This is a ret con of the incredibly popular franchise that is giving us what is basically an origin story of the the Tomb Raider character Lara Croft. Now I’m no gamer, but from what I can gather, this screenplay seems based on the 2013 game, also a relaunch, and follows a similar story. Luckily as a casual viewer you need no former knowledge of anything that has happened in the game, or indeed in previous movies.
The story itself though is where some of the films problems lie. Lara, played admirably by Alicia Vikander, is introduced to us as a no nonsense type of gal, she seems to enjoy MMA at her local gym, where she fails to pay her membership, and is a bike delivery driver that is popular with her work mates and up for a laugh. She refuses to sign the paperwork, although when we catch up with her she is all set to do the deed that will allow her access to her missing father’s inheritance and circumstances then lead her to solve a puzzle that sets her on the journey to find where he has gone and why.
It’s all standard fare so far, and although Vikander is truly engaging, we have seen this all before.
Lara starts her adventure and things go pretty much as you would expect them. Following a paper trail left behind by her mysterious dad, we find ourselves setting sail for the pound shop Skull Island and the search for supernatural deity Himiko, and her cursed tomb.
Now along with the cliched story, we do get an awful lot of bad script, and when you have a screenplay that essentially has a handful of characters, that also gets a little weary. Flashbacks provide us with nothing but exposition, as do most of the supporting cast. We are told everything we need to know in info dumps of conversation, probably a hangover from the game itself.
Lara does exactly what she has to do, her side kick Lu Ren gets her to the island, then gets shot and captured, just like side kicks should, the villain Vogel leers menacingly into the middle distance whenever he can, and although the opportunity for Lara to kill him often arises, she somehow never takes the shot and when her dad finally does show up, he never actually does much till his inevitable demise in the last reel.
The scenes on the island have their moments. Lara escapes certain death by waterfall by latching onto a rusted old plane that has crashed in the water then climbs through the planes rotting husk before it falls apart leaving her in free fall, but everything in the setting just looks dull and uninspired. There are also moments of CGI that I can’t make my mind up about. In certain shots, particularly when Lara is running through the jungle, it looks almost like game play and I wonder if that was the desired effect or just rushed effects. Perhaps I should have seen it in 3D, but the color palette is also just so plain, that by the time we get to the tomb of Himeko, we are desperate for a Raiders style resolution, just so there’s something nice to see on the screen.
Of course there are many Raiders style moments in the final reel, but we know Lara survives, and unfortunately we are never that invested in anyone else to care what happens to them. The Skaro style workforce on the island have no back story so when they are getting bumped off, so it’s literally just a case of who cares?
There’s a twist of sorts at the end of the whole affair that you probably wont see coming if you were nodding off in the first reel, and by the end of the whole ordeal, we get to see a more recognizable Lara who has been molded by the events of her first adventure. I have a feeling that the sequel will be more in line with what i expected from this film. However, despite Vikander doing everything she could with what she was given, this felt diluted and bland. I do understand what they were trying to do, and I imagine with so much at stake making this feature, there were a lot of decisions that were agonized over during the edit, but I left the theater thinking it could have been better.
Go and see this film if you are a fan of the franchise, or just old fashioned adventure films in general and wait for the sequel that will surely hit the ground running.