Thursday, March 15, 2018

Tomb Raider

Lara Croft is back. After the pair of financially successful (if pretty dumb) films starring Angelina Jolie in the early 2000s, the most famous video game archaeologist (sorry Mr. Jones) returns to the big screen. Because origin stories are all the rage, the latest Tomb Raider (following in the footsteps of the character's more recent comic adventures) takes Lara back to the beginning to showcase how she became the world's best tomb raider.

Alicia Vikander is a solid choice for a younger version of the character showcasing skills she hasn't yet completely mastered. More grounded, with less emphasis on staging sequences for the sole reason to make her look cool, it's certainly a more dramatic role that Jolie was given. The storyline, while taking a bit long to get going, is also better than either of the previous two movies as this time around Lara goes all Oliver Queen on a lost island where evil mercenaries hope to uncover a dangerous tomb. As an action film based on a video game Tomb Raider is surprisingly successful, even if, at times, certain sequences feel based more on questionable video-game logic than solid writing.

The film's strength is its star. Vikander is a strong enough actress that we can take this version of Lara seriously, even if he plot gets a bit goofy at times. The film's stunts are pretty impressive. And the tomb, while ridiculously over-complicated (and offering more than a few plotholes - how did all those skeletons of previous adventurers get there if the cave was sealed and none of the traps had ever gone off before?) offers some strong sequences. Walton Goggins isn't asked to do much other than be the generic bad guy, but he's threatening enough to pull that off. Dominic West has the harder role as Laura's missing father who hides his true path from his daughter put leaves breadcrumbs after his disappearance to reveal the truth.

While easily being the best Tomb Raider movie (which, up until now, was akin to being the best Nickelback single or Punisher movie), the film isn't without some issues. The extended opening sequence of Lara refusing to take control of the family fortune (yet in possesion of just enough wealth to fund a dangerous adventure halfway around the world to find out what happened to her father) drags on far too long. Thankfully, events pick up after her arrival on the island, and there's enough action in the early scenes that the film never completely bogs down. The closing sequences, meant to fit the film into a larger world at set-up sequels, also drag on a bit. It may serve possible future films, but (like much of the extended opening) feels a bit clunky.

Is Tomb Raider everything I wanted it to be? No, but it does work as a solid action film that exceeded my expectations. Its a definite improvement on a franchise that hasn't produced a single feature film in more than a decade. If Vikander wishes, there's obviously room for her to grow into character over the next few years (although the foreshadowing of shadow conspiracies and secret cults isn't necessarily where I would like to see Lara head next).

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