March 15, 2018

Tomb Raider

On a wing and a prayer ...

Grade: C +
Director: Roar Uthaug
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, and Kristin Scott Thomas
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr. 58 min.

A reboot of an adaptation of a video game, Tomb Raider dials down the objectification in the Angelina Jolie-starring Lara Croft flicks. Yet just like Jolie, Alicia Vikander’s grab at the Lara Croft payday comes the year after winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Vikander carries the chops and physique of an action star, and this reprise strips away the irksome kitsch of the Jolie films. But nothing of substance fills the void, and what’s left is a derivative, wayward bore that’s less Lara Croft and more Indiana Jane.

We first encounter Croft (Vikander) getting put to sleep during a mixed-martial arts sparring match, apt foreshadowing for several reasons. Four years since her archaeologist father Richard (Dominic West) disappeared, Croft isn’t ready to sign the papers declaring his death. Richard left bread crumbs leading to his secret basement of research, just so he can urge his daughter to torch the material. Sensing a mysterious box labeled “Himiko” might unlock answers about her dad’s fate, she dives into his diary and sets sail with drunken Hong Kong sea captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), bound for a mysterious island. Shipwrecked, both are captured by Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins), a dastardly digger with plans to unlock the dangers inside the grave of an ancient shaman queen.

So much of Tomb Raider comprises Croft lacking the agency of an action heroine, regularly being on the receiving end of the machinations of men. She’s conscripted into service by Vogel, escapes thanks to Lu Ren, and stumbles onto her signature archery set thanks to dad and some onetime childhood deportment. Things happen, but rarely due to Croft’s will or ingenuity. She’s repeatedly battered and bedeviled, yet the only thing that conspicuously escapes much bruising is Vikander’s visage.

Her escape into the tropical forest, assault on Vogel’s encampment, and descent into Himiko’s tomb play like graduating levels of the source video game, with Croft as the avatar. Even Croft’s welcome wiseacre personality at the beginning of the film is swallowed by the plodding plot. All of Vikander’s spunk isn’t enough to invigorate the musty movie tropes or compensate for cringeworthy lines like, “You messed with the wrong family!”

It’s a pity coming from Norwegian director Roar Uthaug, making his English-language debut following the critical and box office success of his 2015 catastrophe drama The Wave. As it is, this Tomb Raider only succeeds at generic genre grave-robbing.