Director: Roar Uthaug
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu
Adapting a video game series into a feature film is a puzzle Hollywood hasn’t figured out yet, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying. Right from Super Mario Bros. to Street Fighter, the list soldiers on, and the upcoming line up includes the Dwayne Johnson-starrer Rampage, Sonic the Hedgehog and Uncharted. But Tomb Raider is a different ball game altogether. For starters, the game was already adapted into two live-action films way back in the early 2000s. And those films, starring Angelina Jolie in the lead, were successful at the box office despite being panned by critics. What about this new Tomb Raider starring Alicia Vikander, you ask. What does it have to offer?
The new film, a franchise reboot, is actually an origins story. Unlike the previous Tomb Raider films in which the story of Lara begins after her father’s disappearance, this one is about a younger Lara who still hasn’t come to terms with her dad’s exit from her life, and hence, refuses to inherit her family’s wealth. So, obviously, there aren’t any high-tech gadgets or posh chateaus. We don’t even get to see Lara donning the designer costume that outlines her hourglass figure. Instead, we have Alicia Vikander showing off her chiselled abs and her acrobatic skills.
Being an origin story, director Roar Uthaug makes it apparent that the courage and swag that Lara Croft is often associated with didn’t come about in a day. There’s a scene in which she loses an MMA match, and another where she makes her first kill and takes her time to comprehend what she has done. Uthaug also takes care not to over-sexualise the lead character — something the games and the first two films were criticised for. This leads to Lara being a character whose gender doesn’t add to or take away anything from the film.
Though Alicia Vikander sports enough brawn to do the next Rocky film, the problem is she often comes off as cold and stiff — a complaint, interestingly, her partner, Michael Fassbender, received too when he played the lead role in Assassin’s Creed, another film based on a video game franchise. The father-daughter angle is riddled with cliches, and feels outdated and out of place. If you’re a Tamil film fan, you’ll think that her character, which spends more than half the film looking for her missing father, isn’t too different from Andrea’s character in Aayirathil Oruvan.
We also have the stereotypical villain in the form of Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins), who seems like Indiana Jones gone rogue. With the Illuminati and Pandora’s box from the previous Tomb Raider films feeling overused, the makers have resorted to a new group of baddies — Trinity, a shadowy organization. The action sequences, though occasionally feeling unreal — in one scene, there’s a dilapidated aircraft placed precariously (and precisely) on a waterfall that saves our hero from falling to death — are fairly enjoyable, and Vikander really thrives doing them.
Tomb Raider takes its sweet time to get rolling, and only when Lara is actually in the tomb, does the film finally shift gears. With the puzzle solving, falling floor tiles and ancient tomb with a scary secret, the last twenty minutes are what make you feel like you’re watching a Tomb Raider film. The post-climax scene makes it obvious that the new Tomb Raider, too, will take the franchise route, and what we have in store for the sequel actually looks more promising than this film.
PS: This review was written for the cinema wing of The New Indian Express.