The last time I delved into one of these it was Assassin’s Creed, an atrocious film that I never want to even think about again. So there’s no way Tomb Raider was going to get such a negative reaction from me. Not that this is a good movie, mind. I enjoyed the trailers so probably got my hopes up a little too much. The critics’ reaction wasn’t terrible which added to that, but from about the halfway point I felt the constant need to check my phone.
If the first two Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider movies were the Batman Forever era, this is definitely going for more Batman Begins. At least tonally, not from a quality standpoint. Based on the rebooted series from a few years back, it’s more of a serious affair (with the odd attempt at humour thrown in – key word being, “attempt”). Alicia Vikander takes on the role of Lara Croft, is a good fit for the role and does a good performance. It has a good supporting cast too – Walton Goggins always does a good villain, even if he is a little wasted here, and Daniel Wu is a good sidekick for Lara. All the pieces are here for an enjoyable adventure… it just never gels.
Weirdly it’s the first part of the film before Lara even gets to the island that is the most interesting. Lara the heiress to the Croft fortune clearly wants nothing to do with the legacy following the events that saw her father disappear while searching for the island of Himiko. It’s this down-and-out Lara working as a bike courier that gives the best characterisation. Once she follows the clues that lead to the island is where the film starts to become a by the numbers action movie that fails to garner interest.
The movie attempts to do what the original game reboot wanted and somewhat failed, showcasing Lara as someone who is out of her elements and has to learn these skills to overcome challenges. Though she already seems to have a decent move set, her bike courier antics earlier show her stamina and agility, with additional scenes of young Lara practicing archery. And like the game, it never truly portrays Lara as anyone other than a superheroine. She gets battered from trees, falls down waterfalls, takes many cuts and scrapes but still comes out fighting. Even when forced to kill, the film tries and does initially succeed at playing this as a truly horrific moment, until twenty minutes later she’s arrowing fools in the chest. So, it’s a faithful adaptation then!
Following the reboot’s trajectory, there’s also plenty of stuff collapsing while Lara climbs, with the addition of a few Nathan Drake-like quips that fail to raise even a wry smile. Everything on the island just becomes a pedestrian-like slog as the island’s mystery is slowly revealed with tomb puzzles that aren’t even of the quality of the original Angelina Jolie movie. One thing I do remember from that film is the giant Buddha statue which Lara had to pierce by riding a giant battering ram. There’s nothing here like that; maybe they lacked the budget (which would explain some questionable CGI) or maybe just didn’t have the imagination. But when you’re dealing with a decade’s worth of material I find that hard to believe.
An interesting cast can’t really save this film from the generic actioner it is. I don’t know if this made enough money to garner a sequel, but if it did they’re going to need a better script. I’d give this one a miss.