Tomb Raider Review
Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) goes to a forbidden island to find out what happened to her missing father, Richard (Dominic West). Together with sailor Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) they uncover the sinister plot of Vogel (Walton Goggins) to unleash the power of an ancient queen upon the world.
Film adaptations of video games don’t have the best reputation, to put it mildly. On the upper end of the scale you have things like Silent Hill - which has the aesthetics of the source material down but made an utter dog’s dinner of the plot - and the campy but fondly remembered Street Fighter while on the other end you have the filmography of Uwe Boll. Lara Croft, she of our dinosaur-fighting, wall-climbing, and pit-falling Playstation childhoods, is no stranger to the big screen treatment, having had two outings starring Angelina Jolie in the main role. Now Alicia Vikander is a new Lara for a new generation, one closer to the game reboot of 2013. It goes for dark, it goes for dirty, and raw action with nary a T-Rex in sight.
Does nobody have any regard for proper archaeological practices? All these adventurers blasting through on some endeavour or another without any preservation of important historical findings. Seriously though, sometimes it’s nice to have a good, old fashioned, solid adventure movie, and that is exactly what Tomb Raider is. It functions as an origin story for Lara Croft and the start of her raiding of those pesky tombs, and long-time fans will enjoy seeing little familiar details, but even if you’ve never picked up a game in the series you can still have a good time with the action.
As Lara, Alicia Vikander is a strong and solid lead, fearless in both fighting and emotional vulnerability. After an exciting, if geographically challenged character establishing, first act in London we get that this Lara is without the fortune or the mansion with butler, just like all of us locked in the freezer in the training level (don’t lie, you did it too). She’s young, scrappy, and hungry for something although she isn’t sure what just yet, and dives into the quest to follow her father’s last adventure hoping for some answers about his fate and maybe discover a true calling of her own along the way. It’s a great performance, although you can’t help but wish the movie had made room for more than one great female character. The only other speaking women in the film have one scene each or are an underused Kristin Scott Thomas. While the men include Daniel Wu who is a very engaging supporting lead, Walton Goggins a competent bad guy, and Dominic West has oodles of personality as Lara’s father Richard Croft.
The plot is where things are the thinnest. It all ends up going a bit Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; the father-child team-up, an ancient artefact, and a series of puzzles for our characters to work out. Although, at one point I had to resist the urge to remind Lara that in the Latin alphabet Jehovah begins with an “I”. For most of the film it can’t seem to be able to decide whether its core threat of a sorceress queen of death Himiko (based on a real person which I was surprised to find out) is supernatural or something more grounded. It seems to land on realism, but the sequel baiting possibility of some sort of evil Spectre-like organisation that wants to use the supernatural for evil means leaves the door open for future movies.
Also, don’t heavily set-up a sequel before you know whether the first film is a success, people, otherwise you risk a dead franchise. I think this will be though as at the very least Tomb Raider has visual flair and a solid foundation that if more films should follow there will be the building blocks in place to take Lara to bigger and better places and I look forward to seeing that.
I still want her to fight dinosaurs though.