Darke Reviews | Tomb Raider (2018)

Ah the video game movie. A classic in the cinema, usually panned by critics and laughed at by audiences. Movie studios have a history of abusing the video game titles to the point that the reputation has stuck, but let me present you with some that actually don’t suck.

  • Silent Hill – Not the sequel with its hug off.
  • Mortal Kombat – fight me on this one. Its fun. It hits the beats of the game. Christopher Lambert is awesome.
  • Resident Evil – again the first one. Captures the spirit of the game. The sequel isn’t completely awful. The rest…oof.
  • Tomb Raider – the original Angelina Jolie one. Watch it again and tell me exactly how off it is from some of the ridiculous premises of the video game series itself?
  • Warcraft – It was dull, not bad.

So now we have a new Tomb Raider, clearly based on the the 2013 relaunch of the franchise and with a surprisingly high budget of $94 million – that is still less than was spent on Assassin’s Creed.

Should it have stayed buried?

Written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet, who makes this her first script to screen. It doesn’t look like it well be her last though, as she’s attached to cartoon to film adaptation Visionaries, ROM, MASK, and comic book films Silver & Black and Captain Marvel, and a 2021 Dungeons and Dragons movie?  With this list, I had to dig and find a bio for her to make sure it wasn’t some kind of Alan Smithee, but there’s even an Interview. Which is fantastic as we need more female screenwriters in the geek zone. I’d love to interview her some time myself. She sounds awesome.

Also on the script duty is Evan Daugherty, who gave us Snow White and the Huntsman, Divergent, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The picture of this movie comes together now. Geneva also gets a screenplay credit, along with Alastair Siddons (thats an awesome name) who makes this his first theatrical outing with only Tresspass Against Us (2016 film with Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson).

They pick up and took running with the task of literally adapting the 2013 game story to the screen and tripped.  They did get the new Lara right personality wise. They got her first kill right (guys not a spoiler. You see her fire the bow at people…you think she missed?). They just forgot about a few things in the process. Getting to the point for one as its nearly 40 minutes into the movie before they make it to the island and while some establishing of who Lara is is required it drags too long. Then once on the island, they neglect to truly show her resourcefulness which is one of the key elements of the game. No one can reasonably expect to see her dealing with wolves, deer, rummaging through chests and upgrading her weapons and equipment for the two hours, but – escalation would have been nice. Showing she’s not just book smart, athletic, but also cunning. They really did forget that.

I don’t mind some of the character study and the reluctant hero, but there was too much of that and not enough well….tomb raiding.

Director Roar Uthaug gets some of the blame for that. I am a fan of his 2015 film The Wave, which is about a landslide caused Tsunami in his native Norway. It too is more of a character study with good pacing around that, then the event , then the after effect. Had I known the director going in I may have managed my expectations a bit more, but it wouldn’t have changed my opinion too much. Between the script and the overall pacing of the film, plus an Act II plot that is totally unneeded the movie just comes across kind of flat.

Not that Alicia Vikander doesn’t sell being Lara. She does. She has the physicality I was hoping for, she happens to be one of the most beautiful women in the world (in my opinion), can act and is able to deliver on parts of the script or scenes that are otherwise weak. She feels like a reasonably real person in this rather than pure action heroine. She makes a fantastic Lara and yes, is better than Jolie in the part. Dominic West (Centurion, Punisher War Zone) is mostly wasted in his role as Lord Croft, as is Walton Goggins. I like Goggins, his turn on Justified has given him plenty of opportunities on the big screen such as The Hateful Eight, Maze Runner, and American Ultra. He tries but the script and probably some editing hamper him from fully realizing as the villain.

Which brings us to the technicals which I just have to sigh. The Visual effects are better than the first trailer and in 3D some of them look rather nice. The pacing is horrific however, which comes down to the editing and scenes decided to keep in. Which brings me to something that I think half the critics will pick on when they get the chance – DONT OPEN WITH NARRATION IF YOU ARE GOING TO INCLUDE IT WORD FOR WORD 10 MINUTES LATER. There will be some who complain the fight scenes are too dark, but I am oddly ok with it when its night and you are fighting. What I am not ok with is shaky cam, plus night, plus quick cuts. Pick One. Pick two maybe, but you can’t have all three and let your fight be appreciated.


