The quest for the first genuine blockbuster video game movie continues. Starring Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander, Tomb Raider tries its best to be faithful to the action games that spawned it while trying to prove itself on a grand cinematic stage. Unfortunately, through a few glimmers of solid material at the start the film ultimately flounders in the latter half removing itself from real-world tangibility and falling into CGI-fueled hokum suffocating this franchise before it has had a genuine chance to breathe. Action fans may find it too rote to be adventurous and video game fans may wish they were simply playing the game instead. Warner Brothers brings Tomb Raider to Blu-ray in fine order with a pretty decent video transfer, a terrific Atmos mix, and a few decent bonus features. Not the worst thing out there, Tomb Raider is at the very least worth a watch. Worth A Look.
Hollywood has long been in the hunt to make video games like comic books - the next big super blockbuster cinematic franchise event. Unfortunately, most video game film adaptations have shifted from the wretched Uwe Bowl films like Postal and House of the Dead to the stupidly fun Street Fighter to the unintentionally hilarious while being awful Super Mario Bros. Somehow Hollywood just hasn't figured this market out. Hopes were high when Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander signed on for Roar Uthaug's reboot Tomb Raider, but alas the hunt for the perfect video game movie continues. While taking a page from the 2013 reboot game, this new Tomb Raider plays things so close to video game plotting and action mechanics that it numbingly feels like you're watching your best friend play a video game for two hours without letting you get a turn at the controls.
Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is slumming it. Raised with immense wealth and privilege courtesy of her father Richard (Dominic West), she gave everything up when her father went missing during an expedition to find the mysterious deadly tomb of Himiko. Feeling abandoned by her only surviving parent, Lara scratches a living as a bike courier in London. When compelled to sign a death certificate by company manager Ana Miller (Kristin Scott Thomas) or lose her family fortune forever, Lara accidentally discovers a clue to her father's location. Lara must confront her personal demons and the maniacal exhibition leader Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) if she's going to solve the deadly mystery of the tomb of Himiko and learn the truth about her father's fate.
On paper, Tomb Raider should work. There is a lot going for it. The character dynamics are great. The casting is perfect. The action setpieces are outstanding. The skeletal framework for a genuinely successful Hollywood action adventure movie and the first truly successful video game movie is there. Unfortunately, the film fleshes everything out with tried and true tropes from better movies and video games we've already spent countless hours playing through.
The problem is an overwhelming sense of familiarity. As I watched through Tomb Raider I felt ten paces ahead of the plot at all times. The mechanics of what is happening had been so thoroughly telegraphed several scenes ahead so that when anything interesting or exciting looks like it's about to happen, you already know how it's going to play out.
Not helping matters is the over-reliance on what's already been done. We've already seen the basic Lost Parent/Spurned Child plot of this film and the mechanics of the mysterious tomb in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. We already played all of the action sequences in previous video games. When the deadly zombie plague is revealed, it wasn't a surprise. I knew it was going to happen because that's exactly what game studio Naughty Dog did with Uncharted: Drake's Fortune.
Familiarity is one thing, but the real bummer of how Tomb Raider turns out is that it squanders its otherwise solid first half. We get to know Lara when she's young, untrained, tough, but emotionally wrecked. Think a more playful, less dramatically inclined Batman Begins. This is an inexperienced young woman before we see her fully become the Lara Croft we know and love from video games past. It's a solid start for an origin but once that A plot kicks in and we get to know Kristin Scott Thomas's Ana Miller and Mr. Yaffe played by Derek Jacobi, it's obvious this film is but a stepping stone in a story arc designed to span a franchise. Who these people really are is hardly a mystery given their impressive stature as actors who don't need to appear in a movie like this for nondescript cameos. There's a bigger game coming. Turning things to Walton Goggins - the man proves time and time again he can be menacing without needing to crank the dial to 11. He just needs to look at the camera and you know he's not messing around. Had the film used him better than being little more than the middle management equivalent of a villain, his presence alone almost could have saved this film - or at least given fans something to look forward to in future installments.
