After Assassin’s Creed’s failure, the video game curse remains unbroken, and now it is coming for Alicia Vikander. They have tried everything with video game movies, from 1990’s super-cheese to high fantasy (Warcraft) to artsy realism (Assassin’s Creed). None of it worked, and nothing in the first teaser for the Tomb Raider reboot looks like it’s going to work, either. I have been puzzling out the video game curse for over an actual fact decade, and I think I finally figured it out—there is no audience for video game movies. Gamers have hours upon hours of cinematic storytelling within games, so why would they then watch a video game they can’t play? And non-gamers don’t care in the first place.
But Tomb Raider is trying. They’re touting “Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander”. There are flashy action sequences—which literally look like challenges from the game, and again, gamers can’t play it and non-gamers aren’t into it. There is Vikander’s weird photoshopped giraffe neck on the poster which set the internet on fire. And there is Walton Goggins, who, goddammit, gets me every time. (Boyd Crowder for life.) I’m going to see this doomed movie just for Goggins, whose hair is halfway to standing up in the trailer. When Goggins’ hair goes above 70% standing up, he is locked into a performance that is guaranteed watchable, no matter how bad the movie around him might be. (When his hair is +70% standing up and he’s also in something good, you get Justified and Vice Principals.)
It’s not just the video game curse making Tomb Raider an iffy proposition. It’s also Tomb Raider itself, which looks like some basic sh*t. Nothing in this trailer is even mildly interesting, except Walton Goggins, and I’m starting to doubt Vikander’s ability to carry a film. Her best performances are supporting roles; when she’s the lead we get Tulip Fever. The original Tomb Raider movies weren’t great, but they had Angelina Jolie, who is utterly watchable. This teaser, though it is going for EPIC! WORLDWIDE! ADVENTURE!, falls flat and a lot of that is Vikander’s expressionless delivery. Did she hate it during production? Is that what we’re seeing? Or is she just not a suitable action heroine? Tomb Raider is a $100 million experiment in whether or not Alicia Vikander can carry a movie.
Here's Alicia on The Late Late Show with James Corden yesterday.