Dir. Roar Uthaug
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Derek Jacobi.
We’ve seen a Lara Croft movie before. The Angelina Jolie vehicle was a terrible adaptation of the video game, which has aged horribly. The sequel was even worse. In recent years the games have rebranded, with a more realistic feel, taking Lara’s story back to the beginning. Tomb Raider takes its cues from these more recent games, functioning as both a gritty reboot, and an origin story. Alicia Vikander is now in the lead role, transitioning from OSCAR darling to action star, and Norwegian director Roar Uthaug is the man behind the camera. I had a lot of faith going in, but it turned out to be a bumpy voyage.
Tomb Raider follows Lara Croft (Vikander), a young woman making her own way in modern day London. She regularly attends kick-boxing lessons, and struggles to make ends meet with a job as a bicycle courier. We soon find out that she’s actually the daughter of Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), who has been missing for 7 years. Lara is in line to inherit his fortune, but is unwilling to sign him off as dead. When she uncovers a secret room within the grounds of Croft Manor, she discovers that her father disappeared whilst searching for an ancient Japanese tomb, one which he believed housed a terrible evil. Lara sets off to Japan to uncover the truth behind her fathers disappearance.
This version of Tomb Raider is a hell of a lot better than the last one we got. The route they’ve decided to go down is the same one James Bond went down with Daniel Craig. If the Angelina Jolie movies were equivalent to Bond during the Pierce Brosnan era, than this is definitely Craig era. It’s gritty, and grounded in realism. It even shears off the supernatural edge that the games still retain. It strips Lara of everything that makes her iconic. There’s no ponytail, no dual gun toting, and definitely no shorts. This time around Lara has to earn all of it, and the film is better for it. We don’t even see inside Croft mansion. It’s a good place to start, but the film spends too much time layering on the grit, that it forgets that it’s supposed to be fun.
If the quick pitch for this film is Indiana Jones meets James Bond, with a female lead, than the final product doesn’t match the idea. We spend so much time with Lara wallowing in the loss of her father, that you wonder if the film makers realise they are making a film called Tomb Raider. It should be fun, it should be slightly ridiculous, and it should feature more tombs. When the film started I thought we might get a female empowerment movies along the lines of Wonder Woman, but the film never really plays up to that. The film makers make smart choices, the video game Lara became a nerd sex symbol, but they never sexualise Vikander, and they give her friendships not romantic relationships. It’s the story though that lets it down, by having her pining over her father for so long, it robs the film of its independent woman kicks-ass message.
The real joy of Tomb Raider is Vikander’s performance. She makes a fantastic Lara Croft. She’s talked about her extensive training regime to get in shape, and it’s paid off. She is completely believable in the role. If anything she is let down by the script. She gives Lara a charm which doesn’t seem to be there on the page, and the only reason half the jokes land seems to be through her just willing them to. Walter Goggins makes a great villain too, and when the two of them face off against each other it makes for some of the best scenes in the movie. The action is all serviceable, and they’ve matched the aesthetic of the new Tomb Raider games perfectly. It’s a shame that we’ve seen all the best bits in the trailer, including the last shot of the movie.
Tomb Raider is a serviceable action movie, but its majorly let down by the story and the script. It’s competently enough directed, but never gets the heart racing. If they had leaned more towards an Indiana Jones tone, they could have gotten so much more out of it. Alicia Vikander shines, but in a better film she could have made her version of Lara iconic.