Directed by Roar Uthaug
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and for some language
1 hr. 58 mins.
Tell me you didn’t see this coming: Another young actress goes action hero. Think Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson, Gal Gadot. Now it’s Academy Award-winner Alicia Vikander’s turn. She stars as the high-flying Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.
Tomb Raider has a long history. It started as a video game in 1996 that went on to become highly successful. The game launched Tomb Raider the film series in 2001 starring Angelina Jolie. Now the flick has a second incarnation. Why, you ask? Why not, if it’s a hit? No other reason is needed.
Lara Croft (Vikander) is suffering over the disappearance seven years ago of her father, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West). She could be feasting off his fortune. Instead she works as a bike courier and tries her luck at boxing. Not a promising career. Her coach wants her to quit. He also wants her to pay him.
Croft’s aunt, Ana Miller (Kristin Scott Thomas), begs her to give up looking for her father and settle into a privileged existence. Sign the estate papers. Redecorate the house. Go buy a dress.
Instead, Croft discovers a secret hideout in her father’s house with clues about where he has gone. Something about a remote Japanese island named Yamatai and a tomb for a queen witch called Himiko, who it is rumored can command power over life and death. In a video, Croft’s father tells her to destroy all his research on Himiko. Too dangerous, he says. But does Croft listen? Nay.
Instead she hocks her favorite jade necklace for cash and takes off for Hong Kong. There she hires a boat captain named Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) to take her to Yamatai in the notorious Devil’s Sea. Of course they are shipwrecked on the island. Even worse, it turns out that Croft is not the only one looking for her father, or for the queen’s tomb.
The story in this film is about as silly as monkeys on a trampoline, but if you know that going in, there’s other stuff that can be fun.
And there is. Vikander is very athletic, but she plays the role of Croft with enough frailty to give the viewer a rooting interest. She groans. She hurts. She cries.
Tomb Raider is at its best when the action is flowing. Norwegian Director Roar Uthaug, whose previous films include The Wave (2015) and Escape (2012), makes the film nimble in its stunts and action sequences. When the story slows to provide drama, however, it’s more like watching lines on the highway between destinations. You’re just counting down until the next action sequence.
To be sure, the film has a formidable cast, including a fleet-footed Vikander, a dramatically bearded West, and my favorite bad guy, Walton Goggins, whose performance as Boyd Crowder in the TV series Justified is a perfectly gleeful vision of hellfire.
Yet, what can be done when the script says to run here, jump there, fire gun, throw fist, cut? It’s a waste of talent. The actors are not getting paid to act. They’re part of the reactionary scenery of this film. Shoot. Kill. Repeat.
Is this fun? Well, yeah, in parts. Croft being chased on a bike through London. Croft hanging onto a rusty plane, high in the air, by her fingernails. Croft searching for the right key to a door as the floor disappears beneath her feet. There are some good moments, but you understand from the beginning what this film is about: Adventure served breezily on a platter.
If that’s your preference, you won’t be disappointed. Unfortunately, for the rest of Vikander’s fans, it means she’ll probably be preoccupied with more Croft tales, and we’ll just have to wait it out as she follows the money. One can only hope that eventually she’ll return to the good stuff.