It’s not that kind of Tomb Raider film.
Whilst the latest big-screen iteration of the blockbuster video game series is unlikely to be remembered as an example of exceptional cinema, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it.
In what feels like an era of endless reboots, prequels and spin-offs, it’s unsurprising that this iconic series was chosen for reinvention – but I’m thankful to say that it was better than I would’ve hoped. After a long list of disappointing video game-inspired films (Michael Fassbender’s recent attempt at Assassin’s Creed comes to mind), I walked away from Tomb Raider feeling inspired and entertained; which in my opinion should be the goal for every film.
Tomb Raider has always held a sort of cult following, ever since Lara Croft’s first glorious 8-bit appearance back in 1996. It’s unusual and different, with the thrill of the classic adventure tale, but instead of a burly, handsome man leading the charge, we have an intelligent, beautiful woman.
Now, Alicia Vikander’s portrayal is a far cry from the image of Lara established by the 2001 film, starring Angelina Jolie’s padded bra and barely-there shorts, but I don’t think we’re missing much. In the age of female empowerment, Vikander’s Croft is a welcome change, with a deliberate focus on strength and intelligence. Where Jolie’s films banked a lot of its success on her sex appeal, Vikander’s Croft has been re-imagined as a down-to-earth city girl. Someone that women and girls can look up to as a role model, with the charm and wit needed to be a loveable hero.
It was great to see how the director, Roar Uthaug, wasn’t afraid to play with Lara’s character either. To show her as vulnerable and indecisive, but not pandering to the damsel in distress cliché or romantic subplot that female heroines are often boxed into.
As a lover of the rebooted games, it was slightly disappointing to see the more intricate plot moments pushed aside for superfluous action scenes. The action often ends up feeling forced, setting up one heart-pounding moment after the other, rather than pausing to focus on smaller, more impactful scenes. As enjoyable as it was to watch the new Lara rampaging through London on her bike, it meant less screen time and development for her time on the island, where she truly starts her journey to becoming the ‘Tomb Raider’.
The time within the tomb itself ended up feeling like an afterthought. You can almost feel the director wondering, “how can this be wrapped up nice and neatly in the next 20 minutes…?” Rather than drawing on the much-loved game’s storyline of magic and mystery, the curse of the tomb boiled down to a disappointing ending that didn’t answer many of the questions we’d been fed throughout the film.
That said, I would highly recommend anyone who loves the new games to go and see this film. It’s entertaining, fun and a there are hardly any faults to be found with Vikander’s acting abilities. My biggest hope is that if they do decide to continue on the film series, they take more notes from the game’s script and maybe include a few more strong female characters. It would truly be a shame to not see another Lara Croft film, as these bad-ass empowered female adventure heroes are few and far between, and we definitely deserve more.
Verdict: A pleasing attempt at relaunching the much-loved franchise, but lacking the depth of the story in its video game counterpart.