Tomb Raider gives us an action heroine as capable as the male counterparts in countless films like this one, casts an actress just as capable in the role, and then proceeds to build a pretty generic adventure around this heroine. If nothing else, the film could contribute to a conversation that is central to film culture right now (the need for heroines in blockbuster action cinema, a market dominated by male characters) precisely because of its decided mediocrity. Here is a dully proficient tale of archaeology-themed adventure that would probably still be dully proficient if a man was at the center of it, too.
This is nothing against the character of Lara Croft, who has been the subject of several video games and two previous film adaptations, or star Alicia Vikander, the second actress (and, for a fun bit of trivia, second winner of the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award) to inhabit the role in a likely franchise. Indeed, screenwriters Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alistair Siddons offer a complete overhaul of the character as we knew her from those previous film adaptations. There, she was a bit of a cypher. Here, she approaches something akin to depth. It isn't quite there, as the screenwriters have only afforded her the qualities of a scruffy hero type, but one is certainly allowed a peak into her past (and it helps that Vikander, through her determination to introduce a bit of mischief into the character's personality, is solid in the role).
That past has certainly shaped her adulthood. As a child, her father, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), set off to explore an ancient curse on an uninhabited island off the coast of Japan, leaving his daughter behind to sort out the clues of his disappearance in the interim. Seven years later, Lara is participating in boxing matches and holding down a job as a courier, refusing to accept the wealth owed her since her coming-of-age. Following those clues, she is swept up in an adventure to solve the mystery of her father's disappearance and to beat his turncoat partner Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) at his own, mostly nonsensical plan involving that ancient curse.
So, the plot, as one can probably tell, is a lot of hogwash, merely a vehicle for a lot of action sequences that have been, at least, carefully orchestrated. There is a lot of proficiency of craft in these scenes, but only one of them (a chase that leads Lara into a river, which drags her to a downed aircraft, which then plunges over a waterfall) really works. Otherwise, there isn't much in the way of excitement, despite the fact that, clearly, director Roar Uthaug oversaw them with a lot of care and attention to detail. Showmanship isn't enough to set Tomb Raider apart from its contemporaries in this genre, and the result has an undeniably been-there-seen-that quality.
Alicia Vikander (Lara Croft), Dominic West (Lord Richard Croft), Walton Goggins (Mathias Vogel), Daniel Wu (Lu Ren), Kristin Scott Thomas (Ana Miller), Derek Jacobi (Mr. Yaffe), Alexandre Willaume (Lieutenant).
Directed by Roar Uthaug and written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alistair Siddons.
Rated PG-13 (violence/action, language).
Released on March 16, 2018.