Tomb Raider Review

Tomb Raider movie posterSynopsis
Seven years after her father went missing and was presumed dead, Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) discovers his hidden office containing research on Himiko, the ancient Japanese β€œAngel of Death.” Along with boat captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), she travels to the hidden island containing Himiko’s tomb, facing many perils along the way, including her father’s old associate Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins).

Review
Mentioning a film is a video game adaptation is often met with a moan and a groan. While some are a few diamonds in the rough, most are OK at best, if not downright dreadful. Going into the theater to see Tomb Raider, I was cautious but at the same time hopeful. The Angelina Jolie take on the character was fun and I really liked what I saw in the trailers. It helped, too, that I’ve heard a lot of good things about the 2013 Tomb Raider game reboot (which this is what this film is based on). Leaving the theater, I was actually optimistic about the future of an Alicia Vikander-led Tomb Raider series.

One thing this movie is not lacking in is adventure. From start to finish, Lara is zooming from one place to another, running from something or fighting someone. Not exactly edge-of-your-seat stuff but it was exciting. There was an Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade or National Treasure element to it so of course I was going to enjoy it. Even when the film was between action pieces, it kept your attention, moving Lara towards the end goal.

My mom watched this with me and when it was over I asked her if she liked it. Her response was β€œYeah, it was easy to follow.” The plot wasn’t overly complicated. Nothing felt extraneous or unnecessary. There were no extra side-plots, nor any crazy twists or turns. Every scene had one goal: getting Lara to the tomb. There are clear breadcrumbs laid to be picked up in potential future sequels but they do not take away from this film. This is the correct way to start a film franchise.

Lara Croft is an iconic video game character. Portraying a character who is beloved by so many can be intimidating. Luckily, Alicia Vikander is up to the task. She was fantastic as a younger, less experienced Lara. She nails the look of Lara’s most recent incarnation to a tee. And the muscle she put on for the role is remarkable. It really help sells that Lara would be able to pull the crazy stunts she does, no matter how improbable they may seem. In the same vein of films like John Wick, she, despite being the hero, isn’t invincible; She constantly is getting beat and bruised but continuously finds a way use her brain and skills to come out on top. Vikander performed many of her own stunts, clearly showing a love and dedication to the role that comes across on screen.

It seems lately Hollywood has been moving away from making women in film damsels-in-distress or helpless love interests. Instead, we are seeing more bad-ass and kick-ass heroines than ever before. The beating Lara endures throughout the movie is what you would expect from an 80s action hero. It’s over-the-top, insane, gritty, and quite frankly, unbelievable but oh-so enjoyable to watch and root for. I can’t think of many films where the lead role is a woman and can be comparable to an Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kurt Russel, or Sylvester Stallone role. If that’s not progress I don’t know what is.

I thought Tomb Raider was GOOD πŸ™‚ Director Roar Uthaug not only managed to make a decent video game movie, but a decent adventure movie as well. While it was mostly unoriginal as an adventure movie, pulling inspiration from many successful adventure films, and generic, it was generic fun. And really, fun is all I ask for.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Roar Uthaug – Director
Geneva Robertson-Dworet – Screenplay / Story
Alastair Siddons – Screenplay
Evan Daugherty – Story
Tom Holkenborg – Composer

Alicia Vikander – Lara Croft
Dominic West – Lord Richard Croft
Walton Goggins – Mathias Vogel
Daniel Wu – Lu Ren
Kristen Scott Thomas – Ana Miller
Derek Jacobi – Mr. Yaffe
Alexandre Willaume – Lieutenant
Tamer Burjaq – Mercenary
Adrian Collins – Mercenary
Keenan Arrison – Mercenary
Andrian Mazive – Mercenary
Milton Schorr – Mercenary
Maisy De Freitas – Young Lara (7 years old)

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Guest on Game Warp Podcast (Guacamelee: STCE Review)

Hey friends!

If you didn’t know, my friend, and frequent collaborator Kim at Tranquil Dreams co-hosts a gaming podcast called Game Warp. Last month, I had the opportunity to be a guest on the show! Along with Game Warp co-host Elwood, the three of us discussed Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition. Check it out in the video below.

