For the life of me, I simply cannot understand why, oh why, Warner Bros. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures would reboot the Tomb Raider series. Yes, I get the fact that studios have rather limited original ideas these days --- and it's all about the overseas markets which reap massive amounts of money, but seriously --- another adaptation of this ridiculous story based on a video game? However, I was really looking forward to Alicia Vikander playing the main character.
Lara Croft (Vikander --- looking totally buff, as one would expect) spends her days as a bike courier, who can't pay her boxing gym dues. Though she's the only daughter of Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), an uber-wealthy titan of industry, who disappeared seven years earlier, Lara eschews her inheritance. At the behest of Ana Miller (Kristin Scott-Thomas), her guardian and overseer of Lord Croft's business affairs, Lara finally relents, agreeing at least to meet and possibly sign the required documents. While at the family estate, hidden beneath the family crypt, Lara discovers the secrets her father left behind.
Determined to find Richard, Lara travels to Hong Kong in search of the boat captain who was paid to take her dad to a remote island off the coast of Japan. Instead, she locates his son, Lu Ren
(Daniel Wu) --- highly improbable, but hey --- whatever. She convinces him --- read "pays him a lot of money" --- to take her to said island. There they are captured by Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins), who claims he, himself, killed Lara's father years ago. Managing to escape, Lara stumbles upon the answers to her questions regarding her father and the mythical tomb of Himiko, the objective of this adventure.
What is truly astonishing is that director Roar Uthaug, who was afforded the opportunity to work with an amazing cast --- and a crew loaded with incredible talents --- manages to completely screw up "Tomb Raider". The script by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons definitely doesn't help --- it's fairly atrocious, lacking any originality. Even the CGI is off-putting in parts, though I did like the decrepit airplane, which Lara must maneuver, lodged at the top of an impressive waterfall.
Vikander is certainly fun to watch --- did I mention she looks fantastic? But she appears almost too petite, though she is 5'5", to accomplish all that she does. And infusing her character with a little more humor would have helped. None of this is Vikander's fault --- she does a remarkable job with what she's been given. She runs, jumps and fights with a commendable fierceness and total determination. If only the screenplay matched her bravado.
And who doesn't appreciate Goggins --- one of the highlights for me of "Django Unchained" and "The Hateful Eight" (two films I did not admire) --- and West, a master at playing a multitude of characters. Both are so underutilized here, it's a shame. One bright spot is the appearance of Nick Frost as the owner of a pawn shop. Too bad there weren't more of those special asides in "Tomb Raider".
Lastly, Uthaug commits one of the most egregious faults in directing --- allowing too much time to elapse between someone getting shot and their rescue. It's a huge pet peeve --- stop, STOP the grave error of talking an actor to death before actually shooting them, as Vogel does to Lara, then flashing back to the person taking forever to set the dynamite. It's terrible editing, AND even worse writing. Just shoot them already or find another way to save them!
Opinion: Wait for DVD (if you simply must see it)
The heroine in "Tomb Raider" is still Lara Croft, although her name here has been dropped from the title, unlike previous films of this ilk, most notably starring Angelina Jolie in 2001 and 2003. This version features Swedish beauty Alicia Vikander, already an Oscar winner for "The Danish Girl'" (2015), in case you forgot.
"Tomb Raider" is a real cliff hanger --- literally on at least two occasions --- and it's a classic popcorn movie. Despite what Jeanne writes, the film's action sequences make it imminently watchable, and on more than one occasion, my illustrious partner grabbed my arm, and it wasn't because she was being affectionate.
Naysayers may choose to mock how a fragile-appearing young woman manages to overcome bigger foes, but in the opening scenes Lara establishes her fighting prowess while showing off her six-pack abs in a kickboxing episode. This is soon followed by a rather astonishing bicycle chase through the streets of London, as Lara, a bike courier by day, plays a "fox" eluding a bunch of eager male bicyclists intent on prize money. It's as frenetic as any car chase in recent memory.
Later Lara teams with Asian boat owner Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) to get answers about what happened to her father (Dominic West) and the boat owner's own father. Their journey to a remote Japanese island is punctuated by a violent sea storm that threatens to drown them
both --- another exceptionally filmed sequence.
Vikander's character finds herself in so many scrapes the film could have been called "Tomb Raider: The Perils of Lara". She scales mountainsides, crosses high gorges on a creaky ladder, and in one gripping episode, she is up close and personal with an abandoned rusty airplane that crash landed sometime in the distant past.
"Tomb Raider" is suitably entertaining and doesn't abandon its sense of humor. When Lara visits a pawn shop to hock a valuable gem given to her by her dad, she and shop owner Max (an uncredited Nick Frost) go back and forth through a glass partition with humorous results.
The film's arch villain is Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) who desperately wants to gain access to the tomb of Himiko, who supposedly had great powers which can be passed on. But only Lara knows the secret to opening the mountainous grave. Fans of Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight" will recall Goggins from that film, or any number of other work from his growing resume. approaching 100 credits. The actor has a screen presence that is undeniable.
"Tomb Raider" contains enough exciting action sequences to make it worthwhile, and the film maintains tension throughout. Vikander is credible, and more importantly, her character is someone we genuinely care about. My only complaint is the common flaw that has thugs wielding automatic weapons who can't seem to hit the broad side of a barn.
Opinion: Mild See It Now!