Hot Take: A mildly entertaining reboot that establishes Alicia Vikander can basically do anything including kick some serious ass. Outside of some pretty sharp visuals, the latest Tomb Raider doesn’t add much to the genre, though.
I’d talk about the latest Tomb Raider in terms of how good of a video game movie conversion it is but the bar is so ridiculously low for such a thing that it wouldn’t mean much. I’d talk about it in terms of treasure hunter/archaeological adventurer films but now you’re comparing it to the Indiana Jones saga and, since this is an origin story, this is less about Lara Croft’s desire to find artifacts and more about finding her father who has been missing and presumed dead for 7 years. Instead, the best thing to focus on here is Alicia Vikander and her establishment as a potential female action star taking over the role of Croft from Angelina Jolie who originally played Tomb Raider‘s heroine for 2 films in 2001 and 2003. Vikander not only proves that she can look the part (but in a very different way than the sexed up Jolie portrayed Croft back at the turn of the century) and can kick major ass but Vikander was able to add a depth to the character that wasn’t previously present in the Jolie version. It’s Vikander who helps propel this somewhat generic action flick to a slightly above average generic action flick. After seeing this reboot origin story, it would be perfectly acceptable for news of a sequel as long as Vikander is re-signed to portray the role again.
In this version of Tomb Raider, Lara (Vikander) is a struggling bike courier who practices MMA in her free time and is seemingly running from her family’s name. Her father Richard (Dominic West) disappeared and is presumed dead and his company is hers for the taking if she would sign the papers to claim her inheritance and her father’s estate. Unable to process the death and accept her father’s presumed passing, Lara finds a clue to her father’s existence and begins to embark on a journey that takes her into her father’s secret double life and his exploration of the myth of Himiko, the mythical queen of Yamatal who was said to command power over life and death. In unearthing the clues, she finds a video of her father who says to destroy all of his work to avoid it falling in the wrong hands. Instead, Lara gathers up his work and heads to Hong Kong to find the captain of the ship who was supposed to take her to Yamatal in the Devil’s Sea. Once in Hong Kong, she finds the captain’s son Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) whose father disappeared along with her father and Lara gets Lu Ren to agree to take her to the island. The pair get shipwrecked during their trip to the island and are found by Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins), the rival archaeologist hired by Trinity to find Himiko. Vogel has been on the island looking for Himiko for 7 years and claims to have killed both Lara and Lu Ren’s fathers.
While the initial story takes a while, there’s even plenty of action before the main event. There’s a quick MMA scene to establish Lara’s toughness and give a clue that she might be a little reckless. There’s a couple of chase scenes including one involving a bike. The trip to the island features a pretty nasty shipwreck. All of the scenes feature some cool visuals and establish that what’s ahead will at least be fun to watch even if the story is a little hollow. Once on the island, it’s near non-stop action as Lara, of course, escapes Vogel but not the island. Essentially, Tomb Raider is a popcorn movie and Vikander shows true mettle as the film’s heroine. Comparing her to Jolie’s version, Vikander is more vulnerable and less confident but also feels more multi-faceted as Jolie as Croft was all about killing and sexiness. There’s never a time where Vikander doesn’t look stunning as Croft but the film doesn’t go out of its way to extol her virtues as a sexy leading lady.
Whether Tomb Raider is for you or not will depend on a few things. If you have a low tolerance for video game flicks, while this is better than most, it’s still not much better than adequate. If you have enjoyed Vikander in previous role, this phase in her evolution into action star is a worthwhile endeavor but if you’re relatively unfamiliar or unmoved by her previous work, Tomb Raider is not going to sway your opinion. The visuals throughout are worthwhile but aren’t necessarily so incredible that you can completely overlook the relatively generic plot that has played out in every Indiana Jones flick and many of its knock-offs. Essentially, Tomb Raider is less “must see” (unless you are an ardent Vikander fan or video game freak) and more “take it or leave it” although there’s plenty of action to keep it interesting even if the story doesn’t compel you.
Vikander proves she has one more tool in her tool belt and you’ll walk away wanting to see her in more action flicks even if it’s not as Croft.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. We’ve seen this movie before under a number of different titles… and even the same title.