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A video game by any other name…
With the Tomb Raider franchise getting the reboot, the results are actually reasonably pleasant as we get a more layered and compelling Lara Croft in spite of their just not being a whole lot of support around her.
Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer who vanished when she was scarcely a teen. Now a young woman of 21 without any real focus or purpose, Lara navigates the chaotic streets of trendy East London as a bike courier, barely making the rent, determined to forge her own way in life as she refuses to take the reins of her father’s global empire just as staunchly as she rejects the idea that he’s truly gone. Advised to finally move forward after seven years without him, even Lara can’t understand what drives her to finally solve the puzzle of his mysterious death. Going explicitly against his final wishes, she leaves everything she knows behind in search of her dad’s last-known destination: a fabled tomb on a mythical island that might be somewhere off the coast of Japan. However her mission will not be an easy one; just reaching the island will be extremely treacherous. Suddenly, the stakes couldn’t be higher for Lara and armed with only her intelligence, blind faith and stubborn spirit, she is forced to learn to push herself beyond her limits not only to save the day but to earn the faith that everyone has in her and truly become worthy of the moniker of ‘Tomb Raider’.
While it’s admittedly pretty heavy on the set pieces and light on character development outside of Lara herself, this Tomb Raider actually feels substantially more humanistic then you’d expect as we see Lara evolve into the large then life female icon that we’ve loved throughout video game and other movie franchises.
Director Roar Uthaug coming off the festival darling disaster epic The Wave has shown in the past that he can handle action set pieces in concert with character drama reasonably well and it continues here as he gets to craft some pretty slick look action set pieces from beginning to end in the film. Granted it would have been nice to see some development taken with some of the supporting players surrounding the Lara character but it doesn’t hinder our ability to get invested in what she’s going though.
Clearly an audition piece of Uthaug here in the Hollywood system as he passes the test of handling a large scale production reasonably well from start to finish resulting in a solid piece of entertainment. Collectively outside of Vikander’s performance, everyone involved in this movie aimed for just above the middle and got there fairly admirably.
Sliding into the title role could seem like a big step for Alicia Vikander as she certainly doesn’t scream the part of being an action icon at first glance but with this evolution of the Lara character needing her to become ‘the action hero’ rather than already be one is why this worked so well. An obviously brilliant actress, the material smartly allowed her to play the role with flaws while still being a brash bad ass throughout. The film is about her learning how to back it all up, and we buy into the ride and the evolution of the character. Sadly most of the other roles in the film are fairly one dimensional, either setting up action for future installments (of which I don’t doubt there will be more of) or they just don’t get anything to work with. Dominic West is gotten to point that he’s basically playing himself just with or without a scowl on his face and only Walt Goggins who could have easily gone over the top with his role as the bad guy was allowed to show some nuance and depth to the people that they brought to the screen.
The picture quality on the 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray was top notch providing that extra oomph of color and sound for the action set pieces and the special features include
At the end of the day, Tomb Raider is a fun action romp worth seeing to soak up all the very well staged set pieces and CGI that while more than a little over done never really got on the nerves of this critic all that much. Its two hours of fun popcorn fare and with a movie based on a video game isn’t that all we really want anyway?