It’s not the best video game movie. It still isn’t the worst. It comes across as a solid meh. Tomb Raider commits the worst sin it possibly could – it was dull. There’s joke reviewers make when you do remakes and reboots, don’t include homage to the original material – it just make us think of a better movie. The same is kind of true here. There are so many calls to the game, but they fail to commit to actually delivering on the promise the game did. They fail to give us tomb raiding, clever and educated Lara. All I was thinking of watching this was how much I’d rather be playing the game.

They tried guys. They did. I give them credit for it, because I can see the effort put in. I can see what they intended to do, but I have to judge on what they did do.

Should I see it?

Matinee at the very best. 3D not needed, otherwise you can wait til it’s on Netflix or your source of choice.

Will you see it again?

Not in theatres no.

So you’re buying it?

There’s enough I do like, despite the dissection above that odds are good I will.

Ok, but its a video game adaptation what did you expect?

I get that. I do. You can’t take a 10 hour plus game and cram it into 2 hours, but you could have done it better. When 40 minutes are wasted with set up and establishing the character in ways that could have been done shorter or more effectively. When you don’t fully commit to your adaptation in a meaningful way that embraces some of the true supernatural weirdness of the games you’ve done some thing wrong.

How does it compare to the other two?

Since the reboot takes a more realistic tone while still embracing the supernatural it’s not apples to apples. The original movies were over the top and so were the games. It worked. This just doesn’t quite as well. It’s watchable, but not nearly as fun as watching Angelina Jolie and Sir Jorah flirt while threatening each other.

Next week?

I am bracing for the impact that is Pacific Rim 2. I don’t think it looks great from the trailers on a visual front and when I want to see Giant Robots beating on Giant Monsters and other Giant Robots – you need to LOOK good. It’s a time I want some style over substance.


Darke Reviews | Death Wish (2018)

*sigh* Movies do not exist in a vacuum. They exist as snap shots of culture, whether in the form of parody (comedy), our fears (horror), our hopes (science fiction), or in some cases wish fulfillment (action). These of course are generalizations of the genres and what they represent as you look at the passage of time. Not every movie fits neatly into that or you can mix and match to your hearts content. I’ve talked about how this applies specifically to horror movies in other reviews and that there’s a cultural shift to the idea of home invasion being one of the major themes in modern horror. The faceless killers, the victims, and eventually the final girl. There’s even a half dozen movies this year in that particular subgenre of horror to reinforce this. What does this have to do with Death Wish?

First – Pause here. I cannot write this review without touching on politics. I almost didn’t write the review because of it. Movies and the subsequent reviews do NOT exist in a vacuum and I have to touch on some topics beyond opinions on movies. If you do *not* want to read any of that skip to the TL;DR.





Wish fulfillment. Action movies in the 70’s began the narrative of a good guy with a gun, with the original Death Wish (1974),  then of course Taxi Driver in 1976. Beating the crime on our streets as an every man. The 80’s action movies were over the top gung ho Rah-Rah films that were there to make us feel good and that we could always beat the bad guys, even when they are countries. 90’s action movies are hold overs from the 80’s with more grit and our broken hero. The past decade and a half the biggest, and most successful, action fare in the western market is superheroes. We want to be them. We want to be beautiful/handsome, have powers, and kick ass with little to no consequences.

It’s ok to want that too. None of it is a crime to want to be more. To be the one who makes the change. To be THAT guy.

When it stops being want and starts becoming do – then it’s a problem. In today’s world this movie is in nothing short of bad taste. It was delayed due to Vegas, then they release it anyway a few days after a school shooting. Take the hint. Stop while you are ahead, release it straight to DVD like it looks like it was made for anyway.

