Tomb Raider, A Steady Reboot

The Tomb Raider franchise has gone through a rejuvenation of late, following the superbly gritty video game reboots, Tomb Raider (2013) & Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015). These games take place at the start of her adventures, featuring , a younger, more fragile Lara Croft. As opposed to the confident & sexy version many are accustomed too.

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With her dad going missing, presumed dead, on an expedition, Lara (Alicia Vikander), attempts to carry on with her life without resorting to the vast financial aid that she could access with a simple signature. As this would mean for her to accept her fathers death. But the appearance of a relic provides her with a clue, that things may not have been as they appeared on the surface, and takes her on a voyage out to the Far East.

Video game movies seem to be a cursed project, even away from the cheesy 90s releases that the industry still carries the scars of, recent attempts such as Assassins’ Creed & Warcraft have been critical failures. But I’m glad to say, Tomb Raider is an honest adaptation of it’s source, while going off script enough to not make it a like for like copy.

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The similarities between the game and movie are more cosmetic if anything. Lara is still a young rookie, who is way out of her comfort zone, having to adapt in the face of death. You also have the hidden Japanese island of Yamatai, where the body of the mythical figure of Himiko resides, which is where the plot mainly focuses on. This is pretty much what the movie borrows from the game, the rest are worked around those points. You have Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), a sailor, who joins Lara on her journey in exchange for a hefty wad of cash. Ren is a character the audience can warm too, and thankfully the film does not force a romance between the two. Lara’s father (Dominic West) plays a far bigger role here, than the game, and it does feel very cliched, using the ‘daddy issues’ story. It does grate a bit, but the resolution of that arch plays off surprisingly well. Walton Goggins, our antagonist, is wonderfully menacing as the dastardly Vogel. Every time he shows up, you wish him the worst! A great sign of a well played villain.

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Where the film shines brightest are the survival scenes & solo combat. This version of Lara takes a physical battering in the games, and Vikander here goes through a lot too, she also looks the part , in fine physical shape, as one must be in such an intense physical role. When she’s not falling off trees, or flying through debris, she’s being impaled by branches. There is a lot of yelling and grunting in pain! It makes the character seem far more vulnerable and endearing. The game has a rather satisfying use of the Bow, and it features a lot here too! The legendary Ice Axe also makes an appearance!

The film still has some big flaws. They have changed a fair part of the Himiko backstory, the game goes down a far more supernatural route, whereas the film plays it far more safe. The film also fails to really show much of Lara’s backstory, apart from her sparring sessions, it’s a huge leap of faith to believe that suddenly, she has the skills to survive out in the wilderness, we don’t see much of her exploration/survival skills beforehand. The moment when she does make her first kill is rather underwhelming here, where in the game, it was a pivotal moment for her as a person, and having to accept what she had done. Here, the moment is all to brief, and suddenly cuts back to the main story. The missing Father story line has been played over many a times, and would have been more intriguing had they used another plot device to drive the story on.

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Tomb Raider does play it safe here, and you can tell, with its rather generic and cliched story. But judging it as a video game adaptation, it’s done a perfectly good job. Vikander is excellent as Croft, and Lu Ren is a great partner for her future travels. If you’re a fan of the games, you will enjoy this adaptation, while it’s no where near are deep or immersive as the games, but that’s to be expected, having to cut the massive adventure into a single feature length film. It doesn’t do anything too new, but it should do enough to merit a second outing.

Assassin’s Creed……Needs more Assassins!

Assassin’s Creed marks the latest Hollywood foray into the world of Video Games. A genre that has long been much maligned with dire releases, but with a powerful cast including the likes of Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard, can this movie finally break the mold?

 Though I am a fan of video games, I haven’t played the Assassin’s Creed series, so I’m not entirely familiar with this franchise, but I shall review it as a standalone movie, rather than simply comparing it to the source!

 The film revolves around Callum Lynch (Fassbender), a prisoner who is saved from execution by the Abstergo Foundation, a group claiming to have links to the Templers. Their goal is to retrieve the mythical ‘Apple of Eden’, an item which is said to possess the genetic code for free will, and vital in their mission to eradicate violence from society. The key to their mission is Callum, who by using their Animus Machine can use his genetic memories to relieve the events of his ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha, to hunt down clues to the location of the apple.

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 The films main strengths lie in all the scenes taking place during the flashbacks, which occur during The Spanish Inquisition in 15th century Andalucía. These are the scenes that fans were looking forward too, and it’s here that the film delivers. The intensity in there scenes is fantastic, and the action is relentless. You also get a Game of Thrones vibe from here, which is always a promising sign! The rooftop chases are a series trademark, and they are executed with great precision, even featuring the infamous ‘Leap of Faith’.

 Sadly, this is the highlight of the movie, and for some reason, the Assassin scenes are very limited, on my count, there were 3 scenes in the Iberian. The film mostly focuses on the present day, and the events that take place at Abstergo. How Abstergo are under pressure from above to fulfill their mission, to a messy story line regarding Callum’s father. This is where the film slows down to a horrible crawl, the scenes are too long, and very dialogue heavy.

The supporting cast is supremely talented, Cotillard as the head scientist at Abstergo. Jeremy Irons as the chief of the foundation, and Micheal K Williams as one of the fellow assassins held captive. But they don’t really add anything, none of the characters are charismatic, nor do you really care about them. If anything, the film should have been set in the 15th century, with occasional cuts to present day. Of course you require some back story, but it shouldn’t be taking precedence over the action in such a film! The final act of the movie takes place in modern London, where an epic Assassin showdown would have been more climatic and fitting.

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The violence was also toned down, with rarely any bloodshed, the games are targeted towards mature fans, but it’s obvious to see that the film was toned down for a more lucrative 12A rating. Considering the nature of the fights, the scenes are rather tame. You can’t help but feel that the rating was one of the key reasons why the action scenes are so infrequent and lacking any real brutality.

 Overall, the film isn’t in the same league of Street Fighter or Doom, in regards to disappointing video game adaptations. It’s still an adequate movie, but with the cast on hand, and a compelling source material, it’s a shame they couldn’t produce a film to rival the games. In this regards, definitely needed less talk, more action!

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