I played the original Tomb Raider video-game all the way through (late '90's?) and absolutely loved it. I played a couple of the sequels, and though the series seemed lost for awhile, it looks like Square Enix currently has the franchise going in a great direction.
I so want the Tomb Raider movies to be great. But they just aren't. And that's so disappointing.
This latest version, starring the very talented Alicia Vikander, definitely has its moments. Warner Bros. took the film franchise over from Paramount, and gave the film a respectable $100M(ish) budget.
Vikander is a terrific Lara Croft. She's beautiful, she's tough, she's engaging, she's fragile when she needs to be. However, she isn't given enough on the page to work with. The general concept of the story is solid, but the execution, from writing to direction, is far too bland. Outside of some fantastic special effects (including an awesome ship crash), there's little outside of Vikander's performance to push this film into being something special.
This is a typical Hollywood rush-to-production-too-fast tale. Much of the casting was solid (though it's hard to see Dominic West on the big screen without thinking of him as McNulty). If the script had been given more time and money to further develop the story and characters, it could have been something great. But every aspect of the story feels like it was rushed. It's just all so generic. Add to that a bombastic over-the-top score, and it almost gets annoying in moments.
There was a simple choice to make at the beginning of this project: do we choose story over style, or style over story? Time and time again, with video-game film adaptations, the studios incorrectly choose style over story, and the project doesn't live up to its potential. Unfortunately, Tomb Raider (2018) suffers from this exact same error.
It's definitely not the worst Tomb Raider movie though, and it's actually better than most video-game inspired movies. The film has done very poorly at the domestic box office, but okay in the foreign markets, so hopefully, Warner Bros. is able to make a sequel with Vikander. But I would hope that they would choose a different creative team.
Lara Croft is an excellent character upon which to build a respectable movie franchise. Hollywood finally got the lead cast right. Now they just have to write a quality script and find the right person to helm the project. A strong female lead, huge cinematic concept, built-in audience of millions—what more can you ask for?
I watched the film on a recent flight, and as a small scope $2M indie film, probably didn't miss much of the experience by watching it on such a small screen.
The story is of a young girl, Moonee, and mother, Halley, who live in a seedy motel near Orlando, occupied by live-in, low-income residents who have trouble paying the weekly rent. Halley, though outwardly fun-loving, is deeply full of anger, and is far too immature to be a responsible parent. We constantly see this effect on her daughter.
The hotel manager, Bobby (Willem Dafoe), has a good heart but has been run down by years of dealing with people who just can't seem to make good decisions no matter how obvious they are.
Through the film, we see Halley's life go from bad to worse, and Moonee is the unfortunate recipient of the consequences. Bobby attempts to do what he can to save her temporarily but knows far too well that he's just delaying the inevitable awful outcome.
The acting by the adult leads is solid, as there's so much for them to grab onto with these terribly flawed characters. It's easy to understand why Dafoe was attracted to such a low budget project.
The film does suffer at times from that low budget. And though the kids do a commendable job of acting, they're certainly outshone by their more seasoned adult counterparts.
That being said, The Florida Project is a wonderful, heartbreaking film. The script is well-crafted, efficiently establishing these troubled characters and allowing them space to interact with each other in highly dramatic fashion. By the end of the tale, it would be hard not to feel for these imaginary people, and to wonder how many real-life Americans are living the same troubled tale.
I highly recommend The Florida Project. In a time of far too many bombastic super-hero movies, this beautiful low-budget, character-driven film is a welcome change of pace.