Action beats can be effective - when they're real. A lot was made of Vikander getting into fighting shape for this film and, when she's allowed to do that, it's visceral and effective. But when the film goes full CGI spectacle the action becomes weightless and comical complete with impossible Legolas leaps and jumps against CGI backgrounds and sets. It looks and sounds like a video game, but as a film, it plays too literal and feels like a series of game cut scenes without letting the audience control the action. Which is the saddest thing of all about Tomb Raider, It was almost there, it was almost a great video game movie. Instead, it was an okay movie that made me wish I was playing the video games.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Tomb Raider leaps onto Blu-ray in a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital set. Pressed onto a BD-50 Disc and housed in a two-disc eco-friendly case with identical slipcover, the disc loads previews for upcoming releases before arriving at a static image main menu with traditional navigation options. The default audio track is the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, you have to select the Atmos mix in the audio options before starting the film.
Shot digitally and sourced from a 4K digital intermediate, Tomb Raider makes for a generally pleasing 2.39:1 1080p transfer. Details are strong allowing you to see and appreciate all of the finer details including facial features, costuming, and the film's various locations - London, Hong Kong, or the jungles of the mysterious island where the latter half of the film takes place. Colors are bold and bright with great primaries and healthy flesh tones. Black levels can be a bit 50/50 at times. The scenes in London during the bike chase or any of the daylight sequences on the island look terrific with deep inky blacks and a terrific sense of dimensional depth. The problem areas surround CGI night-time action sequences that were obviously shot in the safety of a studio soundstage. These scenes can be so dark as to obscure any sense of what is happening or any sense of depth or detail. Thankfully these are only a few brief moments. All in all, this is a pretty great looking transfer.
Tomb Raider is blessed with a strong and thundering Dolby Atmos audio track that leaves behind the included DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. To be fair, the included default 5.1 track is pretty good with clean dialog and solid surround activity. But the Atmos mix just does everything better. The extra spacing around the channels gives a better sense of depth and atmosphere around the elements. The buys London streets sound amazing as Vikander zips through traffic on her bike. Likewise, when the action moves the cursed Jungle Island of Doom, there is a notable improvement in sound effect resonance over the 5.1 mix helping you feel like you're right in the thick of the action.
The dialog is clean and clear throughout without any issues. The score by Tom Holkenborg sounds like a combination of his better elements he brought to Batman v Superman and Mad Max Fury Road and lends itself nicely to the big action beats. All around this is a great action audio track that should give your sound system a good and thorough workout.
Tomb Raider arrives with an anemic assortment of bonus features. Nothing too impressive here but they give you a small look behind the scenes of the making of the movie.
Tomb Raider: Uncovered (HD 7:06) This is your typical EPK feature with the quick sound bites as the cast and crew discuss the film and its origins tied to the 2013 reboot game.
Croft Training (HD 6:06) Another brief EPK feature, this shows how Vikander got into shape for the film.
Breaking Down The Rapids (HD 5:34) A quick look at how they achieved the primary action sequence of the film with Lara flowing down river rapids with her hands tied and jumping onto a rusted-out Japanese WWII bomber.
Lara Croft: Evolution of an Icon (HD 9:53) This is a look back at the games that spawned the film.
Tomb Raider may have taken itself as a video game movie too literally. Fully steeped in the plot and action of the 2013 reboot game, this cinematic reboot does little new or exciting with the material squandering a great cast featuring Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Daniel Wu, and a fun turn from Walton Goggins. It's not an altogether terrible film, on the scorecard of Video Game movies it's better than average, but also suffers from a pronounced sense of mediocrity. The hunt for the perfect blockbuster video game movie adaptation continues. Warner Bros. brings Tomb Raider to Blu-ray in fine order with a solid video transfer and a terrific Atmos mix. Extras are a bit anemic. If you're a fan of the games there's something to enjoy here. If nothing else it's a solid two hours of diverting entertainment. Worth A Look.