From a purely production standpoint. This is bad all the way around. Willis is the least compelling character in the movie and his acting is so bland and so dry it made the Sahara Desert look like the middle of the pacific ocean by comparison. He is absolutely the worst thing in this movie. He had no charisma, no charm, no emoting of any real caliber; which is in stark contrast to Vincent D’Onofrio who was literally the only one in the cast trying. The character of Paul Kersey just did not work this time in any way shape or form either. In the original he was an architect and a conscientious objector. He had no skills for this and actually had to escalate from a sock full of quarters to the gun and then it was a simple revolver.  Making him a surgeon in this one gave him useful skills for what he was doing. Gave him the ability to try to mask his tasks and assets to use to enable his plan. He didn’t come across nearly the amateur and then there was no escalation of the character into the killer. They took away anything that made Kersey an interesting, if not flawed character, and replaced it with bland. That’s without getting into the political aspects of the character in 2017. The attempt to lampshade the appropriateness of his actions with colour commentary by local DJ’s on morning shows is severely weakened by the fact it just rings hollow.


This movie sucks. This movie absolutely sucks.

It is timed badly, it is made badly. It is in poor taste. It just is awful in every aspect of its production and release. I would say the studio and the director Eli Roth should feel ashamed, but they won’t. They don’t.

If you want to watch a superior version of this film, set modern, that turns the lens onto the character itself, while escalating and still providing that visceral thrill and sense of wish fulfillment. Watch the 2007 film Death Sentence with Kevin Bacon. It is an actual sequel to the Death Wish Novel and then adapted into a movie. It works. This does not

I am skipping the usual outtro here, as this review is late. I’m not even bothering to attach the image. It’s that irritating.

This is a bad movie that shouldn’t have been released.

Darke Reviews | A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

Of course I haven’t read Madelien L’Engles book. Have we met? Yes, I know it came out in 1962 and was popular in middle schools and high schools everywhere. I was reading other things like Stephen King, Clive Barker, and everything I could get on vampires at the time. Regardless of that fact, along with Black Panther this was one of my more anticipated movies of the year. Why? Because 

Image result for Representation Matters

^ This ^

Beyond that, even though it bears repeating every time it comes up until it sinks in with those in the back, the film itself also looked like a modern fairy tale mixed with science – two things I adore. I suppose the question then is

How was the movie?

Let’s mix it up a bit shall we? Let’s talk about Storm Reid. She’s 14. She has to carry a movie that cost over $100 million to make. She has to avoid being a blank slate, avoid the pitfalls of the “she’s just a child actor”, sell being an actual human being with facets. Someone with anger, love, fear, doubt, uncertainty about herself and her worth, and her image. She also has to be likable while being all of this. She has to have chemistry with her cast, especially Chris Pine as the movie hinges ultimately on them being able to sell the relationship of father daughter and what they would do for each other.

I’d like to say, no I will say: She succeeds.

This movie would collapse around its (many) flaws if it weren’t for this child. The earnestness of her performance and it’s actual complexity allowed me and my film partner tonight to get lost in the film and feel. We both identified with this character (probably a bit too much) not because of her being an “everywoman/everyman” a tabula rasa to imprint on and see ourselves in. We saw ourselves in her because of her flaws. her quirks of personality, and her world view. Reid makes the character a compelling one when I’ve seen the majority of adults fail at such tasks.

She isn’t alone, 9 Year Old Deric McCabe as Charles Wallace and 15 Year old Levi Miller’s Calvin play with the same heart and conviction on dialogue that really doesn’t work; yet somehow they made it work. Chris Pine reminds us he is a very talented actor and the scenes he gets with Reid are sold with every fiber of his being. Mindy Kaling steals the frame every time as Mrs. Who and outshines even Ophrah (Mrs. Which) and Reese Witherspoon (Mrs. Whatsit). Even with limited screen time Zach Galifianakis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw make their scenes work.

