Lara Croft is back, doing what she does best, in this reboot helmed by Norwegian director Roar Uthaug and written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons.
This time out, Academy Award-winning actress Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) stars as the iconic video-game heroine, with Dominic West (The Wire) in the role of her missing father, Lord Richard Croft. When Lara discovers unexpected clues related to her father’s disappearance seven years before, she vows to search for him. Her journey to retrace his footsteps and learn exactly what happened to him causes her to cross paths with Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins of Justified). Vogel leads a team of mercenaries and slaves on a quest to find the very thing that Lord Croft had been searching for: the prison-grave of Japanese Empress Himiko.
The story isn’t as thin as one would presume from a video-game adaptation written by two novice scribes. This is not to say that the plot is particularly complex, but it is more substantial than expected. Instead of feeling like a series of cutscenes interspersed with action, the story has a cohesiveness to it that goes beyond what many similar projects have attempted to accomplish. There seems to have been an effort to embrace the feel of the games rather than spurn it, and it works to the film’s benefit.
The cinematography follows suit, particularly in the numerous action scenes. A movie like this should have edge-of-your-seat action sequences, and it succeeds at this aspect as well as any film to date. Even Lara herself seems incredulous at how far over-the-top they go.
With the exception of the lead, the script does fall a bit short when it comes to fleshing out the characters. This could have been intentional; after all, Lara <I>is</I> the Tomb Raider of the title, and video games aren’t typically known for their character development. But the two-dimensional nature of Lord Croft, Vogel, and Lu Ren (Daniel Wu of Warcraft) makes it difficult to have an emotional connection to any of these individuals. Oddly, there is a little more depth present in the part of Max (Nick Frost of Shaun of the Dead) than the actual male leads.
Alicia Vikander is a marvelous pick for Lara, both in appearance and larger-than-life presence. It’s unfortunate, however, that she is the only female character of any consequence. Even Vogel’s forces consist exclusively of large, gun-toting yes-men whose only duty is to exude testosterone and bullets.
Like most action/adventure flicks, characterization takes a backseat here to the classic story of good people stopping bad people in their power-hungry quest for something ancient and sinister. Raiders of the Lost Ark set the bar for the modern-era versions of this tale, and Tomb Raider does not disappoint in carrying on the tradition.
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