Movie Review: Lara Croft Jumps Back Into Action in Tomb Raider's Reboot | Arts
Arts
INDY Week's arts blog

Archives | RSS | Follow on

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Movie Review: Lara Croft Jumps Back Into Action in Tomb Raider's Reboot

Posted by on Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 4:14 PM

click to enlarge Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft - PHOTO COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES
  • Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft
Tomb Raider
★★★ ½
Opening Friday, March 16


In 2013, the venerable Tomb Raider video game franchise unveiled its tenth installment in the series, a complete reboot/origin story with a new emphasis on gritty realism and emotional stakes. The new game was clearly designed to retire the persona of the old Lara Croft—a stone-cold fox with cartoonish female proportions—and introduce the new Lara as a likable and vulnerable rookie archaeologist.

It worked. Tomb Raider was one of the best games of 2013, with a storytelling strategy that encouraged players to empathize and identify with young Lara. The back story was solid and the cinematic cut scenes were visceral and gritty. When Lara is forced to kill her first mercenary goon, she actually throws up.

The new Tomb Raider movie, based on that 2013 game, includes a similar scene, and it's a perfect indicator of the film's determination to reinvent the Lara Croft character for the silver screen. As played by the formidable Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), Lara is no longer the sexy, icy killer of the Angelina Jolie movies. She's young and inexperienced; tough and resourceful. She's funny, too, and the filmmakers have a good time playing with the de rigueur video game tropes that longtime franchise fans will appreciate—watch out for those exploding red barrels!

The film follows the basic story of the 2013 game, in which young Lara travels to a remote tropical island to investigate the fate of her father, the famed explorer, played here by Dominic West. Before that, though, we get a series of well-crafted scenes that establish Lara's re-imagined background as a ridiculously fit and slightly punked-out bike messenger. Watch for a nice chase scene in London, and an even nicer chase scene in Hong Kong harbor.

Teaming up with drunken sailor Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), Lara commences to tomb raiding. The standard-issue plot hits all the requisite touchstones: an evil corporate conspiracy, endless gun-toting goons, an ancient curse, and an unhinged villain (Walter Goggins). Norwegian director Roar Uthaug stages several thrilling action sequences, including a fantastic literal cliffhanger concerning a hundred-foot waterfall, a rusted-out airplane, and relentless nature of gravity.

Word is that Vikander performed many of the stunts herself and trained for months to develop Lara's strength and athleticism. It shows. As with the video game, we're encouraged to contemplate the pure physical trauma that Lara endures, what with all the climbing and the falling and the cliffhanging. While we get a lot of lingering images of Vikaner's hard body, there's a conspicuous absence of any attempt to sexualize Lara. That feels like a very deliberate choice, and a good one, considering the character's dubious history as a 1990s nerd-fantasy pinup girl.

In its best moments, most of which come in the film's first half, Tomb Raider is a superior genre specimen, conjuring the thrills and goofy charm of the Indiana Jones movies. (The good ones.) In its weaker elements—including the climax, alas—Tomb Raider is just a B-minus riff on the action-adventure template.

Vikander's winning lead performance makes all the difference. She plays it straight with the script's dramatic elements—there's no winking or condescension. I think that's the more interesting choice. People make fun of video game movies, but the character of Lara Croft is as compelling as any of the heroes we get in these kinds of pulpy serial adventure stories. More than most, actually. Compare Tomb Raider to Tom Cruise and last year's dead-tired reboot of The Mummy, and the choice is clear.

As a studio franchise installment, Tomb Raider is a lot better than it's strictly obligated to be. It's good to see Lara Croft back in action.

Tags: , , , ,

Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Arts



Twitter Activity

Comments

Here's a shout-out to the dancers and musicians of The Bipeds who are not mentioned by name in this article. …

by The Bipeds on Dance Review: The Many Moving Parts of The Bipeds' 54 Strange Words Don't Always Perfectly Mesh. But When They Do, It's Spectacular. (Arts)

Most Read

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

Most Recent Comments

Here's a shout-out to the dancers and musicians of The Bipeds who are not mentioned by name in this article. …

by The Bipeds on Dance Review: The Many Moving Parts of The Bipeds' 54 Strange Words Don't Always Perfectly Mesh. But When They Do, It's Spectacular. (Arts)

You probably want to refrain from using ableist language.

by vidvis on ADF Review: Pilobolus's Crowd-Pleasing Dance Is Apolitical. Unfortunately, the World It Inhabits Is Not. (Arts)

I love stories like this.

by JoeJoey on A Villain Burglarized All Three Ultimate Comics Stores Last Night (Arts)

Mr. Woods must have seen a very different production than the one I saw or perhaps he was having an …

by Amy Ginsburg on Theater Review: Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater's Songs Can't Quite Shine Through a Patchy Production of Spring Awakening (Arts)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation