More Culture:

March 14, 2018

'Tomb Raider' gives us a lethargic Lara Croft

Movie review: New film portrays a heroine lacking in swagger, sex appeal and spine

With the new "Tomb Raider" film hitting theaters this weekend, it is worth remembering just how significant a character Lara Croft has become to the culture.

First, she is easily the most popular action-oriented female video game character of all time.

Second, her first comic book was the top-selling comic book of 1998, due to sales at non-traditional places like Tower Records (Yes, that long ago).

So, when Angelina Jolie first brought the character to cinematic live-action life with "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" back in 2001, fans responded. That film's $131 million domestic box-office haul is still the most any movie based on a video game has made domestically, even after 17 years of ticket-price increases. The film currently ranks 11th on the all-time list of films starring female action heroines, having been pushed down he list the past decade by mega-hits like "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," "Rogue One," "Wonder Woman" and four "Hunger Games" films.

However, that film was pretty bad, which affected the performance of its sequel – and we never got "Tomb Raider 3" with Jolie.

All of which is to emphasize that Alicia Vikander has some pretty big shoes to film in the reboot, simply titled "Tomb Raider," coming out this weekend.

Does she? Not so much.

The story of "Tomb Raider" is actually decent. It's an all-new origin story that not only takes audiences into Lara Croft's very first adventure, but tries to take us into the heart and mind of the character as she tries to find her place in the world and tries to connect her future with her past.

Emphasis on "tries."

"Tomb Raider" is the kind of movie in which our heroine, played by Vikander, refuses to accept her wealth and works as a bike courier to make the rent – and then has to race so she can show how rebellious she is.

It's the kind of movie that shows her training in mixed martial arts just long enough for us to see a move she can't get out of, which will inevitably play a role later.

It's the kind of movie in which she searches for her long lost, presumably dead father, and then makes a shocking discovery – which will shock no one who has ever seen a movie before.

The kind of story in which something that can supposedly infect and kill all life on Earth is touched by one of the main characters – and nothing happens to them.

The film's story is pretty simple. Croft refuses to take the reins of her father's global empire at 21, even after her father has been missing seven years, because she rejects the idea that he's truly gone.

So she leaves everything behind to go to her father's last known destination, in Japan, to find a fabled tomb – and goes against natural and supernatural elements. These include a villain named Vogel, who is trapped on the island, unless Lara can lead him to the mysterious tomb.

Except for Croft and the "surprise" character, Vogel is the only other character that gets significant screen time. This becomes a problem, simply because the characters are not strong enough to justify it. Even after being led to the tomb, Vogel has numerous opportunities to kill Croft and never does. Seeing as how she is the only one who can stop his plans, this makes not one lick of sense.

As for Vikander's Croft, the screenwriters and the video game's 2013 reboot – on which they based the script – did her no favors. She is game for a rollicking adventure, but every time it seems to be headed that way, she emotes about her dad.

Toss in the fact that we don't see Croft's trademark bow and arrow until late – or the guns Jolie used with such relish, at all (until the after-credits) – and this film is one big disappointment.

Some decent action sequences are all that save it from being a dud.

Sadly, we get a look at what could have been in the after-credits scene, where Croft, finally brandishes her trademark guns and confident swagger.

If only she had those qualities for the whole movie.

Grade: C+

(Editor's Note: This review previously made references to Vikander's appearance in comparison to Angelina Jolie. After consideration, we have removed that mention.)