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Tomb Raider (2018)

Tomb Raider (2018) is the origin story of Lara Croft, which is the story before she becomes the Tomb Raider. The setting was based on the 2013 game of the same name. I am a big fan of the game and loved the story a lot. I know they have changed a lot in the movie but they have kept some elements from the game, which is the expedition to a forgotten Island, Yamatai (a fallen Japanese Kingdom), and the myth of their death queen, Himiko. I understand it is difficult to cover everything from the game in a 2-hour film, and changes may be needed, yes, but they changed almost everything, which is not ideal but I guess if it works, it works. However, from a storytelling point of view, I don’t think it worked well. I feel gutted because 20 minutes in, I actually quite enjoyed the film, how they set up the background of Lara in their own way (and Alicia Vikander is quite a decent Lara Croft actually, I had my doubts because I REALLY love Lara Croft. Vikander pulled it off pretty nicely. Shame about the plot). I saw so much potential that they could get it right, but they didn’t. To be honest, the game has a great storyline, why didn’t they just use it and tweak it? Well, yeah, they did tweak, I supposed, but I would call that writing a new story. The Tomb Raider game to me is not just an action game, I love the plot! But the film, at least to me, has become just an action movie. Let’s see what have they done, and in my opinion, what they could have done. Just a heads up, I am quite harsh on the film here.

In the film, Lara’s dad went missing for 7 years and everyone thinks he’s dead. When Lara found out he went to Yamatai before he disappeared, she decided to go to this island which is in the middle of nowhere. Lara found out her dad was in contact with a guy called Lu Ren, who’s from Hong Kong, so Lara went to Hong Kong to gather the clues.

Okay, first of all, from a person who’s from Hong Kong’s point of view, I appreciate the choice and how they showed a certain side of Hong Kong. BUT, first of all, what on earth is the name Lu Ren?? That’s not a name from Hong Kong, that’s a Mandarin pronunciation! It just feels weird that everyone there in Hong Kong kept the Cantonese setting, they all spoke in Cantonese, and all the sudden you have someone whose name is in Mandarin? It just feels out of the place to me, I feel like it’s even political. Like they use it as a bait for the mainland Chinese market (which is still weird, like why don’t you choose to film in China then?) Or they’re afraid that they upset mainland Chinese. Okay, I am not trying to be political in this entry, but just wanted to point out the setting feels off. Also, I don’t understand why do we need Lu Ren? Why can’t we just keep Samantha “Sam” Nishimura, who is Lara’s best friend in the game. She is half Japanese so culturally speaking she fits better, and she basically was the main storyline (she was the human sacrifice to Himiko and Lara went through hell to save her in the game). I feel like they want a male character, a hint of a love interest, to bait the audience. I think it’s just very backwards that we need a male character as a “love interest” to make a film. Bloody hell. (And Sam was the real love interest okay?? Fight me!) Anyway, Lu Ren also isn’t believable. First of all, why is he so good at fighting? Why does he use a machine gun like a pro? None of them was explained and it just feels unbelievable. Yes, he first appears with a gun but that’s even weirder, who possess a f**king shotgun in Hong Kong? It’s not America. Also, Lu Ren’s character actually inhibits Lara’s character. Because Lu Ren sort of saved Lara a few times, it shouldn’t be. What I liked about the Tomb Raider game is how we see Lara grew from a rookie to a badass. She is her superhero. She was pushed by the circumstances which forced her to grow. But now we have Lu Ren taking all the credits! Saving Lara and all that! Ugh! I feel like when you make a movie from a game, you have to grab the essence of it, but they didn’t capture the growth of Lara well. Okay I actually have a lot of problems with Lu Ren but these are the major ones. I like Daniel Wu though, he is always a babe in Hong Kong films, but Lu Ren just, I don’t know, doesn’t feel believable enough for me to like him.

Then, the plot. Oh god, where do I start? So how the game depicted Yamatai, is that it’s a myth, a fallen kingdom that people think doesn’t exist. Mathias, or Father Mathias in the game, is the villain (as in the film), but what’s different is that Father Mathias is like a leader of a cult, he has crazy followers who would listen to him 100%. Father Mathias kidnapped Sam because he believes that she is the key for them to leave the island, she is the chosen one from Himiko. There is something about a cult, human sacrifice, myths, tribe, that kind of things. There is a charm in there together with the Yamatai setting. Mysterious, dark, insanity. But the film decided to make Mathias working for Trinity. Oh god, why bring in Trinity so early? Yes, it’s from the game but the second one. The problem of bringing in Trinity, is that it lost all the mysterious elements in the original “ritual” kind of setup. It changed the vibe completely, it became too modern. You either choose modern or choose ancient mystery, don’t put them together. Also, perhaps it’s because the lack of supporting characters, the film simply became an adventure without a plot to me. In the game, we have Lara and her teammates got stuck on the island. Roth treated Lara like a daughter, Sam adored her, Jonah believed in her, Reyes doesn’t like her, but slowly she saw the growth in Lara and Lara earned her trust. Yeah, too many characters, I know, but they could’ve kept at least one. It’s not like the film version doesn’t have supporting characters anyway. Lara’s dad is in the film, he’s been on the island all along. Yes, they probably wanted to have the touching “father-and-daughter” relationship, but I just feel it’s not deep enough for me to empathise them. What the film could’ve done is to at least capture the essence of Lara’s relationship with Sam and Roth, focus on her growth (it’s her growth that makes her human and makes audience empathise her), keep the ancient setting (not like how they did in the film, purely ancient), and don’t turn the film into a pure adventure, just Lara and her dad fighting Mathias. A bit too same old story for me. It’s a shame because I feel like they had good materials but they chose not to use it. It’s very obvious that they brought in Trinity and Ana because they want sequels. They didn’t have to use them as baits for sequels, just tell the bloody story first. You tell a good story, you get sequels.

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