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Review: Tomb Raider

It’s been 15 years since we last saw a version of Lara Croft on the big screen with The Cradle of Life but now Square Enix and WB have teamed up to adapt the excellent reboot series of games, specifically 2013’s Tomb Raider.

Alicia Vikander steps into the shoes of Lara, who at the start of the film has refused to acceptance her inheritance after her father disappeared seven years ago but she finally decides it’s time to move on and goes to sign legal documents declaring him legally dead and she’s given a puzzle box, which leads to the family tomb and a secret room where a video of Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West) reveals his secret obsession with finding an island called Yamatai, and the ancient “Death Queen” Himiko, who was sealed away on the island.  Lara heads off to find the island and discover what happened to her father, chartering a boat from drunken boat captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), whose father brought Richard Croft to Yamatai and disappeared with him. After a vicious storm shipwrecks them, Lara and Lu Ren discover there is a group on the island also trying to find the tomb, led by the unhinged Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins). The plot of the movie is much simplified from the game, which granted was like 30 hours of story compared to two, but it may be too simple. All the characters, even Lara, are just the most baseline archetype with no real development or details outside of the bare-bones introductions for each and the plot moves forward in an extremely straight forward way that is Adventure Movie 101, with twists that you could almost predict the exact dialogue for and it specifically rips off (or more generously pays homage) to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, to the point where I was expecting  “only the penitent man shall pass” would be a major plot point. The actors all do a good job filling out the thin characters and Vikander in particular does a great job of nailing the essence of reboot Lara, who is inexperienced and scared at times but also incredibly strong-willed and able to endure through all kinds of challenges. Whether shooting a bow or falling through trees, Vikander really sells everything physically and you also believe she can do everything she’s doing as well. Walton Goggins is incapable of not being awesome but he does feel like he’s being restrained by both the movie’s rating and the writing, he doesn’t get to use his oily charm or his masterful use of the f-bomb and was a bit of disappointment. Daniel Wu is fine and charming as Lu Ren but basically has nothing to do and he doesn’t even get to use his martial arts prowess that is on display in his AMC show Into the Badlands.

One thing the movie does capture directly from the games is the action.  Lara gets put through the wringer just like in both of the new games, both when she’s fighting the villains and trying to survive insane falls and environmental hazards and the movie really nails the same vibe for those sequences as the games.  There’s a stealth sequence as Lara sneaks through the Trinity camp and a big shootout where Lara is taking out mercenaries with a bow and you can easily picture the way that would play in the games. The big tomb raiding climax is also pretty great and fun, with all the traps and puzzles you would want and a more realistic take on Himiko than the crazy ghost battle at the end of 2013’s Tomb Raider game.

Tomb Raider is a decent action/adventure but nothing spectacular or, pun intended, game changing.  Alicia Vikander is a great Lara though and hopefully she’ll get another shot if they decide to turn Rise of the Tomb Raider into a movie as well.

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