Thu, 29 Mar 2018
Tomb Raider (12A)
Running time 1hr 48min
QUITE unlike comic book movies, video game adaptations have never truly overcome their squalid, childish reputation – critics just aren’t taking them seriously, though they have proventhemselves more than capable of racking up a buck or two at the box office. Frustratingly, this new Tomb Raider film is little different. Many things could be said about it – certainly, it shows a marked improvement as it races towards its conclusion, with a pair of breakneck action sequences taking the cake, but I never quite got past the overwhelming sense of déjà vu hanging over the whole production.
Like 2001’s Tomb Raider, it’s a highly-indulgent, very flimsy picture carried, above all, by an affably tenacious lead performance (in the latter case by Angelina Jolie, here by Alicia Vikander). Despite being greenlit in the incendiary age of #MeToo, it has little to say about the state of gender politics, save for Vikander sliding seamlessly into the role of Lara Croft; a sequel treatment may yet redeem it (in fact, the whole thing seems to be setting itself up for just that, packed as it is with family intrigue and passing-down-the-generational-baton nonsense), but it remains, for the meanwhile, a woefully forgettable experience, rarely coming into its own.
Wisely seeking a break from its troublesome predecessor, Tomb Raider sets out to relate Lara Croft’s origin story – that is, how a spirited yet principled young aristo came to be the globetrotting adrenalin junkie of PlayStation fame. Early on, we get a taste of Lara’s kick-assery in a race through London’s streets; she’s working as a bike courier while keeping up a sideline in athletic training and mourning her father, the ‘great’ Richard Croft (Dominic West), presumed dead after going missing in a Japanese archaeological dig-gone-awry. So devoted is she to the old man’s memory that she refuses to sign the forms that will allow her to claim her vast inheritance, believing him to still be alive. Besides raising all manner of plot issues, the constant hankering for Daddy feels more than a little lacklustre, even as director Roar Uthaug has Lara hammer a punchbag to kingdom come. Indeed, Vikander demonstrates great flair in playing Croft as a sympathetic heroine with a strong, lethal streak – like Gal Gadot’s Wonderwoman, we believe in her, even though everyone around her seems to have been led terribly astray (including West, who offers up a shocking performance).
Luckily, progressive Hollywood has made itself felt in other ways – unlike the video games (and, indeed, the Jolie movie), Tomb Raider passes on every opportunity to squeeze Lara into slinky wetsuits, yet it’s almost certainly premature to dub this
incarnation of the character a feminist reappropriation of the franchise’s shoddy past. Once Lara sets out on her quest to find the lost Lord (aided by Daniel Wu’s intriguing half-baked seafarer), it substitutes character development entirely for a flurry of hollow, competently-filmed action set pieces. There’s no shortage of brawn and drama here, but Tomb Raider makes for an ultimately exhausting watch, packing a few too many thrills into its runtime – it’s at its best, in fact, when it slows down a little to explain what the hell’s going on. Not one for the intellectuals (and certainly not faint of heart), though others might get a few kicks out of it.