Tomb Raider

By Christopher Hill –

©Warner Bros.

If it’s summer, then you know there has to be at least one movie based on a video game creeping its way onto screens. With Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle having proven that a video-game movie based on a non-existent video game could work, maybe the cycle of mediocre to downright awful video-game movie adaptations was over. After all, Tomb Raider is a first—a reboot of a video-game adaptation series.

The previous version starred Angelina Jolie in two films (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider—The Cradle of Life). The first film was skewered at the box office but was a commercial success. The second saw more positive reviews but landed flat at the box office. Thirteen years later, we get to see if the developers of Tomb Raider learned from past failures in the series.

This iteration stars Alicia Vikander (Ex-Machina) as the titular hero Lara Croft. She is a down-on-her-luck bike messenger by day and a risk-taker by, well, day, again, to earn money to pay for training. After an accident, old wounds open up, as she is reminded that her father is presumed dead, and she needs to sign some papers recognizing that fact. If she would sign them, then the keys to a literal and physical castle would be hers. She is just one autograph away from a fortune. However, signing the papers would be an admission that her father is actually dead and not missing, something that, even after seven years, she cannot accept.

Before signing, she is given a puzzle box that she is able to open immediately, one that provides a key. It opens up clues to her father’s final steps and provides the impetus for her to launch her life in a quest to find out what really happened to him.

The rest of the film is a paint-by-numbers, completely linear action movie. She easily finds the path to her father’s last known island. Finds a flunky to aid in her quest. Gets captured by the bad guy. Escapes. Finds a movie twist that you will see from miles away. Has an emotional moment when she has to choose between stopping the bad guy or saving someone she loves. Gets captured again. Somehow unlocks an unlockable lock. Gets trapped in a creepy dungeon with a dark history. Escapes and, of course, stops the bad guy in the end and saves the day.

Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft.

The original 1996 video game was a landmark series for its use of a strong feminine heroine who didn’t need any man to save her because she was able to save herself. Also, unheard of at the time, it used three-dimensional visuals in an action-adventure game. Cut to today’s movie, and we wish that the team behind Tomb Raider could write three-dimensionally.

Lara Croft, the video-game character, is a badass, genius-level adventurer. The Tomb Raider Lara Croft is likeable enough, as Alicia Vikander looks and embodies the role well, but the script she has been given to work with is suspect. In this version, Lara Croft gets beaten up consistently, runs from fights, and completely lucks into her adventure. Sure, she can solve any puzzle out there, but you never know why. In her father-flashback sequences, you never see her train at that—maybe she has a mutant power of lock-picking. The audience just has to assume she can do the impossible because, well, reasons.

The lines delivered by many of the characters are stale and devoid of any real emotion. When they attempt humor, it just falls flat. That could have been forgivable were it not for the straight-as-an-arrow sequencing. You know what’s coming. There is little mystery, and the attempted swerves are obvious. The character has been given abilities that are never explained; they just happen. A mission subplot to gain an item leads nowhere, as the item is never mentioned again. There are more issues like this, but the theme is clear: lazy writing.

The action in the film is one redeeming grace, but stylistically, it offers nothing new to action films.

Vikander will become a major Hollywood star, but this will not be the commercial action series to get her there. The story structure is stale, riddled with clichés and perhaps most unforgivable in a time of female empowerment, this Lara Croft is powerless.

Tomb Raider

Now Showing: In Theaters Now

Rated: PG-13

Violence: Yes, not gore based but consistent. People shot, stuck with arrows.

Language: Some light swearing.

Sexuality: None, except for her outfit.

©Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Initial Entertainment Group