It has been a number of years since we last saw a Tomb Raider adaptation on the big screen, with 2003’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life. In that time that character has undergone something of a reinvention in the video game series, with the 2013 game Tomb Raider. Much like this new film 2013’s Tomb Raider went right back to basics for the character, and go back to her origins before she was high skilled explorer.
This new adaptation stars Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft, and follows her several years after the disappearance of her father. We see her working as a bike courier, having distanced herself from her father’s company and associates. After eventually taking possession of some items left to her in Richard Croft’s will she begins following the clues he left to try and track and him down, eventually leading her to the island of Yamatai where she must face off against a brutal and mysterious organisation known as Trinity. Some of the most compelling parts from the film are actually from the beginning where we are establishing this new Lara to the audience. It is clear that she is incredibly athletic and intelligent, although she does tend to play these traits down. We also get to Daniel Wu as Lu Ren, a ship captain who agrees to help Lara as his father also went missing on a trip to Yamatai.
Once we get onto the island it becomes an incredibly generic adventure film. We have a lot of the tropes, the small band of good guys heavily outnumbered by the sinister organisation with their heavily armed mercenaries. There are a couple of twists in the story during the middle act, but these are visible from a long way off, and were not shocking at all. The action set pieces here also feel unoriginal, and were mostly shown in the trailers for the film, meaning it tends to drag quite badly. Once we get into the tomb though the film feels like a Tomb Raider film really should. Sure it is almost video game like, but the puzzle solving under pressure, traps to avoid, and other classic Tomb Raider pieces of gameplay translate incredibly well to the film, and give us what it always felt like the original Lara Croft: Tomb Raider films were missing.
Obviously a lot of the film rests on Vikander, and she is playing an incredibly different Lara to Angelina Jolie, she has the fun elements to her, but is clearly a more inexperienced and younger version of the character, and one still haunted by the personal tragedy of losing her father. Vikander brings an incredible physicality to the role, she feels like a character able to take on the challenges that she faces on Yamatai. Up against her is Walton Goggins as Mathias Vogel, the leader of the antagonists on the island. You really feel that he’s begun to lose it on the island, and will do just about anything to get home. Goggins is also such a wonderful screen presence, and as you’d expect highly watchable.
Fans of the rebooted Tomb Raider games will be certainly be glad of seeing that more grounded version brought to the big screen. The casting of Alicia Vikander as Lara is spot on, meaning that despite what is actually a very generic, although fairly enjoyable story, Tomb Raider is certainly still a video game franchise with potential. Whilst this film may not have broken free of the less than stellar track record video game films tend to have, it is a good building block for potentially great sequels, featuring a great character.