It says something about the quality of video game adaptations in general that Angelina Jolie’s 2001 and 2003 Tomb Raider films (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in 2001 and The Cradle Of Life in 2003) are still considered one of the better ones out there.
For many, Jolie was THE perfect live-action personification of the character, so Alicia Vikander has pretty big shoes to fill with this reboot of the franchise.
However, where Jolie’s version of the character arrived fully realised, here, the story takes us back to the very beginning of Lara Croft’s career, and is based on the 2013 reboot of the video game (also featuring Lara Croft in her early days).
In the movie, Lara starts off as a bike courier in London. Her father, Richard Croft (Dominic West), went missing seven years ago, and has been declared dead, though Lara refuses to believe that. She then comes across Richard’s secret office, where she discovers that he has gone on a quest to an island called Yamatai that houses the long-lost tomb of an evil Japanese empress. So, off she goes to Hong Kong, where she hires a boat owned by drunken sailor Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) to take her to the island. But, as it turns out, the Crofts are not the only people searching for the tomb – a team led by the ruthless Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) is already there, seeking to claim the contents of the tomb in the name of an evil global organisation called Trinity.
The decision to take Lara back to the beginning is an interesting one. It allows Vikander to stamp her own mark on the character without the pressure of being compared to Jolie’s version. For the most part, she manages to strike a decent balance between the naivety of a first-time adventurer and the swaggering confidence we’ve come to expect of Lara Croft.
Vikander is without a doubt the star of the show, and her co-stars, unfortunately, don’t really get much time to shine. Wu turns in a decent performance, but isn’t given much to do while West is stuck in the “long-lost, slightly insane father” trope. On the flip side, Goggins tries his best to inject some menace into his villain, but in the end, Vogel is just too stereotypical to be memorable.
Still, Vikander more than papers over these cracks with her performance. She also does well in the action sequences, which seem a lot more brutal and realistic compared to Jolie’s more over-the-top set pieces. From escaping a rusty plane falling down a waterfall to navigating booby traps in the tomb, director Roar Urthaug has somehow managed to incorporate some of the most exciting aspects of a video game into the movie, and he’s done so without making it SEEM like it was taken from a video game.
Actually, why even think of it as a video game movie in the first place? This is a decent action movie with a tough, likeable heroine and more than its fair share of exciting sequences. There’s even a hint of old-school Indiana Jones-styled adventure in the tomb sequences, which, frankly, we’ve not been getting much of in recent times.
So yes, this is a video game movie that doesn’t really feel like a video game movie. Which makes it a pretty decent video game movie, if you ask me. It’s not going to blow your mind, but it should at least get you interested to see more of Lara Croft in the future.
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Director: Roar Uthaug
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu and Kristin Scott Thomas.