Written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons and directed by Roar Uthaug, “Tomb Raider” is the third film adaption of the popular video game series of the same name- whilst also being a reboot that in itself is an adaption of the series’ most recent reboot to the video game series that was released in 2013 (whew, that was a lot). Alicia Vikander stars as Lara Croft this time around in a much more grounded take on the action adventure series than the prior Angelina Jolie films (which, I have to say are quite a lot of fun in their own right). In this origin of the character Lara’s father, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), became obsessed with ancient myths and artifacts after the death of her mother and had absconded off to a mysterious island in the pacific near Japan seven years prior to search for the tomb of Himiko, the cursed first empress of Japan. Myth and legend shrouded her legacy, but all cite a supposed apocalyptic scenario that would be unleashed upon the world if her tomb were to be disturbed. Lord Croft had pursued the legend with The Trinity at his coattails, an evil organization looking to weaponize the myth. He sought to keep the tomb hidden and out of the hands of the Syndicate… err, the Nazis… I mean… Trinity– yes them, that’s the one.
When we meet Lara in the first act she’s living in London on a shoestring budget, refusing to accept her father’s inheritance- signing that contract would be accepting his death. Instead she makes ends meet by training at a small gym and cycling through the crowded streets as a courier. Right off the bat the film sets the mood firmly in the momentum and thrill of Lara’s life. After overhearing the details of a lucrative courier race, in which a paint can is strapped to her bike leaking paint with a fox tail attached and only given a moments head start, she’s accepted the challenge and races through London closely followed by a league of cyclists. This scene was cleverly shot and a fun way to kickstart the film’s energetic sense of fun. Which is one of the film’s best attributes overall.
Once Lara makes her way to the Croft building to begrudgingly accept her inheritance, she’s given a puzzling cryptex that she solves as she’s being read the specifics of her father’s will, as if she were simply fidgeting. As she does so, a key pops out with a clue that leads her to her father’s own tomb- where she discovers the details of his globe-trotting adventures. She’s quickly off to follow his trail and discover the path he took to his death. She ends up in China before long to question the captain that chartered her father to the remote island. Instead she finds Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) the son of the captain she sought. After some squabbling she offers him a payday worth his while and they set sail, so to speak, for the island dead set in the middle of the devil’s sea.
Once she’s stepped upon the island she meets the villain of the film, Mathias Vogel, an employee of the shapeless Trinity organization played with serviceable cruelty by Walton Goggins. From there the film goes about the usual tropes of any action adventure movie or video game, i.e. solving puzzles, sneaking past unnamed and heinous henchmen, encountering dizzying thrills, all in service of seeking the eponymous tomb. So that’s all well and good, but is the film successful in its execution of these well-worn adventure themed devices? I would say that it does. While this film never reaches the heights of Indiana Jones, it does enough to separate itself as a story all it’s own while maintaining a solid sense of momentum and adequate adventure thrills. Alicia Vikander was an excellent casting choice for this reboot, while the script never reaches for the wise-cracking snark and personality of her video game peer in Nathan Drake, she does a lot with what she’s given. You can feel her struggle and her purpose in seeking answers to her father’s mysterious end.
This latest version of “Tomb Raider” gives a lot of potential for a solid string of sequels if the studio so chooses. There could be some polish done in the future, maybe learn what didn’t exactly work in this entry for example, and this could very well turn into quite an enjoyable series. Though the last five minutes of the film do go a bit over the top in their obvious hopes for another shot at the material. While the film lacks some magic in the writing and the plot points feel a bit familiar, it’s still good fun at the theater!
Final Score: three puzzles, one island, and a good deal of fun