Today is Game Warp’s one year anniversary! Congrats Kim and Elwood! Here’s to another great year to come. πŸ™‚

Have you played Guacamelee? Did you like it? What other Metroid-vania games have you played?

Until next time, Cheers!

Assassin’s Creed Review

Assassin's Creed movie posterSynopsis
In 2016, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is on death row. When he wakes up after lethal injection, he finds himself at an Abstergo Foundation facility, a modern day front for the Templar Order. Sofia (Marion Cotillard), an Abstergo scientist, informs Cal his death was faked because they need his help to find a mysterious artifact known as the Apple of Eden. In order to locate the artifact, Cal must enter the animus, a device used to explore genetic memories, to relive the memories of his ancestor, Aguilar, during the Spanish Inquisition in 1492.

Review
I am a big fan of the Assassin’s Creed series. I have all of the games (although I have yet to play them all) and have read several of the comic books. At the Toronto Comic-con last year, I picked up an art piece depicting several of the series’ the main characters. Since it is one of my favorite game series, I was really excited to hear that a movie for the series would be made. Better yet, it wasn’t going to be a film adaptation of one game but instead tell a new story that takes place within the already established universe. I think my excitement got the better of me.

I’ll start with some good. In the game, navigating the environment by running through the streets and up and on top of buildings is a signature aspect of the game play. Things like parkouring up walls and running across rooftops was brought over exactly like you see in the games. Even things as simple as stances and body posture when assassins jump onto unsuspecting targets is spot on from the game. And the type of action sequences in general is what you would expect to see in the games. That is exciting to see when a video game film has the look and feel of the source material.

In the group of people I saw this with, I was the only one who had played the games. Actually, I was the only one who knew anything more beyond the fact the film was adapted from a video game. Talking with them after leaving the theater, they seemed to have a good grasp about the Assassin’s Creed universe. Assassin’s Creed did a good job of explaining the larger universe in which the film is set, from the conflict between Assassins and Templars, to the purpose of the animus, even the bleeding effect of prolonged animus use. I’d say the only thing not well explained is exactly what the Apple of Eden is and what it can actually do.

Now this leads into my first gripe with the film. Although it did a great job establishing the movie’s universe, it had to take the time to set it up. There was so much exposition in the first half of the movie, it didn’t feel like it went anywhere. Several action scenes were sprinkled throughout to add a bit of flare but it didn’t help too much. By the time the film got to the meat of the story, it had to play catch-up. As a result, the second half felt rushed. I never got the opportunity to get sucked into the story because it was all over the place.

A problem I often have with movies is sometimes they try to set up future sequels without properly closing its own story first. I understand laying threads to be picked up in the next film but that shouldn’t come at the cost of the current story. When this film ended, I found myself thinking, β€œOh, that’s the end?” Saying the story was left open-ended feels like the wrong term but it does feel incomplete. I think the rushed pacing during the second half that I mentioned before forced the script into a quick ending, resulting in an anticlimactic finish to the film.

I thought Assassin’s Creed was OK :-|. Hollywood hasn’t had a great track record with video game adaptations. This had the chance to break that trend since it wasn’t trying to adapt any one game but instead tell its own story within the game’s universe. Even with a star-studded cast, poor pacing and an unengaging story keeps this film reaching the heights I was hoping for from a film based on one of my favorite gaming franchises.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Justin Kurzel – Director
Michael Lesslie – Screenplay
Adam Cooper – Screenplay
Bill Collage – Screenplay
Jed Kurzel – Composer

Michael Fassbender – Callum Lynch / Aguilar
Marion Cotillard – Sofia Rikkin
Jeremy Irons – Alan Rikkin
Denis Menochet – McGowen
Ariane Labed – Maria
Brendan Gleeson – Joseph Lynch
Essie Davis – Mary Lynch
Charlotte Rampling – Ellen Kaye
Michael Kenneth Williams – Moussa
Matias Varela – Emir
Callum Turner – Nathan
Crystal Clarke – Samia
Michelle H. Lin – Lin
Brian Gleeson – Young Joseph Lynch