The new Tomb Raider movie is an adaption of a 2013 reboot of a video game of the same name and a prequel (of sorts) to the dismal Angelina Jolie-led movies of the early 2000s that were also based on the original 1996 video game. The movie is just as tedious as its history suggests.
Set up as an origin story for what appears to be a future franchise of Lara Croft movies, Alicia Vikander stars as Lara, the young daughter of billionaire businessman, Richard Croft, who went missing seven years before the events of the movie started.
The movie oozes a little different feel from the original Jolie-led movies that featured non-functional stunts, cartoonish superhuman abilities, and the oversexualisation of its lead; this one works at making the character more real, serious and less experienced. The only problem is that the journey to achieving this is heavy-handed and dull.
This younger Croft is plagued by daddy issues that make her opt to work as a bike messenger on the streets of London rather than accept his death, in absentia, after seven years.
She boxes in the gym in her spare time (and gets her ass kicked), casually steals, and participates in a dangerous race for money when billions await her in inheritance if she would just accept what appears to be an inevitable conclusion that her often absent father is gone for good.
When she does decides to listen to reason, she stumbles upon a family secret that sets her on a course that changes her life forever.
Following a series of bread crumbs left by Richard, Lara embarks on an adventurous trip to Japan to investigate her father’s final mission before he went missing.
She travels to an uninhabited island where her father had been investigating the legend of Himiko, the Queen of Yamatai, whose reawakening could bring about the end of the world.
Obsessed with the will to discover what really happened to her father, Lara recruits local boat captain, Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) to ride into the belly of the Devil’s Triangle to encounter a man who might have been responsible for her father’s death, Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins).
Armed with the superpowers of recklessness and self-determination, Lara’s introduction to the elements are brutal and physically draining.
She is not an archaeologist before any of this but gets so uncharacteristically good at it that she puts seasoned veterans to shame, and death; and while this could be waved away by pointing at her grit as a survivor, it still feels so dubiously done.
Regardless of its video game origins, as an adventure movie, Tomb Raider ticks almost all of the boxes of the genre’s tropes and could be mistaken for an Indiana Jones spin-off if Vikander donned the famous fedora and the movie had anything resembling decent narrative depth.
While the director, Roar Uthaug, does his best to make a decent movie from a historically wretched source, Tomb Raider’s video game roots are painfully obvious most especially in the scenes where characters have to speak words to one another – which is, like, all of them.
The movie is lacking in requisite substance to elevate video game plot lines into a compelling two-hour joyride that’s a great use of anybody’s time.
Lara’s relationship with her father, which is the crutch of her motivation for the duration of the movie, fails to convince despite a few flashback scenes that attempt to establish a deep emotional bond.
Even the movie’s central mythology that should serve as the big bad terrifying hook sounds so ridiculously daft that hardly anyone believes it, including Lara and Vogel who’s been trying to find the Queen for the best part of a decade.
Speaking of Vogel, as far as villains go, Goggins is burdened with a character that’s unimaginably terrible that its result is unspeakably sad.
He’s a trapped world-weary man with a half-decent motive for taking really evil decisions but he always comes off as a sad, whiny antagonist who hurt animals as a little child and can’t help himself but be who he has become.
Regardless of the movie’s collection of bad decisions, Tomb Raider still finds time to shine in parts like a nice little twist in Himiko’s mythology, the fun bike race scene in London, a nail-biting waterfall scene, and the final act inside the Queen’s deadly tomb that provides some exciting moments.
Vikander’s Lara is a more emotionally vulnerable Croft when compared to Jolie’s superhuman badass. She has to call upon her years of survival on the streets of London to overcome the challenges the island throws her way.
She’s a tomb raider in training and every new experience is a gripping exploration of her development as a character which makes it all the more disappointing when Uthaug misses a good opportunity to build on the aftermath of her first kill which Vikander plays off with quite the refined emotional intensity for a brief moment.
Reinventing her into a seasoned killer after only a few minutes later strips Lara’s character of the sort of complexity that elevates a good movie into a decent one. Despite the directorial handicap, Vikander plays the character with enough self-assurance to make her a believable badass.
Tomb Raider, very obviously, is a springboard for what the filmmakers behind it hope will be a franchise that’ll run for years; maybe this is why this movie terribly feels like a pilot episode of a television show.
Whatever the reason, Tomb Raider is not such a complete waste of time, but it’s not exactly a great way to pass the time either.