Tomb Raider – 2018 (Full Review)

Let’s be honest. Video game movies are usually terrible. Not just bad… terrible. So terrible that even the best ones aren’t particularly memorable. Angelina Jolie’s 2001 and 2003 turn as beloved video game heroine Lara Croft didn’t do much to curb that notion. But in true Hollywood remake fashion, here we are again with another attempt at making Tomb Raider work for the big screen.

Tomb_Raider_(2018_film)This reboot reimagines Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) as a rebellious delivery girl whose father (Dominic West) disappeared while searching for mystical relics that could prove the existence of an afterlife. When she finally decides to accept her father’s inheritance and take ownership of his multimillion dollar company, Lara stumbles upon clues to his whereabouts. With the help of a drunken ship captain (Daniel Wu), Lara ventures to a treacherous, uncharted island where she encounters a secret organization that is using slave labor to uncover an ancient tomb.

I can count on one hand how many video game movies are watchable, and if you can name more than that then you will absolutely enjoy this reboot of Tomb Raider. The movie starts out slow. There are hokey jokes that don’t land and plot elements that don’t make an ounce of sense, but the adventurous tone and action sequences are right on the money.  Alicia Vikander brings some true grit and earnest heart to the lead role that makes her feel like a much more believable character than Angelina Jolie’s more cartoonish take.

The action is intense and the stakes are felt thanks to Vikander’s performance. Every other character will come off as forgettable, although Walton Goggins makes for a relatively intimidating villain. Truthfully, a Tomb Raider movie need only have a captivating Lara Croft and, more importantly, an enthralling motivation, for her to work. Recreating Lara as a brave and tough young woman grinding her way through perils to reconnect with her long lost father is enough to make this reboot worthwhile even for the casual moviegoer. Just don’t be that poor soul expecting something emotionally groundbreaking or overtly intelligent from a video game movie.

FINAL GRADE: B

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Assassin’s Creed (Full Review)

Once upon a time, Hollywood thought superhero movies would never be mainstream. Now, they’re some of the most profitable films in existence and Oscar winners are lining up to be in them. So maybe, just maybe, video game movies (a genre that’s always been relatively terrible) are finally ready to come along and be consistently entertaining.

assassins_creed_film_posterAssassin’s Creed is a popular video game about an ancient order of secret assassins who serve to fight against an elitist group known as the Templar. The film stars Michael Fassbender as Callum Lynch, descendant  of a 15th Century Spanish assassin who is apprehended  by the modern day Templar and their lead scientist, Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard). Sophia and her father (Jeremy Irons) hope to use a machine, known as the Animus, to tap into the memories of Callum and other assassin descendants (Michael K. Williams) in hopes of finding a legendary relic that can control the free will of mankind.

The plot to this film is all over the place and the more you think about it after it’s lengthy climax, the more holes you discover in the story (Like how is Callum a descendant when his Spanish counterpart is never established to have any offspring?). Fans of the game may care about the use of the Animus, but in this film it just feels like an unnecessary gimmick. And while the concept may work for a video game, here it just seems overly convoluted and hellishly distracting.

The film switches between the two time periods and when things are in the present day, nothing ever really occurs to make the audience care about the characters or their motives. As for the movie’s star studded cast, none of them seem capable of overcoming wooden dialogue to make their characters relatable or even likable. Thus, every second of the film spent in the modern day feels boring.

And it’s an absolute shame, because the parts of the film taking place during the Spanish Inquisition are fantastic. Whether it’s exhilarating action sequences or just captivating shot angles that take advantage of 3D technology, the parts of Assassin’s Creed that focus on ancient assassins is fun to watch. Even the relatively silent characters of this portion (Fassbender and Ariane Labed) are infinitely more interesting. If only they’d made that era the focus, we’d finally have a rare video game movie that isn’t forgettable.

FINAL GRADE: C-