Our second favorite Globetrotting, adventure-seeking, tomb-raiding archaeologist is back on the silver screen, in a reboot of the film franchise that’s based on the reboot of the video game franchise. Will Lara Croft finally able to (re?)take the best-video-game-movie crown?
Alicia Vikander steps into the role of the tomb traipsing titular title character, Lara Croft. This isn’t the same Lara that Angelina Jolie embodied nearly 20 years ago, instead, we meet her at a much younger, inexperienced, and irresponsible age. It’s a delightfully unexpected prelude to the main story, but unfortunately, the more we get to know this Lara, the less believable she becomes. In an attempt to make her action sequences more plausible, we see her training in kickboxing and racing through London on a bicycle. (The movie’s most thrilling sequence which has absolutely zero to do with the plot.) The problem is, she’s not really good at anything. She chose to skip college, doesn’t have a very good job, refuses to acknowledge her father’s disappearance, fails at her extra-curricular activities, and is apparently unilingual based on an embarrassing scene where she walks around asking random locals, “Do you speak English?” Angelina Jolie herself is more qualified to be a Tomb Raider than this version of Lara Croft!
The rest of the story progresses almost exactly how you’d expect it to. Her father disappeared, she discovers something about his disappearance, is suddenly motivated, common sense and the laws of physics are ignored, ancient engineering marvels are mistreated, Villains are killed, and Heroines are born. There are so many references, nods, and story beats taken from other classic films, that it’s hard to tell if it’s unintentional homage or blatant plagiarism. Were the screenwriters trying to piggyback off nostalgia for “Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade”, or were they secretly hoping their target audience hadn’t seen it? Another sequence, meant to be dramatic, mirrors the Cliff of Insanity from “The Princess Bride” so closely I had to repress laughter.
It was at this point, another key problem revealed itself. Considering the subject matter, the film takes itself far too seriously. You can’t have a ridiculous story without having a little fun with it. This isn’t to say that moments of drama and emotion should be punctuated with a punchline, ala Marvel, but not even Doctor Jones could keep a straight face amongst fanatical Nazis.
With all this seriousness and enough cliches to wallpaper a crypt with, the only moments of excitement come from randomly injected set pieces, such as the old warplane precariously perched atop a precipice that she must pass. But even these moments aren’t unique, as some are lifted almost directly from the game! This isn’t a problem at first because they are still unique to the franchise, but each of these scenes reaches a moment where it mirrors the game too closely. Like the first-person-shooter sequence at the climax of “Doom”, it’s cool-factor quickly drops when it begins to feel like you’re just watching a controller-greedy friend playing their game.
“Tomb Raider” is still far from any of the worst video game inspired movies, but it may be one of the most disappointing. Visually, it’s far better than the trailers would lead to believe, Alicia Vikander is an excellent actress, and you can sense director Roar Uthaug is earnestly trying to make a great film. But it ends up suffering from the “Batman vs Superman” effect: They took everything the fans wanted, mixed in elements from beloved contemporaries, and ended up with a mixture that was far less than the sum of its parts.