I’m not a gamer, which means I’m not as steeped in the lore of Tomb Raider as others may be… this may work in my favor actually, but it also affects my expectations – and this is not the Lara Croft that I was expecting to see. Oh sure, she looks the part, with the clinging tank top and tight olive pants, but there’s something in her performance that feels off. This is most definitely an origin story and it shows. Lara’s got the drive but not the skill, she is intelligent but lacks wisdom, she blunders through the film lacking the grace and experience that I expect from this character. I remember being thoroughly let down by this approach to the Lone Ranger film, however I don’t have nearly the emotional connection to the Lara Croft as I do to the Lone Ranger so here it merely serves to keep me off balance. It also lends to my incredulity when we see her figuring out the traps and puzzles in the titular tomb being raided in the third act. It seems an incongruity with what we’ve seen in the previous hour of film. Indeed, It almost seems like her father, Richard, should be the real main character of this piece.
Alicia Vikander, playing our heroine this time around is quirky and fun – attributes that I usually enjoy, but somehow it feels a little bit wrong overlaid on a character that is generally betrayed with poise and determination and only underscores the difference between this movie and the Angelina Jolie films. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this – after all, what this is meant to be is a fun action romp with a wilderness twist.
The Macguffin used here, that of an ancient tomb that holds the old witch Himiko and her curse, is actually quite compelling and I wish we would’ve seen more of it. We’ve got a couple of scenes in the third act that are derivative of The Last Crusade and Temple of Doom, but overall, the whole archaeological aspect of the film is very understated which was a surprise to me. Lara Croft to me has always been Indiana Jones in hotpants. One of my friends pointed out that in recent years the games have shifted more towards survival games rather than straightforward treasure hunting adventures… It was his opinion that the film was going in that direction as well and I can certainly see it. It doesn’t bear a great resemblance to the video game I remember, though as one friend pointed out they do manage to brilliantly capture the platforming aspect of it during a number of perilous scenes.
And make no mistake, there is indeed a great deal of peril and danger in this movie! I think I spent half of the film watching Lara fall, plummet, and hang off of ledges and such – it was such a repeating motif you could build a drinking game around it.
With all this, it actually manages to feel like it’s breaking a little bit of ground on it’s own… like the film could have easily stood by itself without the Tomb Raider name. The paradox of course is that while the movie is good enough to stand alone without the franchise, it never would’ve gotten the requisite number of eyes in front of it without the Tomb Raider name to be successful. It’s a quandary that usually frustrates me, but this time around they manage to handle the balance very well, and mix it all into a fairly satisfying action movie.
In the end, it might not be a must-see-in-the-theater kind of film – although I’ll be perfectly fine tagging along with friends if they wanted to go see it… I’d be equally fine grabbing it from the red box when it comes out for rent. In fact that’s probably when I’m going to do for the kids – they’re not going to miss anything watching on the in fact that’s probably what I’m going to do for the kids – they’re not gonna miss anything watching it on the TV instead of a movie screen. It’s a solid film, and definitely strong enough to warrant a couple of sequels – after all, the objective of the movie was to reboot the series and they’ve mostly done this in their own unique fashion.
Tomb Raider arrives in theaters March 16th.
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