‘Tomb Raider’ – Alicia Vikander brings punch to the new Lara Croft
In general, video game films are something most people dread going to watch: and with good reason. At their best, we have something moderately tolerable like ‘Assassin’s Creed’, and at their worst we have the dismal ‘Street Fighter’ and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s ear-scrapping dialogue. In between these two standards are plenty of unpleasant and downright disappointing – films we all want to forget or already have.
There was a great level of trepidation leading up to the release of the new ‘Tomb Raider’, in part because of the video game genre’s reputation, but predominantly because Lara Croft is one of the most highly regarded gaming characters of all time. This is not the first time Croft has been brought to life on the big screen. Famously, Angelina Jolie starred in two films in 2001 and 2004. Both instalments were, politely phrased, complete and utter bilge. The films were more concerned with slow-motion shots of Jolie’s chest and rear-end in tight lycra. During all of the preposterously uninspiring action sequences, Jolie looked less like an adventuress and more like she’d just finished filming a particularly raunchy Saint Laurent advert. They were classic examples of early 2000’s vacuous tripe.
‘Tomb Raider’ didn’t have a great deal to live up to next to other movies, especially Jolie’s. However, in an era where representing female protagonists appropriately is more important than ever before, it had a lot more to get right. The great thing is that Vikander fans and the general film-going public will truly be thrilled with the result. Vikander embodies the Croft that rightly represents this generation, clearly inspired by the rebooted version of the video game franchise in 2013.
The Croft we meet at the beginning of the film is rebellious, clever, and tough, all the traits that define the character. But what the film does so well is show that she is not some invincible superhero from the get go. When she is thrust into life-threatening situations she is initially out of her depth and very nearly killed. By the second half of the film, after being beaten, half-killed and captured we finally get the Croft that we are familiar with from the games, but this works well since it gives her some credibility as a person that was seriously lacking in other movies. Vikander is no stranger to this type of role; having played CIA agent Heather Lee in 2016’s ‘Jason Bourne’, she brings even more charisma to the tough persona of Lara Croft.
The rest of the film however, whilst not being anywhere near to the disaster of other video game films, rarely rises above basic functionality. The plot is nice and simple with a little bit of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ thrown in for good measure, and the effects are believable for the most part, relying little on CGI and more on practical effects. The soundtrack at times has some rousing moments, particularly during the last act of the film.
The rest of the cast give perfectly engaging performances, most significantly Dominic West as Lara’s estranged father. Stage titan Derek Jacobi and Kristen Scott-Thomas appear for a few minutes in little more than extended cameo parts. Whilst being somewhat pointless it’s still nice to see. The film however is ultimately carried by Vikander, and thankfully we are never far away from her during the film so there is no chance of losing interest.
The best video-game adaptation to date (although not saying much). The film is
A fairly pedestrian affair, but is elevated to solid entertainment by Alicia Vikander’s excellent portrayal of a gaming legend.