It doesn’t feel all that long ago since Alicia Vikander was announced to play the iconic role of Lara Croft in a new ‘Tomb Raider’ reboot and now here she is! It was only a matter of time before a reboot was inevitably made with it being 15 years since Angelina Jolie wielded Lara’s iconic dual pistols and went on the hunt for ancient artifacts. Jolie played Lara twice in ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ back in 2001, and then again it it’s sequel ‘Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life’ 2 years later. Whilst it’s considered Jolie’s breakthrough role, the films themselves are pretty forgettable and I think now is the perfect time to for Lara’s return to the big screen (for many reasons).
Following the disappearance of her father, Richard Croft, seven years ago, Lara has since refused to believe he is dead and rather than claim her inheritance by signing a document acknowledging his death, she opts for a carefree approach to life whilst looking for new ways to give herself a rush. After years of trying, Richard’s business partner manages to persuade Lara that claiming her inheritance and his business is the right thing to do for her family – but before she signs the document she discovers her father has left her some clues that lead her to discover the truth about his line of work. This in-turn leads Lara to enlist the aid of drunken sailor Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) to take her to the island of Yamatai, in the heart of the Dead Sea to try and discover what happened to her father. Here she discovers an organisation called ‘Trinity’ are trying to unearth Himiko, the ancient Queen of Yamatai who was said to bring death to whoever she touches.
Alicia Vikander put absolutely everything she has into this role and it really does show. Her athleticism and determination to perform the majority of stunts herself really paid off in the final product, making them believable feats and a visual treat for the eyes. I was always on board with Vikander portraying Lara from the moment it was announced, she completely encapsulates young Lara’s naivety in the beginning but also absolutely kills it when the action kicks in. Walton Goggins is Mathia Vogel, a head lackey for Trinity who has spent seven years on the island looking for Himiko’s tomb. Vogel can’t leave the island until he is successful, so his exhaustion and rage make him a rather unpredictable villain, and it’s easy to see that these are merely masking Vogel’s utter desperation to return home at whatever cost.
Daniel Wu’s Lu Ren got less screen-time than I was expecting, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The trailers gave off the impression he would be kind of sidekick to Lara on the island, which he was but in a very small way. The plot only dips its toe into Ren’s backstory, which felt like just the right amount. The focus wasn’t pulled from Lara or her quest to find out what happened to her dad, but we did learn enough about Ren to buy his character and his new relationship with Lara.
From the the moment this film was announced, Warner Bros. made no secret of this film would loosely be based on the 2013 ‘Tomb Raider’ reboot game that had been a huge hit with gamers. Obviously, this news went down a treat with fans and I think it’s fair to say that this is easily one of the best video game adaptations to make it to the big screen, but that might not be saying much given the poor attempts we’ve witnessed in the past. Some of the action sequences and shots feel like they were ripped right out of the game, as does Lara when she sports her bow and arrow in her ripped tank top and combat trousers. Square Enix’s close involvement with the film has obviously been of great benefit to the end result and is likely a huge factor in why it works so well.
I feel like the marketing for this film may put a lot of people off. From the lacklustre posters, to the trailers with (what I now know are) over exaggerated grunts from Lara (which sparked a lot of conversation online), it’s like Warner Bros. didn’t want to get people excited for Lara’s big return. Don’t let their apparent lack of enthusiasm or faith put you off from paying a visit to your local cinema to see this film.
As an origin story I expected it to be played a little safe, which it was, but it’s understandable given it’s Lara Croft’s story. It’s one that needs to be told in order for her sequels to go bigger and better(should we be lucky enough one gets greenlit by Warner Bros) and for her character development. Origin stories almost always struggle to nail that perfect balance between giving the audience what it really wants and avoiding relying heavily on flashbacks – Geneva Robertson-Dwore and Alastair Sddon, who both penned the screenplay, make a fair attempt at striking this balance but the start of the film is quite slow in comparison to what comes in the second and third acts, but there is never a dull moment.
It’d be criminal if a sequel wasn’t to happen because future stories wouldn’t need to be slowed down by a backstory on Lara’s father, we can entirely focus on Lara as she sets out on this new path of stopping Trinity and we can watch her grow and become the iconic Tomb Raider that many of us grew up knowing and playing in her video games. With the game franchise’s continued success, and a third one on the way, there’s huge potential for a film franchise if the studios continue to work closely with Square Enix. Whilst I was quite skeptic of the fairly unknown Roar Uthaug being in the director’s chair for such a potentially huge film, he did a more than respectable job with this film and I’d be all for him returning for a sequel, should that be the decision of the studios.
It’s a visually compelling, albeit slow starting, origin story for Lara that shows a lot of promise her future adventures. Accompanied by a sublime score from Junkie XL that really elevates some of the action sequences, this compelling adaptation is an applause worthy success in my eyes and I highly recommend putting any reservations you have about the film to one side and support it whilst it’s in cinemas.
Directed By: Roar Uthaug
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Walter Goggins, Daniel Wu, Dominic West, Kristin Scott Thomas