In a fresh reboot and based on the 2013 game, Academy Award Winner Alicia Vikander takes on the role of Lara Croft in the simply titled Tomb Raider. Directed by Roar Uthaug, the new addition to the franchise tackles the origin of the heroine and was initially released on March 6, 2018.
With 2018 providing a host of momentous blockbusters, Tomb Raider will undoubtedly be pushed to the back of the pack, but that does not mean it is not significant. We recently discussed the original Lara Croft: Tomb Raider on the podcast, and it was clear from the start of our discussion that a mature, serious reboot was necessary. Of course, because it is a game adaptation, it will suffer from a critical standpoint; I’ve seen reviews that have not given it a chance at all, and I’ve also seen one, in particular, that is so distasteful and obnoxiously misogynistic that it made me seriously rethink the importance of critics when it comes to films.
Ignore the miserable, sniffy and sexist reviews. Tomb Raider is not just the best game adaptation to date (which is not really hard when you see what it is up against) but is also an accomplished reboot.
There is a detailed effort to allow the character to matter. Tomb Raider does not just give in inventive action scenes; Lara Croft is engaging enough to make audiences want to understand her. Playing out aspects of her origin, the first scene reveals her training in mixed martial arts. She looks in good shape to fight, so you immediately understand why she has the capability of taking on juiced-up, muscly men. There is also a striking emotional connection with her father, who is believed to be dead, but she will not accept the inheritance money. This is a Lara Croft worth caring about; a rawer version who shows personality and surrounds herself with normal working people, which is much more relatable than Angelina Jolie’s version, that comes out with mostly punchlines and starts her journey in the grand mansion. Tomb Raider wants to be a viable coming-of-age story that shows a valued character arc. It’s made the origin interesting.
The general plot is familiar. Her father has left behind clues for years, buried within his will. The tomb this time belongs to Himiko, the mythical Queen of Yamatai, who has the power to command life or death. Her father believes that if the wrong people find the tomb, it will be the end of the world as we know it. Lara cares more about finding out if her dad is alive and stubbornly ventures out to sea. The story surrounding the tomb is not difficult to comprehend and it is detailed lightly enough for it not to become gibberish nonsense. Tomb Raider manages to make the danger of the mission seem less important than the emotional intention of Lara. It also helps that there is a villain who understands his own logic and each and every supporting role seems to really embrace what this movie is meant to be about. There is no “picking up a pay cheque” type of performance here.
Of course, this is based on the 2013 video game, which I confess I have never played. I would argue that it doesn’t really matter. Tomb Raider does not make you feel ousted by the fact you haven’t picked up the controller, unlike Warcraft: The Beginning. At the same time, you can sense which scenes are a demonstration of the gameplay or a particular objective of the game. Somehow Tomb Raider manages to make those scenes that represent the game feel important. They are not just placed in to remind the audience of where this story comes from. More importantly, the action forms part of the progression, as Lara overcomes several life-threatening obstacles that show the true nature of her physical strength. Director Roar Uthaug has achieved a fine balance between story and adaptation of the game, and he should be applauded for that.
It comes as no surprise that the core strength of the film is Alicia Vikander; her acting depth is remarkable. Despite sniffy critics believing she has reinvented Lara Croft, I would argue that is not entirely true. She still has an element of wit, sense of humor and a little arrogance – the difference is that it’s a meaningful performance and not sexualized because her character serves more of a purpose than just pleasing sweaty gamers. She is of course still attractive, but that is beside the point. Vikander’s ability to own the screen, despite being in an action blockbuster, elevates the film from just a game adaptation to a film to be remembered.
I have no doubt in my mind that some critics will bypass this as just another run-of-the-mill game adaptation. Others will dislike it because they believe Lara Croft should have pointy t**s with no personality, playing out their gaming fantasy. If the problem is the latter, then we are okay, because that notion is ridiculous. Ignore the redundant Rotten Tomatoes and give this film a chance. Alicia Vikander has breathed life into Lara Croft, overshadowing its predecessor to the forgotten history books. Hopefully, Tomb Raider has made enough box office profits to convince the executives to make a trilogy. I would not grumble.