"Tomb Raider" Reboot is Elevated by a Captivating Alicia Vikander, but Not Much Else
The video game adaptation adds depth and emotional integrity to the Lara Croft name, but lacks in its main component— SFX.
By Jacey Aldredge
2001 is often remembered as the year the twin towers fell. Rightly so, as it was by far the defining moment of our American 21st Century. However, a few other terrible things happened as well; Faith Hill still had a career, drug lord El Chapo made his first prison escape, Lance Armstrong got disqualified in the 88th Tour de France, and Simon West released the first film adaptation of “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.” The film was lacking in practically everything — other than sex appeal and explosions — with Angelina Jolie in the titular role. Jolie is undeniably badass in the majority of her filmography, but what could’ve been the first critically successful video game adaptation of the beloved tomb raiding heroine became just another overly sexualized exploit. Fast forward to 2018, following a year of outright descension from women who’ve had enough exploitation for a lifetime, and enter the rebooted and redesigned “Tomb Raider.”
Starring Alicia Vikander of such critical successes such as “Ex Machina,” “The Light Between Oceans,” and “The Danish Girl,” “Tomb Raider” is a Lara Croft origin story. After her father has been missing for seven years, Croft struggles to reconcile with his supposed death and consequential inheritance. She discovers her father’s hidden “life’s calling” and embarks on a journey to find the truth about his disappearance while searching for a supernatural being— Himiko, the Goddess of Death. What Croft finds is an adventure she didn’t ask for, with answers she never expected.
Making good video game adaptations is hard. In fact, it’s never really been done (no, “Scott Pilgrim” doesn’t count). However, director Roar Uthang’s “Tomb Raider” gets pretty close to good. This is due almost entirely to Vikander’s performance as the jaded, crafty, and determined Lara Croft. Vikander adds a casual and realistic atmosphere to Croft, and it’s clear from the start that she isn’t perfect. Croft loses a wrestling match in the first five minutes of the film, followed by an embarrassing bike crash in a busy London street. She’s impulsive and inherently competitive, but even when the odds are against her, she still carries on with a no-quit spirit.
Vikander has given us a relatable Lara Croft— that might not be a good thing, but it’s a breath of fresh air. She literally breathes life and depth into a previously man-made sex doll of destruction. She isn’t “all action” or “trained to kill” as its 2001 predecessor claims; Vikander’s Croft is intelligent and knows her way around a punch, sure, but it’s her ambition and resolve that keeps her alive, not her prowess with guns (though those do come later, and she’ll “take two”) and killing. In fact, she doesn't shy away from exuding fear. Her first kill, a purely primal act of self-defense in a dense Japanese jungle, is enacted through tears and squealing that hits you right in the jugular. Being Lara Croft is painful, and Vikander gets to the root of that.
There’s no denying that “Tomb Raider” is a seat-gripping good time. The action sequences are intense and fueled by more than just a hit ratio— there’s a sense of urgency and importance, whether its chasing three boys who stole her backpack or getting off a rotting airplane teetering over a waterfall, Vikander plays Croft with purpose. Seeing Vikander beat the odds both physically and mentally is fun and exhilarating to watch, simple as that.
However, what doesn’t beat the odds is the CGI. It’s 2018, and while I understand that animating a thirty foot jump from a boat into the ocean is probably difficult, it shouldn’t be impossible to accomplish in a realistic way. Instead, many of the CGI-enhanced stunts make Vikander look like an animated rag doll writhing through the air; a G.I. Joe rag doll perhaps, but still. Considering this is your stereotypical action/adventure blockbuster, having inadequate special effects is truly unacceptable.
Also, I was severely unimpressed by Walton Goggins’ Vogel. His portrayal as the film’s tangible villain is one-dimensional and lacks the “high stakes” attitude shared by the rest of the cast. He’s forgettable and so is his cliche dialogue, though that’s not entirely his fault. Conversely, father Croft, played by “Chicago’s” Dominic West, is a well-placed motive for Lara. Their scenes throughout are undeniably wrought with emotion, and will make all the daddy’s girls out there (myself included) wish their father was next to them.
If you liked “The Mummy,” Disney’s “Tarzan,” or hell, even “Indiana Jones,” than “Tomb Raider” will be right up your alley. If you liked 2001’s “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” though... I’d suggest something else. “Tomb Raider” has definitely rebranded itself with the unapologetic Alicia Vikander and added emotional stakes. I’m intrigued for any future installments, but as Lara Croft would say, this reboot still has quite a few “jobs to do.”
Directed by ROAR UTHANG
Written by ALISTAIR SIDDONS, GENEVA ROBERTSON-DWORET
Starring ALICIA VIKANDER, DOMINIC WEST, WALTON GOGGINS
Distributed by PARAMOUNT PICTURES
"Tomb Raider" is in theaters everywhere.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit here.