II love movies and I love video games, but when the two paths cross, it can be a mixed bag. Typically, a movie that is based on a game tends to have its own identity simple due to the nature of being adapted to film. There will be some nods back to the game, but by and large, a film adaptation of a video game is a new story meant to give the general audience a taste of the game on the big screen. The best example is the first Silent Hill movie, but we also have the Resident Evil movies, which carved their own path. However, if you’ve played the Tomb Raider game from 2013, there isn’t much reason to go see this movie. I’d also argue that there isn’t much reason to see it as a non-gamer, either.
Way back, we had some Angelina Jolie versions of Tomb Raider and those movies were loose adaptations that pretty much had a busty heroine searching for treasure; that was about the extent of the movie similarities to the games. This new entry is taken nearly verbatim from the 2013 game to the point that it feels like you’re watching someone else play the game.
In this adaptation, Alicia Vikander plays Lara Croft, who is searching for her father. He went missing years ago on his search some relics of Queen Himiko, who had magical powers. Eventually, her generals turned against her and entombed her on a remote island. So Lara sets out to find this remote island and, ultimately, her father. We also find out that some bad guys that work for an outfit called Trinity are also seeking the treasure for their own nefarious ends. Lara ends up in a shipwreck and gets washed ashore on the island. From there, we find out that the Trinity folks have been dynamiting the island randomly looking for the vault of Himiko. Of course, Lara brought the book containing directions to the vault to the island, which ends up helping the bad guys.
I won’t go too much further and spoil anything, but I will say that the one redeeming quality this movie has is that Himiko’s secret is actually pretty grounded considering it’s supernatural in the game. The idea is pretty much the same, but the movie brought it down to Earth instead.
Now for the criticism. Vikander physically looks like the Lara from the game. She’s even clothed the same way and sports the same bow and climbing pick. A bandage is also conveniently placed on her right arm. This isn’t terribly problematic because it is consistent with the new look Lara has; however, the similarities to the game don’t stop there.
A decent chunk of the 2013 game was spent performing what are called quick-time events which require you to press certain buttons in sequence to keep your character from dying. For example, she may be being carried down some rapids and you might have to press a button to divert her course, lest she gets impaled on a spiked tree root. In the movie, Lara starts in the river, headed to a waterfall, but ends up catching herself on a plane wing. The only things missing were the button prompts. A few minutes later, she’s in the airplane and I was again waiting for buttons to pop up on the screen.
The combat revolved around Lara’s use of the rock climbing axe and her ability with a bow, which were both also bullet points from the game. The villains were nondescript goons with automatic weapons and a few scenes with those guys felt lifted from the game as well. Many of the sets felt like areas from the game.
If you can’t tell, I was pretty disappointed with how closely this track to the game. I do know other gamers loved that this was so close to the game, however. The biggest issue with movie adaptations of video games is that the general public typically doesn’t care about them because they don’t play the games and gamers usually trash them because they deviate too far from the source material. In this particular case, I think this movie is far too close to the game. Those memorable times that the game offered are now splattered on the big screen, diluting the feel I had while playing. It was nice to revisit them, but I’d have much preferred to see this either fully adapted as the game was or spun off into a side story of its own.
I’m really torn on how to score this. It’s not a terrible game-based movie, no matter how many complaints I have about it, but at the same time, it rips off so much of the game that it feels bland. I will say that Alicia Vikander did a decent job with Lara Croft and hopefully, she’ll get to do a sequel that isn’t tied so tightly to the game. I think there could be a good movie there.