Tomb Raider (4K Blu-ray) (2018)

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Released 20-Jun-2018

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2018
Running Time 117:49
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Roar Uthaug
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Alicia Vikander
Dominic West
Walton Goggins
Daniel Wu
Kristin Scott Thomas
Derek Jacobi
Alexandre Willaume
Hannah John-Kamen
Nick Frost
Jaime Winstone
Michael Obiora
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $36.95 Music Junkie XL


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Atmos
English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 2160p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Portuguese
Spanish
Bulgarian
Mandarin
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Mid credits scene

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Plot Synopsis

    2018's Tomb Raider represents the second attempt to adapt the long-running video game series of the same name into a big-screen blockbuster franchise, fifteen years after the first cinematic incarnation (starring Angelina Jolie) petered out after a mere two instalments. This reboot takes its cues primarily from the 2013 video game reboot, merging the game's broad plot strokes and reimagined Lara Croft with Batman Begins-style gritty realism, and it's an origin story to boot. Despite refined visuals and an intriguing change of direction, this new Tomb Raider only works in fits and starts, marred by uneven pacing and an overcomplicated story. A movie this technically proficient and expensive has no business being so lacklustre and cold to the touch.

    Seven years ago, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West) mysteriously vanished on a business trip, and his daughter Lara (Alicia Vikander) still clings to the possibility that he is alive. Struggling to make a living as a bicycle courier in London, Lara stands to inherit her father's vast fortune, but refuses to sign the paperwork to declare him legally deceased. However, Richard's business partner Ana (Kristin Scott Thomas) warns Lara that Richard's estate will be sold off if she does not accept the inheritance. Discovering a clue left in her father's will, Lara is led to his private office, learning of Richard's secret life as an adventurer and finding his research about Japanese witch Himiko. Although Richard's pre-recorded message instructs Lara to destroy his work, she seeks to use it to find him, travelling to Hong Kong where she teams with boat captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) to locate the remote island of Yamatai off the coast of Japan. Shipwrecked after navigating violent waters, Lara discovers that Yamatai is under the control of mercenaries led by Vogel (Walter Goggins) who seek to weaponise Himiko's power on behalf of the shadowy organisation Trinity.

    Narratively, this Tomb Raider boils down to a less thematically-resonant riff on the aforementioned 2013 video game. Most of the appeal of the original games is stripped away in favour of the "origin story" format, refusing to cut loose as the film builds towards the Lara Croft we know, down to a mid-credits scene in which she obtains her coveted dual pistols. Couple this with a painfully generic story set-up, and this reviewer was left wanting to watch a sequel instead. In addition, whereas Lara is the prominent focus of the video games, facing physical challenges and solving puzzles, 2018's Tomb Raider is inexplicably a group effort. With Lara not yet a confident woman of action, Lu Ren is allotted a bizarrely large role in the proceedings, presumably because generic would-be blockbusters such as this now heavily rely on China to make money. Furthermore, the script by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons is tonally inconsistent; over-the-top set-pieces are the order of the day, yet there is also a grim scene observing Lara who's traumatised in the immediate aftermath of her first kill.

    Determined to distinguish this Tomb Raider from the cartoonish Jolie-starring pictures, director Roar Uthaug (2015's The Wave) and cinematographer George Richmond (Children of Men) imbue the material with an effectively gritty look, reminiscent of the 2013 game. Production values are expectedly nice across the board, with vivid digital effects that show how far CGI has come since the original movies. Visually, there is much to appreciate about Tomb Raider, which is unsurprising given the hefty budget. Uthaug proves a proficient visual stylist, making astute use of the locations and sets, establishing a palpable sense of place and atmosphere while on the island. It is clear, however, that the filmmakers took more influence from Uncharted than Tomb Raider - as a matter of fact, on top of the evident aesthetic influence, one of the narrative twists here is lifted directly from the first Uncharted game. Still, isolated sections of the movie do work, with well-staged sequences that deserve to be seen on the largest possible screen. Aside from the occasional shootouts, the film's centrepiece involves Lara being pursued through the jungle and down rushing rapids, leaving her trapped on an airplane wreckage precariously perched atop a waterfall. Additionally, the third act involves some actual tomb raiding, living up the movie's title.

