*. Let us now praise Margot Robbie. I thought she was very good in Suicide Squad, which was not a good movie. I think she’s very good here too, in a movie that’s even worse. That’s something she deserves some credit for. I don’t think it’s easy to be good in bad movies.
*. Did I say worse than Suicide Squad? Well, Terminal is a talky film and none of the talk is good. It’s a movie that promises plot twists but none of the twists is interesting or unexpected. It plays a lot like a neon Tarantino, but by 2018 wasn’t that coming to the party awfully late?
*. Robbie, however, is fascinating. She’s dolled up in various fetish outfits (waitress, stripper, vamp, nurse) and her lips are so brightly painted it’s hard to pay attention to anything else. Even so, and given she’s playing a cartoonish psycho, you can tell she’s actually doing a really good job with what she’s been given to work with. She’s high-impact glossy and everybody else seems to be playing in black and white.
*. We’ve been here before. And not just in terms of the plot. It was shot in Budapest, I assume because it was cheap because otherwise it might as well have been filmed in any abandoned industrial site. The city itself is never named, being a generic, ahistorical, noir wasteland. Proyas’s Dark City seems the obvious model, as it’s never day. There also don’t seem to be any people except at the White Rabbit strip bar.
*. The ending should have been more fun. It’s a crazy enough premise, but then it’s played out as just some lazy exposition followed by a nasty coup de grâce. Not even two Margot Robbies can save it.
*. I don’t have anything else to say. It’s become obligatory to praise the photography and art direction of such self-consciously artificial-looking films, but I found the garish colour and giant vacant sets to be pointless, even as they seemed in some mysterious way what the movie was really about.
*. I really wanted to like this one. Honest!
*. It seemed to have its heart in the right place. Update the Tomb Raider video game/movie franchise for a new generation of empowered young women. No more cheesecake. Lara Croft isn’t a porn fantasy any more but a lean, mean, fighting machine. She’s skipped university so that she can train in useful skills like MMA, rock climbing, and parkour.
*. But is this feminism, or just a shift in men’s tastes, preferring women with harder bodies and less curves? Because Alicia Vikander, despite having traded in the short-shorts for cargo pants and not being as pneumatically drawn as the character’s previous incarnations, is still hot. She’s even the sexy fox in an urban fox hunt, with a gang of young men chasing her tail. Sheesh.
*. Now I don’t want to belabor this point, but . . . a superbabe like Lara washes ashore on an island populated soley by men, some of whom have been stuck there for seven years without any women, and the only thing they can think to do with her is to get her to lug gear through the jungle. Of all the film’s improbabilities that may be the biggest.
*. Well, let’s turn away from ogling Lara and get on to the rest of the film.
*. As I say, I wanted to like it. Vikander projects both strength and vulnerability. She’s a good tomb raider in a lousy Tomb Raider movie. And Daniel Wu makes a great, if underused, sidekick. But the bottom line here is that they went back to the well on this one and came up with absolutely nothing.
*. I actually don’t watch all that many of these movies but I still felt like Tomb Raider was too much of what I’d already seen many, many times before. The treasure map that leads us to Skull Island. The tomb filled with booby-traps. The puzzles to be solved. And lots of jumping around. Lots and lots of jumping around. This is what Lara did in the video game and you can imagine gamers leaving the theatre here with thumbs sore from pressing imaginary controllers.
*. Director Roar Uthaug, whose previous film was The Wave, doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It’s just the usual CGI spectacle, only a little less spectacular. Which, I rush to add, in no way makes any of it more realistic or believable. While the supernatural is eschewed this time out, it’s still a video game world.
*. It all seems so pointless now. Pointless and joyless. We don’t even get to enjoy the villain. Walton Goggins as Vogel isn’t a scenery-chewing psycho but just a bitter loser sent out by the corporation to do a shit job. He might even experience death as a relief. Can we imagine him going home to a loving wife and kids after his exile on Yamatai?
*. And of course the post-credit coda lets you know there’s going to be a sequel. There’s still a lot of work for Lara to do. Selling tickets.