The only thing she does seem to care for is her father Richard (Dominic West), who disappeared during an expedition several years prior. When she locates old research revealing where he may have gone, she enlists drunk boat captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) to take her to a dangerous and secluded island. After their ship crashes during a storm, Lara and Lu Ren are taken captive by Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins), an archaeologist working for mysterious company Trinity. Their goal is to get into the tomb and harness the power of ancient queen Himiko, so they can take over the world or something. Lara can’t have that, as she takes things into her own hands to stop Mathias and get closure on her father. 

Being based off a video game franchise, Tomb Raider automatically has a lot working against it, but it had an advantage in that it had such a vast franchise with a lot of lore to choose from. I’m not very familiar with the games, but as far as I know, Croft is practically a female Indiana Jones. Someone with a passion for archaeology and history, but also with a huge thirst for adventure, constantly getting into sticky situations. That’s all you really need for your film, so why go through all of this “origin story” nonsense where Croft doesn’t even seem like she wants to be doing this? Her entire motivation to do anything here because she randomly learns some new information about her father and she may be able to find him. It’s not for any sense of adventure, to learn anything, or do something she’s passionate about. Like many video game adaptations, the filmmakers take the lazy way out in the story department, giving us the most cliché and tired story elements to justify this now being a film. 

A super complex story isn’t necessary for adventure films to be good, but if your plot is going to be lackluster and just an excuse for action scenes, then you better hope the characters and action scenes are all worth it. It’s a shame to say that the blandness of the plot elements transfers over to everything else. It’s all stuff we’ve seen before in other pulpy adventure films: mysterious clues that lead you to find more mysterious clues, mercenary bad guys using slave labor to achieve their goals, tombs full of all sorts of sharp and pointy traps ready to be navigated. Being derivative isn’t always necessarily bad thing, but there’s literally nothing else there to latch onto. I had no emotional connection, no feeling of suspense or stakes, and just wasn’t having any fun with the characters or their situation. Everything from the writing, to the direction, to the musical score, to the effects all felt so paint by numbers that it was like the filmmakers were just trying to get it all over with. 

They really were just trying to get it over with, though, as this is clearly all just an exercise in a film studio using whatever brands they own in order to make a decent profit. If the screenplay that felt like a first draft didn’t make it obvious enough, the laughably tacked on sequel bait at the end will make it crystal clear. The performances were the best part, with Alicia Vikander showing she’s not just a great actress, but also has what it takes to be a more than capable action star. While there’s not much to her character beyond her daddy issues, she’s able to bring more depth that wouldn’t have been there with a different actress. I was actually somewhat invested in her character during the first act, but once the plot fully kicks into gear, they couldn’t be bothered to do anything else with it. None of the characters have much to do, especially an offensively underused Walton Goggins. Goggins is one of my favorite actors working today and he does his best with the material, but he’s just playing your standard blockbuster movie villain who only shows up when the plot needs him to. A lot of great talent wasted. 

Aside from some scenes that add some unintentional laughter, nothing about Tomb Raider is egregiously terrible. The performances are all great, it has some nice visuals, and it’s not overwhelmingly stupid or irritating. There just wasn’t really much of anything to enjoy. For a film that consists of somebody defying death at every turn, I never felt any discernible emotion during any of it. Wait… is boredom considered an emotion? Well, if it is, if there’s one thing an action adventure film should absolutely never be, it’s boring. 


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