    One of the primary issues relates to pacing; the narrative is dense and overcomplicated, which requires endless monotonous exposition to make it comprehensible. Despite handsome visuals, Uthaug is unable to liven the humdrum script - Tomb Raider is often a slog between the action beats. It's telling that Stuart Baird receives an editorial credit; he's renowned for being brought onto troubled projects to salvage movies in the editing room. Moreover, Tomb Raider strives for heart and emotion through Richard and Lara's relationship, yet it never gains much traction despite the endless flashbacks to hammer home how close they were. Still, Vikander is fine as Lara, though there is not much depth to the character and she is decidedly more self-serious than Jolie. West, on the other hand, displays severely limited range, while the reliable Goggins turns in a passable performance as the underwritten key villain. There are also a few high-end British actors in the movie's first act (including Kristin Scott Thomas and Derek Jacobi) to keep viewers wondering if one of them is a secret bad guy. The only humour is supplied by Nick Frost and Jaime Winstone as married pawnbrokers who only appear in two short scenes.

    The Jolie-starring Lara Croft films were not especially good from a critical standpoint, but they nailed the video game's goofiness and had a genuine sense of identity. 2018's Tomb Raider, on the other hand, is disposable, formulaic and flavourless; merely a vehicle for Vikander to show off her potential as an action lead. Despite a few worthwhile action sequences (certain scenes and beats truly feel like a video game, too), the picture lacks intrigue, charm and momentum, while the origin story format restricts how much fun can be had. With the box office underperformance in mind, it's unlikely that a follow-up will ever materialise despite an ending that directly sets up sequels. Perhaps there will be another reboot in another fifteen years.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    According to IMDb, 2018's Tomb Raider was captured digitally with Arri Alexa cameras at 3.4K resolution, and completed with a 4K digital intermediate, making this an obvious choice for a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. And my word, the resulting HEVC/H.265-encoded, 2160p presentation (framed at the movie's original aspect ratio of 2.40:1) is a real stunner from top to bottom, emerging as one of the better new release discs in recent memory. Warner Bros. (who authored the disc - Roadshow is just distributing it) has made use of a dual-layered BD-66, which is sufficient to accommodate the 118-minute movie (there are no extras on the disc). Luckily, a majority of the disc is used up; the movie has been mastered with an impressive average video bitrate of 52.40 Mbps, and takes up over 60GB of space on the disc. As per usual with new release Roadshow/Warner Bros. titles, Tomb Raiders arrives on 4K disc with Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range, though the disc plays in regular old HDR10 for those without DV-compatible equipment. There is simply no comparison between the compressed 1080p Blu-ray and this Ultra HD transfer - the 4K trumps it in every way possible of course, making the standard Blu-ray look positively useless. If you're 4K-compatible, this could be one of your new reference discs to show off your equipment.

    Whereas most Alexa-shot movies are coated in a fine layer of source noise, Tomb Raider looks clean throughout. Only very mild source noise is revealed in certain scenes and shots, but it's never distracting and most people won't even notice it. And even though I often find noise-less movies to look too smooth or smeary, I had no such issues with Tomb Raider; it looks gorgeous, with flawless clarity from start to finish. This is certainly a benefit of a native 4K digital intermediate; textures are exceptional and never lacking, even throughout most visual effects shots (the opening montage of papers on Richard's desk sets the bar high). Vikander's face looked too smooth in 1080p, but highlights are improved here through the addition of High Dynamic Range. This is extremely beneficial since noise - which can enhance textures - is kept to an absolute minimum, but subtle highlights ensure the image looks pristine and nuanced, rather than a smeary noise-reduced mess. Hell, just look at the close-up of Lara's fingers at the 16-minute mark as she reads a clue from her father; highlights and texturing are mind-blowing. In a close-up of Goggins's face at 43:40, the transfer reveals every nuance of skin, including subtle sweat. Furthermore, the presentation is flawlessly sharp, allowing for precise delineation on facial hair, sets, and other environments. Even in the muddiest of conditions, the presentation retains pristine sharpness and eye-catching textures. Admittedly, a few visual effects shots don't stand up to the increased scrutiny of 2160p and HDR (see an explosion at 44:25), but this traces back to the source.

