Film review: Tomb Raider – Lara Croft is back

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Academy Award-winner Alicia Vikander is probably not the first choice for many to portray legendary video game character, Lara Croft. Perhaps Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman or even Keira Knightley would have been above Vikander to be in with a shot of bagging the role?

That’s all conjecture anyway as Vikander is the leading lady we have ended up with, for better or for worse. But is this Tomb Raider reboot the film to end that dreaded video game to movie curse? Read on to find out.

Lara Croft (Vikander) is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer (Dominic West) who vanished years earlier. Hoping to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance, Croft embarks on a perilous journey to his last-known destination – a fabled tomb on a mythical island that might be somewhere off the coast of Japan. The stakes couldn’t be higher as Lara must rely on her sharp mind, blind faith and stubborn spirit to venture into the unknown.

Director Roar Uthaug, who only has a few Swedish movies to his name, directs a decent, if not outstanding adaptation of the famous character’s origins story that features some nifty action set-pieces intertwined with a hectic and often nausea-inducing filming style. It doesn’t break the video game to movie curse, but it’s a good shot.

Unfortunately, the cast is one of the film’s weakest points. Vikander is a whiny, self-absorbed brat for the majority of the runtime, only letting this insipid persona go in the latter half of the movie. This is through no fault of her own as her performance is as solid as we’ve come to expect from the actress, but the script really lets her down. The film starts off poorly with a messily edited boxing match giving way to a rather implausible bike chase that ends with Vikander face planting the bonnet of a police car. Thankfully, this is as bad as it gets.

From then on, the audience is treated to a selection of thrilling set-pieces, populated by some very good CGI indeed. It’s just unfortunate the characters lack any sort of presence whatsoever. Outside of Vikander’s insipid Lara, the rest of the cast are merely there to offer expositional dialogue. Dominic West in particular, who plays Lara’s father, spouts nothing but exposition, even narrating certain parts of the movie.

Elsewhere, for a film called Tomb Raider, there’s very little tomb raiding to be had. In fact, it feels like a hybrid of Kong: Skull Island, The Mummy, Indiana Jones and The Hunger Games and for this reason it lacks a sense of identity and any originality whatsoever.

Cinematography wise, Tomb Raider is competent but not exceptional. The shot choices are limited and the action is sometimes messily edited to the point where it’s difficult to tell exactly what it is that’s going on. It avoids unnecessary shaky cam, which is a miracle in itself but it’s not the best the genre has to offer.

Unfortunately, director Roar Uthaug’s idea to go the complete opposite of many blockbusters nowadays results in a film that really doesn’t have a sense of humour. Apart from a couple of scenes involving Nick Frost as a greedy pawnbroker, Tomb Raider is devoid of any sense of fun whatsoever. It seems the scriptwriters missed the memo about the premise being absolutely ridiculous – a dose of humour would have done this tale a world of good.

Overall, Tomb Raider is a decent stab at resurrecting a character that Angelina Jolie performed so well over the course of her two films in the early 00s. Alicia Vikander plays a very different Lara Croft to Jolie and whilst she may need a couple more films for us to get acquainted with her, she’s off to a reasonable if unoriginal start. Whether or not she gets the chance to tomb raid again remains to be seen, it all depends on those box-office numbers.

Tomb Raider rating: 6.5/10