View Post

Tomb Raider

Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

In 2013 the Tomb Raider video game franchise released its tenth major iteration. This was a make or break moment for developer Crystal Dynamics and publisher Square Enix as the series had reached something of a creative nadir. Happily the game – simply titled Tomb Raider – was both financially successful and critically lauded, with the back-to-basics reboot representing a gritty but exciting new direction for the series, one that continues to this day.

The filmmakers behind Tomb Raider have clearly followed a similar design philosophy, using the now familiar ‘Lara covered in mud, looking pensive, standing atop stuff’ aesthetic, rather than the ‘enormous fake boobs, shooting the camera snarly come-hither glances’ that were popularised by the ghastly Angelina Jolie-starring prior attempts, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life (2003).

The good news is that Tomb Raider (2018) is a huge leap in quality above those lost relics from the early noughties. The bad news is it’s still all a bit forgettable.

Tomb Raider takes us back to the early days of Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander), who works as a bike courier in London to make ends meet, and is haunted by the memory of her father, Richard (Dominic West) who is missing, believed dead. This early section is well shot and acted but paced strangely and it feels like a minor ice age before Lara’s off overseas, searching for Richard and getting into all sorts of strife along the way. The main bulk of the action takes place on the mysterious island of Yamatai, where obsessed expedition leader Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) is trying to find and dig up the dusty carcass of (possibly) mythical Japanese Queen, Himiko. What follows is a sort of gender flipped, millennial Indiana Jones, except less fun and less stylishly executed, and while it never becomes eye-rollingly awful, it rarely attains a level much higher than mildly interesting.

Alicia Vikander is a likeable, spunky Lara Croft and seems physically adept in the role even if she deserved a bit more to work with. Sadly Walton Goggins and Dominic West, fine actors both, are given very little to do which feels like an egregious missed opportunity. Director Roar Uthaug stages action scenes competently but there’s rarely any edge-of-your-seat excitement at play. Diehard fans of the video game will probably appreciate the callbacks (hey, Lara’s climbing on a rusty old plane at the top of a waterfall, you guys!) and younger audiences will likely not notice the well-worn tropes, but for the rest of us Tomb Raider is relentlessly adequate.

View Post

Eli Roth: Taking it to the Limit  

With Eli Roth’s controversial Bruce Willis-starring remake of Death Wish blasting its way into cinemas this week, we take a look back at the career of this gleefully divisive filmmaker.
View Post

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Game, Home, Review Leave a Comment

When Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End came out last year it was an epic, emotional goodbye to one of video game’s most-beloved protagonists, Nathan Drake. It was also, it has to be said, frequently a little redundant, retreading familiar territory – both in the narrative and gameplay. This isn’t a bad thing when we’re talking about a series as compulsively enjoyable as the Uncharted games, but it did mean developer Naughty Dog needed to bring something new to the table with standalone adventure, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.

So did they succeed? Yes and no. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy features one obvious and major change: new protagonists. This time around players will be thrust into the shoes of fan-favourite character, Chloe Frazer (Claudia Black) – the smart arse Aussie/Indian treasure hunter who has teamed up with Nadine Ross (Laura Bailey) – the South African former mercenary and general bad arse.

This classic funny/square team up is the biggest joy of The Lost Legacy. Experiencing the growing friendship between Chloe and Nadine as they explore India, looking for the legendary tusk of Ganesh, is well-written and quite emotional at times. Chloe gets to be more than just a quip-machine and Nadine has layers only hinted at in her time in Uncharted 4. During the 6-8 hour playthrough I found myself genuinely invested in these two characters and their relationship to one another.

I was, however, somewhat less invested in the combat. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy features combat that is basically a cut and paste of Uncharted 4, which isn’t bad – but hasn’t improved. The gunplay still feels a tad imprecise and taking cover can be fiddly. That’s not to say there aren’t spectacular moments – they’re numerous – but in Uncharted’s quest to be an action blockbuster you can play, some of the finer gameplay touches are lost.

That said, the exploration and treasure hunting is excellent as always. Descending into Indian ruins is as atmospheric and intriguing as anything Uncharted has ever offered. The puzzles are clever enough to be a challenge but not obtuse enough to cause any real frustration. The plot moves along at a fair clip – and features one particularly enjoyable open area where you can tackle objectives at your own pace, unlocking optional secrets and even meeting some friendly monkeys! Nadine loves monkeys, you guys.

Ultimately Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a leaner, more-focused standalone expansion worthy of the series’ reputation. The graphics are utterly, insanely gorgeous, the lead characters believable and likable and the story has enough twists and turns to keep you engaged for the duration.