19 November 2019

Falling Into The Booby Trap

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A few weeks before the new Tomb Raider film came out, the Jennifer Lawrence fronted Red Sparrow was also released which caused people to wonder if this might be a renaissance period for female-led franchise films. Does anybody even remember Red Sparrow anymore though? Did that end with somebody getting their skin ripped off by a cheese grater or am I just confusing it with the time I tried to make a pizza whilst stoned? Either way, it wasn't exactly successful and so Tomb Raider was left alone in carrying the burden of being an action movie that didn't focus exclusively on a white male actor who was probably called fucking Chris or something. Not only that but they decided to set themselves something of a challenge by making a movie that was also based on a video-game. For anybody that's never seen the Super Mario Brothers or Street Fighter films, this is generally about as good an idea as sticking your dick into an electrical socket to power the toaster that you're about to shove up your arse. Whether you play games or not however, the odds are that you'll know the name Lara Croft with her having achieved a somewhat iconic status already and having already previously featured in two earlier Tomb Raider movies. If not then she's basically a gun-toting archaeologist that teenagers used to secretly tug one out to in the '90s.

In the previous two films, Lara Croft was portrayed by Angelina Jolie who didn't exactly do a bad job except for the fact that she was basically just playing the character as a magazine cover. I guess that's not entirely her fault though. Even in the game the character originally had a pair of boobs that seemed to have been created by a team that that specialised in the design of hot fucking air balloons. Of course, we're all now in an age in which the ease with which we can access porn has left our brains rotten and gross with my Mind Palace being nothing more than a spaff stained titty booth these days. But the character of Lara Croft was conceived at a time in which a pair of tits were about as rare a sight as a double rainbow or the face of the baby Jesus in a slice of burnt toast. I think I played the very first game when I was a kid but all I can really remember of that was running away from a T-Rex, hiding up some rocks, shitting my pants and then getting eaten by wolves. I played the 2013 franchise reboot too which this new film thankfully borrows the bulk of its inspiration from. This was the game that really worked hard to make Lara Croft a more three-dimensional character by which I mean her personality and not that they simply made her tits even fucking bigger. In this new film, we actually meet Lara having lost her father and denounced his vast inheritance which I assume was done to make her more relatable to us lowly maggots. In these hard-up times, it'd be too much for us to like a multimillionaire and so Lara has decided to scrape by as a bike courier instead of enjoying her father's fortune. Of course, she could have used that money to fund charities and promote various other honourable causes but ignore that.. she's as poor as the rest of us. Hurray!

Sadly though, Lara is forced back into her family affairs after a series of events lead her into a secret office where she finds a video message from her dead father. In it, he informs her that she is now also in possession of all of the research that he has done into the location of a cursed tomb that would destroy the world if opened. He wants her to destroy this research and ensure that nobody can ever open that tomb. He also set up a series of puzzles that would lead her to this research by the way. I guess he figured that to ensure the research was destroyed and the tomb never found it would be more fun to play a stupid fucking game of 'riddle me this' with his daughter than to you know... just destroy the fucking research himself. Sadly his other gift to his daughter seems to have been his own stupid fucking idiot genes as she then proceeds to ignore his one instruction of wiping her arse on his research and burning it with fire in favour of going to the tomb herself. I guess it's apt to call this film Tomb Raider but an equally accurate title would be The Generic Adventures Of A Dimwitted Dad And His Disobedient Daughter. Once on the island on which the tomb is located, Lara finds a team of bad guys already there and looking for it themselves but with no idea of specifically where it might be. Well. Not until she turns up with the research like the total fucking idiot she is of course. "But hey", I hear you ask, "isn't that kind of like in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade in which Sean Connery mails his diary to Indy who unintentionally delivers it straight to the Nazi's?" To which the answer is of course, no. It's not kind of like it. It's exactly the fuck like it. 

