It’s been 17 years since the original Tomb Raider movie came out, and its star Angelina Jolie, as iconic video-game character Lara Croft, cemented her status in A-list territory with her performance.
Croft is arguably the biggest female video-game character ever, and she’s a no-nonsense, brilliant fighter, an action heroine who doesn’t need any input from a man. Jolie, at the time, perfectly encapsulated Croft’s persona, and had that air of badassery necessary to play her.
The 2018 version of Tomb Raider — especially its iteration of Croft — is toothless by comparison, though it makes strides in different areas, congruent with our current societal realities. (More on that later.) Swedish actor and Oscar winner Alicia Vikander takes on Croft this time around, and while there’s no questioning her acting chops, she seems adrift in this action movie.
The plot echoes the original, with bits lifted from Indiana Jones and even childhood favourites The Goonies and The NeverEnding Story. Basically, Croft is looking for direction in life and is still pining over (and obsessed about) her father’s mysterious disappearance. Shortly after she’s requested to sign some documents confirming her father’s death, she’s off on an adventure to explore his last known whereabouts.
The trailer seems pretty action-packed. Is that something we can expect?
This movie has several action-packed scenes: one is a frenetic bicycle chase, another is a foot chase through a marina, and then, once Croft reaches her target destination, there’s some more gunplay and jungle chases. While the scenes are engaging due to their inherent fast-paced nature, it feels like something is missing. There is absolutely no fear of Croft dying, so immediately some of the heft is lost.
When the untouchable Croft finally reaches her target tomb — which doesn’t happen until about three-quarters of the way through the movie — it feels like a rehash of other films we’ve seen before. Filled with booby traps, puzzles and spooky skeletons, Croft must solve and defeat them all to survive and move forward in the tomb. There are one or two pulse-raising moments once we’re inside, but for the most part, it’s business as usual.
And even though the action is predictable, it’s far better than the dialogue, which is stilted and sometimes painful. The repetition of “it’s been seven years” (the time since Croft’s father disappeared) and “Sprout” (her father’s nickname for her) happens so frequently it’s laughable.
What’s this version of Lara Croft like?
There’s a lot to like about this version of Croft. While she doesn’t possess Jolie’s je-ne-sais-quoi, she’s light years ahead in certain ways. This time around, she’s not sexualized. There’s no boob enhancement (in the first version, Jolie’s already ample bosom was “padded” to look even bigger), with a strong focus instead on Vikander’s abs, which are spectacular and envy-inducing.
Vikander’s Croft doesn’t seem that interested in romance, so we don’t have to be bogged down with that unnecessary storyline, either. It’s also cool to see a Croft that’s petite (a.k.a. someone you might underestimate), but still able to completely dominate foes much larger than her. One of the big downsides to this version of Croft is her reliance on others and her boneheaded moves, of which there are many. Jolie’s Croft was fiercely independent and was self-reliant about everything, and she rarely (if ever) failed.
Without tons of help along the way — from her MIA father, a man she meets on the trip, random strangers — this Croft would have been lost before she even heads out on her journey.
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You mentioned “current social realities.” What do you mean?
2018 is a very different time. It’s practically a wonderment to see a female action hero not have to engage in a romantic relationship or struggle for a man’s affection. While there are some suggestive looks and the like from men around her, there are no kisses, no longing stares, no time wasted on establishing that connection. The closest she gets to it is Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), the man she meets, and the fact that we’re seeing an Asian semi-love interest is a feat in itself.
It’s a shame that Croft’s successes mostly come from things men have taught her or given her, and she’s saved by men too often to really say she did it all herself. If only this Tomb Raider had gone that one step further: aside from a small role played by Kristin Scott Thomas, there are virtually no other women in the movie, unless you count the “evil” corpse in the tomb. But a woman who’s been dead for centuries doesn’t really count as a female character, sorry.
So what’s the bottom line?
If blindly watching action is your thing, you’ll enjoy this version of Tomb Raider. It undoubtedly has enough fast-paced action to keep you paying attention, though it gets harder to care as the two-hour runtime goes on. Vikander does her best to deliver, but unfortunately, this ends up being a bland affair peppered with action scenes.
‘Tomb Raider’ is now playing in theatres across Canada.