The film: Tomb Raider – Movie reboot has plenty of action, but it’s not enough
Even people who’ve never touched a video game controller know who Lara Croft is. The character first appear in the game Tomb Raider 22 years ago, and from the start. She was transparently the product of a particularly straight male imagination: brilliant, gorgeous, absurdly athletic, and famously anatomically improbable.
She became both a catalyst for the drive for more female protagonists in video games and, even among non-gamers, a sex symbol, note especially for the size of her breasts, which were emphasiz in the game.
Croft has been the protagonist of many Tomb Raider games since then and evolve in complexity as well as physical appearance. The Lara Croft of the game’s most recent iterations, beginning with the reboot in 2013.That is less of a sexualiz icon and more of a real character, strong and uncertain but gaining confidence throughout the game’s run. Her body proportions have been scaled down too, while retaining the extreme level of strength and fitness.
It’s been 17 years since the original Tomb Raider movie came out.
And its star Angelina Jolie, as iconic video-game character Lara Croft, cemented her status in A-list territory with her performance.
Croft is arguably the biggest female video-game character ever, and she’s a no-nonsense, brilliant fighter. An action heroine who doesn’t need any input from a man. Jolie, at the time, perfectly encapsulate Croft’s persona, and had that air of badassery necessary to play her.
The 2018 version of Tomb Raider — especially its iteration of Croft — is toothless by comparison. Though it makes strides in different areas, congruent with our current societal realities. (More on that later.) Swedish actor and Oscar winner Alicia Vikander takes on Croft this time around, and while there’s no questioning her acting chops. She seems adrift in this action movie.
The plot echoes the original
Movie with bits lifte from Indiana Jones and even childhood favourites The Goonies and The NeverEnding Story. Basically, Croft is looking for direction in life and is still pining over (and obsesse about) her father’s mysterious disappearance. Shortly after she’s request to sign some documents confirming her father’s death. She’s off on an adventure to explore his last known whereabouts.
That development certainly mirrors shifting ideas about the place of women in the gaming world — and in games themselves — over the past two decades. But it also tracks with how audiences and filmmakers have slowly changed their ideas about women in action movies. Something that’s paralleled by the Tomb Raider movies.
Two movies, in which Angelina Jolie (in a padded bra) played Croft.
It came out in 2001 and 2003, and both filmed her body in ways that are beginning to feel dated. The first more or less introduces her with a lingering crotch shot. The old Tomb Raider movies are terrible, patently silly and campy without the saving self-awareness of, say,
The Mummy. But the 2018 reboot of Tomb Raider, starring Alicia Vikander as Croft, actually wants to be a movie. It’s got a story, and characters, and an emotional center, and it’s plotted in a way that sets up sequels.
The result is, well, pretty okay.
The movie isn’t particularly clever or innovative, but as an action film, it’s satisfying. And it both parallels and diverges from the rebooted game, taking its cues from what players liked while throwing in just enough surprises. That make it interesting to general audiences. Lara Croft 2.0 has finally made it to movie screens.
This movie has several action-packed scenes: one is a frenetic bicycle chase. Another is a foot chase through a marina, and then, once Croft reaches her target destination, there’s some more gunplay and jungle chases. While the scenes are engaging due to their inherent fast-paced nature, it feels like something is missing. There is absolutely no fear of Croft dying, so immediately some of the heft is lost.
When the untouchable Croft finally reaches her target tomb — which doesn’t happen until about three-quarters of the way through the movie — it feels like a rehash of other films we’ve seen before. Filled with booby traps, puzzles and spooky skeletons. Croft must solve and defeat them all to survive and move forward in the tomb. There are one or two pulse-raising moments once we’re inside, but for the most part, it’s business as usual.
Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of violence and action, and for some language)
Genre: Action & Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: Roar Uthaug
Stars: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins
Written By: Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Alastair Siddons
In Theaters: Mar 16, 2018 Wide
On Disc/Streaming: Jun 12, 2018
Runtime: 118 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Vikander, who can balance flinty charm with sympathetic humanism, helped keep me invested, but Tomb Raider could best be described as a solid step forward, away from past wrongs.
I longed for [Daniel] Wu to return to the screen whenever he left it.
“Tomb Raider,” stuffed though it is with curses, vaults, and locks that cry out for secret keys, is not really about a legendary quest, or family honor. It’s about Alicia Vikander.
There’s no way to hate a movie that has spiked poles, booby-trapped caves and zombies, but you can fault it for not trying as hard as it should.