Angelina Jolie’s shoes are big ones to fill in any role, but when it’s an iconic video game character beloved by millions, the stakes are even higher. It would then be reassuring to know that Oscar winner Alicia Vikander will take over the role of Lara Croft for this reboot of Tomb Raider. This adaptation of the popular video game series follows Lara’s mission to find her father Richard, who went missing 7 years ago (the film mentions this time span a lot for whatever reason) after leaving her to find an ancient mythical tomb.
The film opens with narration from Richard Croft explaining the tomb he’s off searching for, which is repeated in full 20 minutes later. In between, we’re shown two action scenes. The first, a dizzyingly edited kickboxing scene, the second a visually confusing mess of a bicycle chase, set to a loud, off-putting soundtrack. These scenes include ham-fisted attempts at introducing Lara as a character (that she can fight, she’s resourceful, etc), but these scenes are so inconsequential to the plot and involve a character we barely know yet that they amount to little more than visual noise.
That’s what far too much of this movie is. A handful of completely inconsequential action scenes, detracting from the story. There’s very little tension to any of it, as the film doesn’t bother to put anything tangible at stake. Just the repetitive nature of it gets old very quickly, and these scenes do little more than erode the suspension of disbelief. It’s as if the film feels the need to throw in an action scene or two every now and again to make extra sure the audience is still with it.
This stops becoming a problem heading into the third act of the film, and there’s one stealth-based sequence – no doubt inspired by the games – around this point that’s actually quite thrilling.
There’s some issues with tone, too. All that action would work fine if the film went in a more easygoing, fun route. But it goes in a character-driven, serious direction and these two elements don’t mesh all that well.
To the film’s credit, the relationship between Lara and her father is realized beautifully. There are flashbacks to Lara’s childhood scattered throughout the movie that helps build the relationship, and this creates a relatable motivation for Lara’s actions, and a strong emotional core to her character. The problem is, the aforementioned abundance of pointless action sequences detract too much from this element of the film to take full effect.
As for Lara herself, Vikander does a terrific job in bringing her to life. She immediately makes her a likeable character, and gives her an air of devil-may-care confidence. And when the film calls for a dramatic moment, she gives it her all. Also great is Dominic West as Lara’s caring yet troubled father.
The film also cleverly handles the mystical elements relating to the tomb. Despite some unrealistic action this film is still grounded in reality, and the film balances the line between myth and reality very well. Not only is this an intriguing aspect of the film, especially towards the end, there is also some emotional repercussions directly tied to it. But around the time this comes fully into play is where the movie’s internal logic starts to fall apart somewhat. I won’t go into spoilers, but it’s very easy to poke holes in the logic of certain story elements, even according to the film’s own rules.
One of the bigger problems of the film is when it tries to adapt an element of the game in its puzzle solving sequences. When Lara is solving puzzles or riddles to get past an obstacle, we don’t see her thought process. We get no introduction to how the puzzles work, so we just see her stare at them and then solve them, without the film attempting to involve, and therefore engage, the audience. When in one particular puzzle scene she does vocalize her thoughts to give us some idea of what’s happening, she leaps to conclusions using information that not only we don’t know, but information we don’t know she has. If these scenes are meant to replicate the intrigue and excitement from puzzle-solving in the games, then they failed.
Tomb Raider is a mixed bag. There’s some good in it, but the bad takes away so much from the good that what we have instead is an aggressively mediocre film. It’s a film with very little faith that its audience won’t get bored or fail to keep up with the story that it throws in pointless action scenes to the point where the story starts to matter less.