Considering this film was based on a video-game and hadn't exactly received the best reviews itself, I was kind of surprised by how much I was enjoying the first twenty minutes or so of it. One of the biggest problems when adapting a video-game is often in how you deal with the personality of the main character due to them generally being entirely fucking vacant. I mean, what information are we really sure about Mario from playing the game? Beyond the fact that he feels no regret from killing sentient mushrooms that fucker could be a flat out Trumpian racist for all we know. However, in this film I genuinely loved new lead actress Alicia Vikander's performance as Lara Croft. She was cool, charming, feisty, and pretty much what I'd imagine the character to be like. She's also fit as fuck by the way if that matters. Does it matter? I guess action heroes tend to be male because the studios think that the genre is for young boys who want somebody that they can project themselves onto. But who the fuck can relate to somebody like James Bond? In Skyfall, he refers to a murdered woman that drops her drink as a "damn waste of whisky". He's a psychopath. If you find Bond aspirational then clearly you're about a hundred and fifty years old and actually Jack the fucking Ripper. This is probably also true if you're so jaded to humanity that you can't empathise with a character simply because they're of the opposite sex. If she happens to then go on to inspire young girls and teach them that they're the very equal of a man then isn't that a good thing? And if I also just happen to have added her into the cesspit of my once great Mind Palace then I really fail to see a downside. Virtue signalling aside, my point is that Alicia Vikander is really fucking fit. 

As great as Vikander might have been however, this initial enjoyment only really lasted until the archaeology stuff kicked in and the film revealed itself to be nothing more than a sub-Indiana Jones knock-off. I mean, the tomb that they uncover literally has the falling floor panels and the giant chasm which makes it a bit too identical to The Last Crusade. To try to distinguish itself from Indy a tiny bit, there's an obvious bit of influence from Batman Begins too. But generally, this just meant that somebody was more likely to bleed than crack a smile as though having a bit of fun would be more painful than being punched in the fucking face. Indiana Jones is a ridiculous franchise with the third movie ending with the destruction of an ancient temple in which an old bloke has spent a thousand years defending a magical cup. But it gets away with it because Harrison Ford has a cynical sense of humour that suggests he's aware of how silly everything is. The 1999 version of The Mummy is a blatant rip-off of Indiana Jones that hasn't even changed the time period and that gets away with it because it also has a sense of humour. Without this knowingness, Tomb Raider simply comes across as a being a little po-faced and a little fucking dull. Especially when there are times in which it deviates from its more grounded approach in an attempt at impressing us with its stupidly over the top set-pieces. At one point we see Lara Croft leap a distance so great that it would make Vin Diesel do a double-take as he flies between bridges to catch a woman that has been thrown in the air by a fucking tank. 

When the action kicks in, we also lose the one thing that really made the opening to the film work, which is Vikander's influence on the personality of the character. Now we're just watching Lara Croft run and jump through a jungle which is about as much fun as watching your mate play the actual game after putting on an invincibility cheat and insisting it's 'one life each'. It should also be noted how quickly Lara gets used to killing people. I think it'd be quite a big deal for me to take somebodies life and I think that I'd be worried that the act would burn itself into my soul forever. Lara hesitates with her first kill but after that, she's popping arrows and knives into peoples chests like a bitter ex-girlfriend with a fucking voodoo doll. Look at the action in Indiana Jones in which Indy shoots the swordsman or has to escape a pit of snakes and you'll see that it retains his personality and doesn't feel like a cut-scene. I'm aware that I'm now criticising the film for simultaneously being too similar to Indiana Jones and equally not stealing enough... but instead of taking the same set-pieces it should have come up with its own traps and stolen Indy's understanding of the genre. Perhaps the real problem is that the games have stolen the set-pieces from these other adventure movies in the first place but still feel unique because they're being experienced in a different medium. By then adapting those games back into a movie it's kind of like a thief simply replacing their stolen goods in the mansion they were originally nabbed from and then expecting praise for their understanding of d├ęcor. Thanks for reading and see you next time, motherfuckers.

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