Directed by: Roar Uthaug
Written by: Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Alastair Siddons, Evan Daugherty
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Daniel Wu, Walton Goggins
Swift shot: It’s essentially Arrow meets Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and I am not complaining. Whenever I go see a movie based on a video game, I set my sights to “just keep me entertained.” Tomb Raider wins points for being stimulating, interesting, and filled with mostly plausible action sequences. One of the reasons I had no desire to see the Jolie films is that I never really played the game that much, and I considered the character to be a ridiculous fantasy. I am pleased to say that Vikander has brought some needed reality to an otherwise forgettable character.
Let’s face it, most guys like Lara Croft for her looks, and most girls want to look like Lara Croft. There is nothing wrong with admitting it, and I have been admiring Vikander since I first saw her in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. She certainly looks like Lara Croft. But I am no expert on if she pulls off becoming Lara Croft, because again I only played the game a few times and never saw the Jolie versions. It’s weird too, because I genuinely like Jolie’s acting, but I never cared about Lara Croft: just another gun-toting gal in tight shorts. No real substance. So, I decided to finally check out this character and see if maybe there was more to her.
Lara is a Croft, a name which carries immediate respect, and in some, dread. Lara has spent most of her formative years longing to spend time with her father, Richard (West). Following her mother’s untimely death, he has emotionally abandoned her in pursuit of some link to the afterlife that will give him just one more day, minute, even second with his departed wife. It’s an obsession that has made Lara bitter with contempt for her father every time he leaves. Don’t get me wrong, she loves him, but she also resents him for his ability to just leave whenever it suits him to pursue this obsession. The fact that he is richer than most people on the planet affords him that luxury.
Her father leaves her one last time, never to be seen or heard from again, lost to his obsession. And all she needs to do to become the richest and most powerful woman alive is to sign a piece of paper that says he is dead. As much as she wants to move on, there is something (perhaps her own obsession) that is preventing her from signing the paper and admitting he’s gone. It’s when she finally relents to sign the paperwork that she is given a clue that her father might not be dead. Now she is driven by a fierce resolve to find out the truth, no matter the cost.
Oh, it would be easy if she were super rich, but again, she’d have to sign the documents proving he is dead to get her hands on that money. So, she hocks the one thing that connects her to her father, in a kind of symbolic “no turning back now” gesture. With all the money she has from giving up that amulet, she pursues leads which take her to a Hong Kong port and charters a drunken sailor’s vessel, Captain Lu Ren (Wu) also has a vested interest in finding out the truth behind his father’s disappearance.
Once they reach the mysterious island of Yamatai, they realize they have made a terrible mistake, and it will take all their will just to survive.
Here’s where things go from finding a lost father (Last Crusade) to Arrow, she and Lu Ren are immediately taken prisoner and forced to work for a psychotic henchman, Mathias Vogel (Goggins). He’s a mercenary who has been essentially ordered to never leave the island until he possesses the power of Himiko. Himiko is this ancient demon-goddess of Japan who has the power to connect with the afterlife, also called The Mother of Death. So, you can see why Richard Croft was pursuing her. And Vogel’s employers, the Order of Trinity are a secretive, global force that tries to use powerful, supernatural elements to control the world.
Sound familiar? And, to make it more obvious, she uses a bow and arrow, when several opportunities to pick up automatic weapons are shunned for the more silent strike. Granted, she has been training her entire life to use a bow as well as honing her fighting skills.
But, let’s talk about what makes her the Tomb Raider: jumping around and uncovering clues while looking hot – duh! And Vikander did a credible, as in completely believable, job swinging on stuff, jumping across things, hanging from things, and taking a significant beating in the process. That’s what I really liked about Vikander’s performance, I actually felt many of the bruises and scars, because I didn’t feel like she was acting – rather she was reacting to actually getting scathed, repeatedly.
As far as video games turned to films go, this is a pretty solid piece of work by all involved. The stunt work and special effects were smooth and had a veracity that allowed you to really immerse into the Lara Croft universe. Yes, there were certainly moments while watching where you could almost pick up an imaginary controller and hop along with Lara. Again, I think that is just the nature of these types of game films. Overall though, I think if you are looking for a genuine female character that comes across as strong and smart, Vikander certainly won’t disappoint.