    I noted the strength of the colours on the standard Blu-ray, but this HDR-enhanced 4K edition blows it out of the water, showing once again why the format took off in the first place. With HDR applied, the colour palette is more bold, vibrant and lifelike. In wide shots of the bikers in London during the chase, the range of colours leap off the screen. Ditto for the wide shot of Hong Kong harbour. There's more lushness to the greenery of the jungle, and everything looks more "realistic," enhancing the movie's aesthetic approach. Just see Lara jumping onto the plane wreckage on the waterfall - the sequence looks even more photorealistic with HDR. Even in the most low-key scenes, improvements in vibrancy are enormous, while more depth is afforded to the presentation thanks to improved contrast and black levels. The flashback scenes of Richard and Lara are deliberately desaturated, but whereas they looked flat and lifeless in 1080p, the heightened dynamic range noticeably improves the image here. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say virtually every scene looks gorgeous, particularly with improved shadow detail and more pop in darker scenes, while skin tones are more balanced. Other improvements include superior specular highlights; whereas skies and harsh light sources look blown out in 1080p, detail is restored here with more dynamic range. I only did brief cursory comparisons between the HDR10 and Dolby Vision encodes, and DV emerged victorious at every step. Since HDR10 is static metadata whereas DV is dynamic, certain scenes look a tad darker in HDR10 (even the opening Warner Bros. logo), whereas Dolby Vision provides more balance and luminance. The differences are often relatively subtle and most casual viewers won't notice or care, but videophiles will definitely want the equipment to view this one in DV.

    Interestingly, the moire patterning on the chairs in the police station that I noticed on the Blu-ray carries over to this 4K presentation, prompting the question as to whether this is source-related (I did not see it at the cinema and therefore cannot comment) or just an encoding shortcoming (even though the bitrate for these shots leaps into 70 and 80 Mbps territory). Aside from this, I did not notice any other encoding artefacts; it's smooth sailing from start to finish. Tomb Raider may have its flaws as a movie, but I can only speak highly of its 4K presentation. Let's not mince words here - it is extraordinary; sharp, detailed, and visually rich. It's one of the best 4K discs I've had the pleasure of reviewing, particularly since it will please both videophiles as well as "grain haters" or folks who prefer clean digital images. This one is up there with Ready Player One and Blade Runner 2049.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Bafflingly, Tomb Raider denotes yet another Roadshow/Warner Bros. title that arrives on home video with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core), but the disc defaults to a 16-bit DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. Therefore, if you want the superior aural experience, you will need to specifically select the Atmos track from the main menu prior to playing. Hell, if you stop the disc and come back to it later, you'll need to re-select Atmos because it defaults back to the 5.1. I suppose we can be thankful that Atmos remains an option (particularly with the 3D release only offering a 5.1 track), and the mix isn't botched like so many Disney releases, but this remains an irritating trend nevertheless.

    As to the quality of the audio, the Atmos mix is the preferable option of course. The DTS track is a bit more aggressive and is mixed higher, but the dynamic range is somewhat squashed - by comparison, the Atmos mix is richer and more nuanced. The dynamic range of the Atmos track is pure reference material, putting Disney's recent output to shame. I cannot comment on the overhead activity since I only have a 7.1 set-up, but the benefits of Atmos vs. 5.1 are nevertheless readily apparent. Every constituent of the soundscape has its own distinct place, from birds chirping to ocean waves while aboard the Endurance. Subtle panning effects are used whenever firearms are discharged or arrows are fired - just see the precise panning as Lara fires an arrow past the camera at the 35-minute mark. When the Endurance hits violent waters, the soundscape positively comes alive, mixing the rumbling of the storm with Junkie XL's score, raindrops and waves, while dialogue comes through with perfect prioritisation.

    The surrounds are consistently put to great use, with music and environmental ambience creating a full and immersive soundscape. The jungle sounds alive with insects, while speakers are filled with both diegetic and non-diegetic gunfire (as well as bullet impacts) during the action sequences. The track is robust and deafening as well, with the subwoofer frequently coming alive to give genuine impact to the major set-pieces - particularly the storm at sea, or Lara going down the rapids. Clarity is flawless, with absolutely no unnecessary compression compromising the quality of the mix; nothing sounds "tinny" or held back. Indeed, there is no hissing, nor did I detect any drop-outs/pops/clicks or sync issues - the sound is pristine from start to finish, as to be expected from a 2018 new release title. Long story short, the Atmos track is perfection, and a perfect accompaniment to the exceptional 4K UHD transfer. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix will be subject to review in my coverage of the 3D Blu-ray, but suffice it to say, it's no match for the object-based Atmos track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are no extras on the 4K disc. All of the supplemental material is housed on the included standard Blu-ray.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This is the same 4K disc that was distributed in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Summary

    I can't say I hated Tomb Raider, but I didn't especially love it either. Once again, a video game adaptation has fallen short of the mark, though it's not entirely without merit and I did enjoy it to a certain extent.

    Roadshow's 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is a winner in every possible technical aspect. The 2160p transfer is virtually flawless, while the Dolby Atmos audio is excellent. The set also includes a regular Blu-ray with a small selection of video featurettes. I'm going to recommend this disc on the strength of the technical presentation.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Saturday, December 29, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

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