I came in wanting to love Tomb Raider. There are too few badass heroines in recent memory that are as iconic as Lara Croft. That’s changing in recent years but growing up, she was one of the few I can remember. I didn’t play through the games except for a handful of times but I identified with her—or at least found someone to aspire to. And with recent events happening around the world, it seemed apt that her origin story be explored.
Of course, some might say it’s just a way for the studio and the game developers to earn extra from a beloved franchise. That might be true but with the game rebooted around five years ago, we aren’t surprised a movie version followed.
This time around, we’re met by a 21-year-old Lara Croft (played by Alicia Vikander), who is described as a “fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer.” She is an heiress that has shunned that life after her father mysteriously disappeared. She isn’t the tomb raider we know, at least not yet. This time, we find her working the streets of East London as a bike courier and barely able to pay her rent and other dues. She is what you can call a Lara Croft for the masses. She isn’t living in Croft Manor, she’s trying to navigate the world on her terms, stubbornly refusing help from one of Croft Holdings’ longtime executive Ana Miller (played by Kristin Scott Thomas). Her aimlessness and lack of purpose is something some younger people (and even any other adult for that matter) can relate to. There’s a relatability to her that I appreciate.
Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of Lara might be the only version people would want. But I like Vikander’s take on her. There’s just the right balance of intensity, strength, and softness to her portrayal. A reminder that a woman can be strong and vulnerable all at the same time. Vikander describes it best when she said, “It’s also nice to play a girl who takes up room, who dares to be loud and outspoken, yet open to showing her vulnerability. It’s all there, within her, and we get to discover it with her as she finds herself in situations that bring out her fears as well as her survival instincts, and the warrior in her.”
And those situations she speaks of is both brought on by herself and something her missing father brought upon her. You’ve probably seen it in the trailer how Richard Croft (played by Dominic West) seems to have sent her out on a mission to stop Trinity, which we can describe as an evil corporation that needs to be stopped. But the story plays out a bit differently in the film itself. And there’s a major plot hole there that wasn’t addressed, specifically how the artifacts and notes found its way to her. Without going into detail, this throws off the entire story if we’re going to go into the foundations of it.
I really wanted to root for Tomb Raider but the more we got into the story, the more misses I’d notice. The story as director Roar Uthaug says puts Lara and Richard’s relationship at its core. He said, “He abandoned her, yet she clearly cannot let go of him. It’s created a void in Lara that she’s been trying to fill, and this final puzzle box quite literally provides the key that starts her investigating what happened to him and leads her to embark on this great quest.” That is well and good if there was a better explanation of how the final puzzle box came into her possession.
The motivations of the main characters seem for the most part in the right place. Lara is out there in search of her father and wanting to see for herself how he vanished. Richard, with all his eccentricities, is in search of a link to his dead wife. Although, I can’t help but question if that was enough for him to leave his only daughter behind. And even the main baddie Mathias Vogel (played by Walton Goggins) has his own reasons. As Goggins explains, “My take is that this is a guy who is operating on the worst Wednesday of the longest week of his life, mired in the inertia of repetition. He’s almost the anti-Richard Croft in that they both sacrificed their families to find this tomb, if for completely different reasons, but it’s ruined both of their lives.”
Vogel is the ruthless leader of the group of mercenaries assigned the seemingly impossible task of uncovering a 2,000-year-old tomb thought to contain the mummified remains of Queen Himiko, also known as the Mother of Death. Richard before his disappearance was trying to stop Vogel from opening the tomb because he believes it’ll release of Queen Himiko’s curse on the world. What that curse is you’ll find out as the film progresses.
The movie straddles the line between mysticism and reality and I liked how it tackled that part with a bit more believability. Lara still rooted in reality and not fully believing what her father believes but wanting to see what he saw, perhaps to answer some unanswered questions.
The execution, though, gets a bit confusing at times. There will be moments when it’s a proper action film and then moments when the mystical aspects will throw you off (you’ll see it once they enter the tomb). But even in some of the big action scenes you’ll get pulled out of it sometimes, thinking whether it would be humanly possible for anyone to fight under such conditions. Suspend your disbelief to enjoy this moments more.
Tomb Raider also suffers from the studio’s attempt at priming it for a sequel. But that’s something a lot of the major studios do. It leaves enough room for a bigger fish to fry in another film. There isn’t any word yet if we’re getting a sequel, but the seed has been planted. We might get one, depending on the response to this one.
I came in really wanting to love the film, but I wish it had proper legs to stand on. If you want to take a chance, Tomb Raider is now in cinemas nationwide.