All of this tells me the casting department deserves a raise. Each of the actors puts their hearts on their sleeves for this and goes for it – which makes this movie have the heart it does. Which left me in tears in more than one scene. Sadly, the script by Jennifer Lee (Frozen) and Jeff Stockwell (Bridge to Terabithia) is a bit rough at times. Lesser actors under a lesser director would have struggled with this. What I don’t know if the dialogue was there and edited out or just not there. The movie suffers as many do in their adaptations. Again, I’ve never read the book but I can tell you watching the movie that it was based on a book and that there’s a lot of material left on the cutting room floor or in the writers room.

There are technical flaws beyond the writing that need to be addressed as well. The movie runs screaming at a break neck pace for the first hour, barely giving time for the characters to breathe, to let scenes soak in, or even explain anything of whats going on. I firmly believe in show don’t tell, especially in film, but you have to actually….show. This might be intentional as I think of a scene on the Act II to Act III bridge, but I can’t be certain. There’s very weird edits, there’s scenes very clearly missing (including very obvious ones from the trailer), and again the dialogue at times is beyond hokey into the pokey.

I appreciate when you are in the realm of fantasy that not everything has to look “real”, that the cartoonish can work and I will forgive the movie some of this because there was such a distinction sold in the movie of what is earthbound and what isn’t. The movie pushed it’s luck here a few times, but always won me back. What ejected me more often than not was the music, not score, that was inserted into the film. The songs themselves are fine, but they just did not work in the moments they were using them or were just so jarring it broke me from what I should be feeling to wonder why they used lyrical songs rather than a fantastic score by Ramin Djawadi. There are some questions I have about the camera work that most folks won’t notice but film reviewers might. It’s called a Mid shot guys. You can do it. I promise. Not everything needs to be a 180 close.

So yes, this is a heavily flawed movie I have the power to dissect like a 10th grade biology student, but I don’t want to. Ava Duvernay (Selma) directed this with such conviction, brought out tremendous performances, and hits on more than a few points of modern culture for young people of colour in such a way that it rings true. Few other directors could have pulled off a few of these beats with such tact and even subtlety as they work well into the narrative of the movie.


This movie could be used as the literal definition of a good, family film. It doesn’t quite hit “great”, but they tried. They put everything into this and tried and it shows. Because of that a movie I could rip apart, and from what I hear others are, doesn’t deserve that

It does deserve our dollars though. Representation of a young child of colour being in front of the camera, and a long standing woman of colour in the industry behind it (not to mention Oprah Winfrey too). This movie like Get Out (congratulations Jordan Peele on your Oscar), and Black Panther is so important that it deserves our money, and yes, forgiveness for its flaws.

If that isn’t a reason to see it. I get it. Here’s another. I meant what I said about this being a good family film. It has so much heart, it has a good message that doesn’t come across as saccharine or insincere. It is enjoyable. It is a bit of light in the darkness we have in the world right now.

That’s also good enough for me.

Should I see it?

Yes. Big screen needed for some of the great visuals the movie has. IMAX if you can, 3-D optional. D-Box could be fun too.

Will you see it again?

Being honest? Not in theatre no, but thats due to other things I plan to do not from lack of enthusiasm for this.

Will you buy it?

Yes. I might even try to get it a 4K TV for it too. At least BluRay though.

Why so forgiving on this?

Because it made me feel. It sold the message it was trying to. I was with Reid’s character. I was her and there are a lot of films that just don’t earn the emotion the way this one did. I haven’t actually watched/read the other reviews that are saying this isn’t that good or is disappointing beyond their headlines.

I went in hoping for something good and pure, and looking for a sense of wonder and joy. I found it. I hope you can too.

What happened to the Death Wish review?

Life. Bad news Thursday as I mentioned on FB when I was writing it. Then worse news over the weekend. I will publish it this weekend. Promise, it doesn’t deserve it though.

What’s coming next?

I might go see Thoroughbreds this week during the work week. I loved Anton Yelchin, so getting to see him one last time might be worth it. I hope. Also next week is Tomb Raider.