The Tomb Raider franchise has become a staple in video game history, constantly evolving and changing for better or worse, and it wasn't surprising that it would receive the big screen treatment. The first attempt, which consisted of the original duology starring Angelina Jolie, did well at the box office, but they're rarely brought up as good video game movies and both films got panned hard by critics. But in this reviewer's eyes, they proved to be purely entertaining, guilty pleasure flicks with cool action scenes, fun characters, goofy effects, and charismatic performances, particularly in Angelina Jolie's case. However, it was only a matter of time before the reboot switch would be thrown, and now we have the latest cinematic reimagining of the franchise, this time based on the post-2013 iteration of the character and starring Alicia Vikander in the central role. Does this break the curse and bring video game movies to a whole new level? Well… it's complicated.
Directed by Roar Uthaug, this is an adaptation of the 2013 game whilst also borrowing elements from the 2015 sequel, and just like those games, this is a straight-up origin story for Lara Croft as she goes from an average civilian trying to make her mark in the world to full-on badass by the end. Whereas the original movies with Jolie had the same campy, tongue-in-cheek vibe of the early games, this has the matching dark, gritty atmosphere of the current instalments, where you do feel the pain and battering this Lara goes through, and for the most part, this delivers on that action. Uthaug delivered on the spectacle with his last movie, The Wave, and here see some of that intensity return since the action here feels brutal, energetic and visceral, even if it times it feels a little toned down in terms of bloodletting (this is more of a top-end 12A rating).
But the real true, raw, beating heart of this movie is Alicia Vikander, who helps ground Lara Croft and make her a fully-realised character. It's been evident through Vikander's back catalogue that whenever she's in great films (Ex_Machina, A Royal Affair) or flawed films (Light Between Oceans, Tulip Fever), she always gives her very best, and that is truly evident here both emotionally and physically - her eight-pack will make audiences crumble! In fact, her impeccable physicality helps transcend herself above most action stars and that gives her an edge within this genre, especially considering Vikander was a former dancer.
Not everything is smooth sailing, however, as while the narrative is a solid one, it doesn't feel highly original, which isn't helped by the fact that a lot of it was borrowed from the recent video games. The screenwriters do make changes along the way, and while some changes are inspired, some feel very superfluous to the grand scheme of things. The supporting cast isn't as well-realised as our main protagonist and some of them are put aside with nothing much to add (like Daniel Wu or Kristen Scott Thomas), while some are given brief cameos like the very odd and out-of-place appearances of both Nick Frost and Jaime Winstone. Plus, there are some obvious green-screen effects that are a tad distracting, and certain corny scenes and cringe-worthy lines of dialogue that do feel very off-kilter with the rest of the movie.
Tomb Raider certainly isn't a perfect movie and isn't quite the game-changer for video game films, yet it definitely isn't a bad attempt; sporting impressive action, creative visuals and Vikander’s dynamic performance. However, saying that, the original films have more of a personality than this reboot does. Despite being ridiculously campy, those films relished in that. From the over-the-top action sequences to the awkward effects, to the cheese-riddled dialogue, to the hokey acting, and, of course, Angelina Jolie clearly having a blast in the central role. This is trying to be a gritty-reboot, a faithful adaptation, an action movie, a B-movie and a contemporary movie all at the same time, so it can be too much; resulting in this version having less of an identity. This may be a better, efficient movie, but the original duology will always be more memorable.
TOMB RAIDER / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: ROAR UTHAUG / SCREENPLAY: GENEVA ROBERTSON-DWORET, ALASTAIR SIDDONS / STARRING: ALICIA VIKANDER, DOMINIC WEST, WALTON GOGGINS, DANIEL WU, KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10