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You'd expect a Tomb Raider film to begin with Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) raiding, well, tombs, but she's instead struggling with day-to-day life. She boxes at a local gym to stay fit, but she can no longer afford so much as an apple to eat, let alone her membership. She'll do anything for a little extra cash, even if it means getting into a little trouble. One thing she's absolutely refused to do however is sign legal documentation that states her father is dead. He's been missing for years, but she isn't willing to give up on him. Things change when she's informed that his estate will be sold off if she refuses to relent - and what an estate it is, boy was that guy loaded - but her patience pays off when a clue leads her to the secret location of his research. There, she discovers her father had spent years trying to find the final resting place of Himiko, a Queen of Yamatai that allegedly had the ability to command both life and death. So after pawning her most prized possession, Lara flies to Hong Kong and hires a ship captain to take her to the same island her father sailed to. When she gets there, she finds that the shady organization Trinity is also looking for Himiko, but they're instead looking to harness her legendary power and weaponize it. Of course, what they fail to realize is that unleashing Himiko's curse could spell the end of the human race. Lara's not about to let them get away with it, but what can one person do against a small band of militarized thugs?
To be perfectly honest, I wasn't expecting much from this movie. The trailers were seemingly careful about what they showed (or didn't show), and the poster art virtually screamed ‘straight to home video'. My skepticism only climbed when I saw the first couple of scenes. They were cut with lame generic pop-action music, so I couldn't help but wonder what I was getting myself in to. But these opening moments quickly shed their uncomfortable skin to not only lay out a decent premise, but build upon it. The first forty-ish minutes also do a great job of showing that Lara isn't some kind of platforming superhero, but a real person that's motivated not by thrills or shiny things, but love and devotion. It's bravery, and not overconfidence that places this character both in trouble and gets her out of it. She's intelligent, strong, and resourceful, which proves to be a winning combination.
And yes, I did say it takes about forty-ish minutes for things to heat up. The film is strictly about developing the world, characters, and historical lore up to that point - which isn't a bad thing - but as soon as Lara reaches the island and meets the despicable Mathias Vogel (Walter Goggins), Tomb Raider begins to deliver slick and at times clever action in hefty doses. Croft's character isn't sacrificed in favor of the action either, because she never seems to do anything outrageously stupid for the sake of having a stunt look cool. That's not to say there aren't some extremely convenient ways in which she manages to save herself, but the Tomb Raider reboot as a whole is far more grounded in reality than either of the Jolie starring vehicles.
By the time the end credits rolled, I was pleasantly surprised with what I had seen. The script wasn't great - there's a number of clichés, the dialogue could have been better and the way things unfolded was entirely predictable - but it was serviceable, and the rest of the package's competence made for an enjoyable flick overall. Vikander absolutely nailed the kind of Croft this film needed, Goggins was a decent villain, and the action proved to be a blast. It's not going to come close to being film of the year, but I definitely wouldn't mind seeing how a sequel would turn out.
Tomb Raider leaps onto 4K UHD at a resolution of 2160p, and is encoded by the HEVC codec at an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. It was seemingly filmed at 3.4k and provided a 4K digital intermediate, and the end result shows. I may have been skeptical of the film itself, but my jaw was on the floor after the first five minutes. The image is sharp, has plenty of depth, highlights are impressive yet never overbearing, skin tones are natural, and colors are well saturated and add a lot of ‘pop'. Once we get to the island, the film decidedly takes a green and brown aesthetic, but considering the rocky terrain that's generously littered with foliage, it works. Evening or tomb shots instead adopt a blue-ish hue, but black levels are seemingly never sacrificed as a result. In fact, they're consistently deep and inky throughout. There's also nothing to complain about in the way of the encode. In fact, I dare say this is probably one of the finest video presentations I've seen as of late.
I opted to listen to the Dolby Atmos track through my 7.1 surround setup, so I didn't get a sense for what the overhead channels provide, but much like the video, the audio presentation is stellar. Quieter moments have some nice environmental ambience that takes advantage of each section of the sound stage, but when the action picks up, speakers really come alive. Bullets zing and ping when they ricochet, waves will envelop you, and tomb traps will echo off the in-film stone walls and make you feel like you're about to be skewered by rolling spikes. The subwoofer also packs quite a bit of ‘oomph', but never overstates things just for the sake of shaking your house. Honestly, there's virtually nothing I could have asked to be better on the audio front.
The supplemental package in this release is around thirty minutes total, meaning what we've got here is a bunch of promo-like material as opposed to true behind-the-scenes material. It's better to just skip this section of the disc overall, as there isn't even a commentary.
-Breaking Down the Rapids
-Lara Croft: Evolution of an Icon
-Introductory Trailers (for other films, not Tomb Raider)
Tomb Raider probably won't be remembered as one of the finer blockbusters of 2018, but it's a perfectly serviceable film that continually gets better as the runtime progresses. As a video game to film adaptation, I'd say it's one of the better ones. The script is thin, but the Lara Croft character excels due to Alicia Vikander's wonderful performance. It was smart for the studio to follow a more grounded story with a seemingly human protagonist. Don't get me wrong, I had a great time with Jolie's outings, but Warner's take on the Tomb Raider franchise is one that could be worth revisiting time and time again… but only time will tell. For fans of the film, you won't be disappointed with the 4K UHD A/V presentation, but a lack of meaty supplements may leave you wanting more. Recommended.
-About the Author- Michael Zupan is primarily a film guy, but has a variety of places where you can enjoy his work otherwise. Check Bytesizeimpressions.com for video game op-ed pieces and podcasts, and be sure to check out the sister site, Byte-Size Cinema, linked up top. This writer also contributes significantly to in-print magazines such as Minecraft Explorer and Fortnite Explorer!