Tomb Raider is one of the most successful video game franchises around. The video game, first released in 1993, and its successive sequels have sold tens of millions of copies the world over. The series was such a triumph, it spawned two major motion pictures in the early 2000’s. Now Tomb Raider is trying to put its name back on the map with another film release – this time exchanging Angelina Jolie for Alicia Vikander in the title role as Lara Croft. Part Indiana Jones, part Nancy Drew, this heroine has resurfaced at a good time – the #MeToo movement is still alive and well and female led movies are gaining more and more momentum.
But, in an era of endless Hollywood reboots, is there room for another version of Lara Croft?
After watching Tomb Raider, why not.
Tomb Raider, directed by Roar Uthaug, begins with our future adventurer Lara Croft, played exceptionally well by Academy Award Winner Alicia Vikander, living a poverty stricken life – desperately shying away from her wealthy parentage. She fills her days either taking a beating in an MMA ring or riding her bicycle through the busy streets of London as a courier. Lara is consistently running away – her father (played solidly by Dominic West) had disappeared many years ago and she must accept his death in order to receive the full inheritance. But Lara can’t bring herself to do it, sparking a chain of events which leads our heroine to uncover the truth behind her father’s mysterious disappearance.
Clocking in at a brisk 118 minutes long, Tomb Raider is surprisingly entertaining. It won’t be winning any awards by any stretch of the imagination, but it a fun romp; akin to the summer blockbusters we’re used to – albeit released in at the end of winter. And the movie works for one simple reason – Alicia Vikander. Vikander's Lara Croft is a steely eyed, quick witted, no nonsense woman; one that wouldn’t think twice before putting an arrow through your heart or some other vital organ. Vikander is a remarkable presence on film. Not only is she an exceptional acting talent, she also holds that rare but much sought after appeal – you can’t take your eyes off her when she’s on screen. Yes – she is a natural beauty. But there is also a magnetism about her; something that audiences can’t help but gravitate towards.
What’s refreshing in Tomb Raider is that there’s no romance. Not that there’s anything wrong with romantic moments in action movies, as long as it serves the story. In Tomb Raider, there’s neither the time nor the chemistry for a romance. Too many times, romantic moments are shoehorned into movies. Inevitably, this muddles down the plot and takes away from the overall enjoyment of the action. Luckily, Tomb Raider never takes us anywhere close to Cupid’s arrow.
While the film’s opening ten minutes flows like molasses, the pacing eventually shotguns a Red Bull and flies into an action sequences right out of the recent Mission Impossible movies. The majority of the action in Tomb Raider follow a tight, quickened pace. This style not only keeps the story motoring forward, it also keeps the audience glued to the screen. Whether it’s Vikander dangling from a rusted-out plane or chasing three thieves through the docks of Hong Kong, the action sequences are fresh enough – rarely feeling overdone.
Unfortunately, the villain is boring, which stands out as a bit of a flaw. Walton Goggins (best known for his role in HBO’s Vice Principals) plays Mathias Vogel, a mid-level heel in the mysterious evil order known as Trinity. Essentially, Vogel is bland and only acts as a means-to-an-end for Croft. This is never the best scenario with bad-guys, especially when the stakes are as high as they are in Tomb Raider. A real opportunity was missed here. Perhaps Warner Bros. Pictures, the distributor of the film, took a page from Marvel Studios - they have been chasing them as of late. Like many Marvel films, Tomb Raider focuses solely on the hero, or in this case heroine, and puts very little into the development of its villain.
Another flaw in Tomb Raider is that the CGI is quite poor at times. Most of these tend to be longer distance shots, but in today’s age of computer generated graphics, poor CGI is easy to spot and harder to forgive. Along with some subpar CGI, the second act of the film drags. Once the action slows, the characters haven’t been developed enough to warrant any interesting dialogue or connections. However, the taut action and Vikander’s performance overshadow such weaknesses.
Simply put, Tomb Raider is worth seeing. In comparison to The Mummy (last year’s tomb raiding attempt at a blockbuster), Tomb Raider is the superior film. It’s a fun and entertaining two hour escape. If you are in the mood for a leading lady who is portrayed as a sophisticated woman who can kick your teeth in, then Tomb Raider will be for you.
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