WARNER BROS. PICTURES (2018)

 

Director: Roar Uthaug

 

Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Nick Frost

Rinse your brains of the two previous Tomb Raider movies.

 

That’s not even necessarily relevant to this review, just some handy advice.

 

More rugged, grittier and grounded, this new iteration of Tomb Raider sees Lara Croft as a reluctant, headstrong hero rather than the OTT-proportioned teenage dream of previous years. The rebooted video game series has taken the franchise into a newer (dare I say, better) direction and now, Warner Bros. has stepped up to bring it back to the big screen.

Lara Croft (Vikander) is the poor daughter of a ridiculously rich father – one who has been missing for seven years and presumed dead. Living in London, she struggles to keep up payments, struggles to win in the MMA ring and, well, just struggles in general. A bicycle courier looking to make money, she finds herself arrested after a bike chase goes wrong, leaving a colleague of her fathers, Ana Miller (Scott Thomas), to bail her out. Ana pleads with Lara to sign the papers to receive her father’s inheritance but before she does, a chance clue to her father’s activities leads her to find out what he really was – an intrepid explorer on the hunt for the ancient tomb of Himiko, the Queen of Death. Deciding to investigate her father’s work and gain closure, Lara travels to a mysterious island in the Devil’s Sea with ship captain Lu Ren (Wu), but of course, not all is at it seems – especially when baddy archaeologist Mathias Vogel (Goggins) arrives.

 

Whereas Angelina Jolie’s sexpot Lara performed in movies that were more about image, this new iteration tries desperately to be taken seriously by, well, taking itself very seriously. It’s ‘grittier’ and more ‘realistic’ than the Jolie affairs – OK, it was until ancient Japanese ghosts and curses were brought into the story to throw things into a distinctively sillier realm. Anchored by a tireless lead performance from Alicia Vikander, there’s nothing you won’t see coming from a mile off (usually because it’s been explained and telegraphed at some point earlier) but there’s enough here to create an entertaining adventure flick. It’s certainly one of the better video game adaptations out there, and though that genre is a well-established cesspit, don’t let that put you off.

 

Tomb Raider can’t be accused of having excellent writing. Every major plot point is spelt out for you during the movie meaning nothing should come as a surprise and there is some frivolously bad dialogue too – when Lara’s father, played with an entire hock full of ham by Dominic West, exclaims that “opening the tomb will ensure Himiko’s curse will be unleashed onto the world”, I almost ruined my retinas from eye-rolling. There are also many moments yearning to tug on the heartstrings, but these aren’t effectively set up to be convincing. The chain of events that leads Lara from Shoreditch to the secret island almost stretches comprehension also, but as an origin story it is also setting up Lara’s traits and characteristics, so that could cover part of the flaws.

 

As the updated Lara, Vikander is excellent. Both charming and fierce, she is adept at displaying the character’s vulnerabilities and her descent into savagery is raw and well done. Though some of the dialogue may let her down, her depiction of the icon cannot be faulted. Those around her are generally OK, however, Goggins, Scott Thomas, West and Wu are resigned to little more than cookie cutter characters, but they manage to cut their cookies well enough.

 

There are some nice visuals at times and just as much iffy CGI as well. The movie is at its best when the action is hand-to-hand and the need for FX is minimal. Lara’s perilous escape from the rotting plane perched precariously over the massive waterfall is probably the movies best sequence, Vikander able to display her full range of athleticism and allowing the movie to play with one of the only real moments of tension in the movie. Junkie XL’s score, however, is very good and really compliments the scenes.

 

Whilst the ending is rushed and the weakest part of the movie, Tomb Raider has enough going for it to keep you engaged, if not, utterly compelled by the on-screen events. There’s a bagful of dodgy dialogue and the story is thin, however, Vikander sells the role excellently and there are some good set pieces throughout. Whilst it may be one of the better video game movies, Tomb Raider settles in as simply just a...decent movie by itself.

March 19th 2018

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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