It seems somewhat appropriate that the new Lara Croft is played by an actress best known for starring in a (very good) movie about artificial intelligence because the latest Tomb Raider film is so generic that it feels as if it could have been written by a robot.
Now, before I get too critical,I should acknowledge that the first 30 minutes of the film is actually a lot of fun. When we first meet Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander), she’s making her living a bike courier in London. She delivers food to the hungry, except for when she’s boxing or engaging in bicycle races. Despite the fact that she comes from a fabulously wealthy family, Lara refuses to accept her inheritance because accepting it would mean acknowledging that her missing father, explorer Richard Croft (Dominic West), is dead. For those 30 minutes, the film has a fun, kinetic feel to it. As I watched those scenes, I realized that I’d actually be more than happy to watch a full-length film just about people racing around London on bicycles.
(Of course, there’d have to be some dancing, too. There always has to be dancing.)
But then Kristin Scott-Thomas shows up and informs Lara that, unless she claims her inheritance, Andrew’s estate will be sold off. At this point, the whole film starts to go downhill. Naturally, before signing the papers that would declare Andrew to be deceased, Lara stumbles across one final message from her father. In the message, he asks her to destroy all of his research. Instead, Lara decides to go to Hong Kong so that she can investigate her father’s disappearance.
(Before she can leave, she has to get money from a pawnbroker who is played, in a rather lengthy cameo, by Nick Frost. Frost mostly seems to be there so that the audience can go, “Hey, it’s Nick Frost!”)
You can probably already guess everything that happens once Lara arrives in Hong Kong. It’s hardly a spoiler to inform you that Richard’s not dead and that he’s spent the last few years on an isolated island, trying to prevent the bad guys from tracking down an ancient tomb, one that Richard believes will destroy the world if it’s discovered. It’s also not a spoiler to tell you that Lara spends a lot of time running through the jungle and trying to escape from collapsing caves. That’s pretty much what you would expect from a movie called Tomb Raider but, even though the film is presumably giving the audience what they want, it just falls flat.
The problem is that, with the exception of those opening scenes in London, this version of Tomb Raider just isn’t much fun. As good an actress as she is, Alicia Vikander never really seems comfortable in the role of being an action girl. Vikander’s great when she’s racing around London and refusing her inheritance but, once she finds herself in the jungle, she just seems lost. In fact, the only person who seems to be more lost than Alicia Vikander is Walton Goggins, who goes through the motion’s as the film’s villain but who never seems to be that invested in the character one way or the other. Among the main cast, only Dominic West appears to be enjoying himself. There’s nothing subtle about West’s performance but that’s exactly what a film like this needs. Director Roar Uthaug is obviously comfortable with directing action scenes but there’s little of the wit or attention to detail necessary for this film to truly make an impression.
It’s not a terrible movie, don’t get me wrong. Though it seems like it takes forever for Lara to actually reach it, the tomb is nicely realized and the film features a great score from Junkie XL. But, ultimately, the most memorable thing about this new Tomb Raider is how forgettable it is.