Wednesday, July 4, 2018

‘Blu-ray or Bust’ - TOMB RAIDER

‘Blu-ray or Bust’
TOMB RAIDER (PG-13, 2018, 118 minutes, GK FILMS/WARNER BROS.)

There was a time—long before men were publicly called out for being chauvinist asshats—when some dude woke up in his mom’s basement and thought, “I want to play a game as a hot babe with big cans who traipses through ancient ruins in tiny shorts!”.

Thus was born the bestselling video game “Tomb Raider” (not really, I’m sure there is more to the story than that…), and its legendary heroine, Lara Croft.  When Hollywood got ahold of the rights, fanboys worldwide rejoiced at the casting of Angelina Jolie as the (sigh…look, there’s going to be puns all over this thing, intentional or not) titular character.  This rejoicing was mainly due to the fact that, when it came to the actual physical representation of that Most Holy of Video Game Sex Icons, she fit the bill perfectly.  Also, she is a fine actress—brilliant casting on all fronts, right?  A big Hollywood star, bringing a beloved action game to life—what could possibly go wrong?

Only… well, the movies kinda sucked.  And the blatant sexualizing for the pubescent masses felt wrong, somehow.  And, much of the storyline and acting sucked mummy turds.  Really no way out of that one.  In other words, if you were a big fan of those first films, you are probably also the reason girls check the bushes outside their windows at night.  Perverts.

Seventeen years later, Hollywood has decided to give Lara Croft another chance.  This time, the script is better, the effects are better (mostly), and the lead actress is able to carry the film on her shoulders, and not on her front-facing flotation devices.  Alicia Vikander (EX MACHINA, THE DANISH GIRL) fills the title role, and what you get is an action/adventure film that actually feels more human.  Sorry, Angelina, you’ll always be my girl (as soon as you lift the restraining order), but Ms. Vikander does such a convincing job as a young woman forced into a tough situation that you don’t expect her to come out unscathed.  She brings a certain humanity to the role that was lost in the prior films.  Yes, you know she will come out on top in the end, but you care about her as you watch, you feel for the emotional and physical trauma she experiences along the way.

The story revolves around reluctant heiress Lara Croft, who works as a delivery person on a bicycle (which sets up a marvelously choreographed bike-chase scene).  After clues are unearthed concerning what happened to her father, Lara goes on a quest to seek out the answers and to put some closure on the “daddy’s been missing for a long time, you should declare him dead and become an instant millionaire” thing. 

When I first saw the film in theaters, I had an issue with a few of the effects not looking polished enough.  However, on the small screen—and even in the Blu-ray format—those effects now look seamless and translate well.  No obviously hasty or ill-executed shots.  Which means you should definitely seek this one out on Blu-ray.  The special features give you a lot of behind-the-scenes info, including several instances of Ms. Vikander doing her own stunts.  And cinematographer George Richmond (KINGSMAN) is a treasure that needs to be given a lot more highbrow work.  Seriously.

Warner Bros. has yet to announce a sequel, which is surprising, considering its worldwide box office gross was just shy of 275 million.  There is more to this character we should see, which is the lovely thing about this film: she is a fully realized person, thanks to Ms. Vikander’s performance, and not just a couple of pretty prop pieces used to sell tickets.  Don’t get me wrong, she is a bombshell in her own right.  But this is one character you love for her brain, almost as much as you do for her…brawn.

Film Grade: B
Special Features: B+
Blu-ray Necessary: Absolutely

-- T.S. Kummelman

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