Publication: TheLondonEconomic, March 14th 2018
Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) has forsaken her family fortune to become a London bicycle courier and amateur MMA fighter. After receiving an item from her missing (presumed dead) father, Lara goes in search of a cursed island in Japan carrying ancient treasure and an awful secret.
After many of years of needing a revival a new Tomb Raider game was launched in 2013, taking us to the origins of this pistol wielding archaeologist/thief. Jokes about DD pixels became obsolete; the new Lara was refined, vulnerable, and human. Perhaps a remade film version was inevitable, now the estimable Ms. Croft was a more cinematically viable character.
By the low bar of comparing to the Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider films, this sleeker Alicia Vikander version sails over. By the slightly higher comparison of other game to films (none of which have ever scored a ‘fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes) Tomb Raider can also be considered a success. It’s a good action film, hopefully able to bridge the gaps between audiences looking for a enjoyable romp, fans of the newer games from 2013, and fans of the original trilogy from 1996 to 1998 (the less said about the games in between the better).
Some music choices at the opening sequences are a little overdone, and plot contrivances can grate if you overthink them. Yet there’s such energy, sincerity and passion in this project that I willed it forward, and this was more than enough to overcome any traps the script could’ve walked into.
Vikander makes for a convincing appropriation of the new Lara Croft. This is the sort of action heroine that Charlize Theron excels at; beautiful without being overly sexualised, tough by as much necessity as choice.
Supporting performances from Dominic West, Nick Frost, and Kristin Scott Thomas are decent if not spectacular (though West’s overuse of the term ‘sprout’ does get annoying). Walton Goggins is a disappointing villain, never able to really strike fear into the hearts of viewers (or convincingly into Lara). The idea of being shipwrecked and forced into slavery by psychopathic goons does stick however.
The action scenes have been criticised online as merely a live action redo of the game which inspired the film, but this is a highly unfair judgment (Square Enix/Warner Bros. only have themselves to blame for releasing the most similar footage). From the outset as Lara cycles for DefinitelyNotDeliveroo™ the action scenes are well shot, and for the first half hour the only things remotely similar to the game is Richard Croft’s voiceover explanation of this supernatural relic.
Further on in the film really kicks into gear as tombs get raided and Lara has to get brutal. It’s always fun, even if never completely able to escape the strained origins of the 2013 game’s mawkish cutscenes (that said, nods to the original trilogy of games are some of the most enjoyable moments in the film).
The right mindset and an affinity for the games should be enough for an audience to enjoy some high production values, great action scenes, and a solid performance (and accent) from Vikander. Lacking these may make one more attuned to plot holes and slaps in the face to audience intelligence, but as one of the unashamed converted I couldn’t tell you for sure.