Tomb Raider

VERDICT

Alicia Vikander falls into this role with the same confidence and natural ability as Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. Beyond her welcome performance, it is aggressively mediocre. Wait for streaming.


REVIEW

The Good: Alicia Vikander.

Do you remember watching Indiana Jones for the first time? In Raiders of the Lost Ark first scene, it takes a few minutes before the titular character is revealed. Out of the shadows steps Harrison Ford, wearing earth tones and scruff and a sheen of sweat on his tanned skin. It’s an iconic image, and one only pulled off by someone who embodies an aesthetic so fully that it is inseparable from the actor.

So is the case for Vikander and Lara Croft. Like Ford, for much of her movie, she wears a thin layer of sweat, blood, and grime so naturally, you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s how she wakes up in the morning. Vikander jumps into action pose like the best of them.

This is a new challenge for Vikander, who is best known for her roles in Ex Machina and The Danish Girl. All in all, she performs admirably, taking every punch that the movie throws at her. Vikander is well on her way to becoming an international action star. If Disney is smart, they’ll pick her up for Marvel.

Or, better yet, why not as the new Indiana Jones?

The Bad: Everything else.

Unfortunately for Vikander, her role is little more than aesthetics and action. There is no consistent motivation or characterization for her to play with. Her character becomes whatever the script demands next in the scene, regardless of continuity of personality.

Beyond the lack of character are an incredibly mediocre plot and a virtually nonexistent story. It is riddled with plot holes and contrived situations. Why does Lara have to pawn off her very personal and meaningful necklace to pay to find her father? Because the script says she has a funny scene with Nick Frost, and that’s why.

Why does Lara have to pawn off her very personal and meaningful necklace to pay to find her father? Because the script says she has a funny scene with Nick Frost, and that’s why. “Wait,” you ask, “what about the literal fortune she was about to inherit in the previous sequence?” Well, see, she walked out of the room after opening up a puzzle box, for an entirely non-explained reason.

The motto of this movie is “just go with it.”

This could have been overlooked with better use of action sequences and visuals. After all, who hasn’t enjoyed an action movie with a mediocre plot that looked really cool, i.e. a lot of superhero-dom?

That’s not the case here. The action scenes all look a little too fake, like something made for streaming rather than a blockbuster release. They are limited to one-on-one interactions, removing any sense of scale or place. While Vikander is able to show off her blossoming action skillset from time to time, the movie mostly has her running. Away from things, toward things, over things, it doesn’t matter. She’s just running.

None of it is terrible, just bland. You’ve seen it all before, and it’s been much better in whatever movie that was. The villain is boring, and the MacGuffin more so. The first act is far too long, and there is a strange bike chase sequence straight out of a Disney Channel Original Movie that has no point.

In the end, that is the biggest crime for the Tomb Raider reboot. There’s no point to any of it. What was the lesson learned, the theme, the story? Don’t worry about it. Because its only point was to set up Vikander as Lara Croft in what they hope will be their next blockbuster series.

With a new director and a far better script, they’d have a great franchise with Vikander. But I fear that they simply don’t care enough to try.

The Ugly: It’s great to see that we’re moving on from sexualized woman heroes…sort of?

So the original Tomb Raider movies that you probably didn’t see starred Angelina Jolie, and they were far more like the original games on which they were based.

In these, Lara Croft is something of a sexy parody of Indiana Jones meets James Bond. She jet sets around the world, raids tombs and wears impossibly revealing clothing and a school-girl braid while she does it.

The new movie, based on a reboot of the game series, removes the parody aspect, and she’s far more like the actual Indiana Jones, or even John McClane. Is she particularly good at stuff? No. But she can take a punch until she wins. It’s a very welcome change.

Except that, and this is a minor spoiler:

The post-scene of the movie has her back at Nick Frost’s pawn shop, buying the comically large guns and sporting the schoolgirl braid that she is famous for. It makes absolutely no sense for her character in the context of the movie. It also invites competition with Jolie’s portrayal, a character that is both gone and simply different.

Be like Kylo Ren, and kill the past. Here, it truly is the only way to move forward.


Synopsis

“Lara Croft is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer who vanished when she was scarcely a teen. Now a young woman of 21 without any real focus or purpose, Lara navigates the chaotic streets of trendy East London as a bike courier, barely making the rent, and takes college courses, rarely making it to class. Determined to forge her own path, she refuses to take the reins of her father’s global empire just as staunchly as she rejects the idea that he’s truly gone. Advised to face the facts and move forward after seven years without him, even Lara can’t understand what drives her to finally solve the puzzle of his mysterious death. Going explicitly against his final wishes, she leaves everything she knows behind in search of her dad’s last-known destination: a fabled tomb on a mythical island that might be somewhere off the coast of Japan. But her mission will not be an easy one; just reaching the island will be extremely treacherous. Suddenly, the stakes couldn’t be higher for Lara, who–against the odds and armed with only her sharp mind, blind faith and inherently stubborn spirit–must learn to push herself beyond her limits as she journeys into the unknown. If she survives this perilous adventure, it could be the making of her, earning her the name tomb raider.” – Rotten Tomatoes

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Originally from the bear-infested schools of Wyoming, but now lives in Chicago. More importantly, he achieved minor Twitter fame once and hasn’t stopped bringing it up since. He has a healthy obsession with Star Wars, Wonder Woman, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Bulbasaur. Please validate him by following him on Twitter, @ericsmorals

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