In movie terms, Tomb Raider’s always been an Indiana Jones wannabe that’s never earned the whip. Its cultural cachet is derived solely from Lara Croft’s status as an iconic games character. Once, as personified by Angelina Jolie, she was a problematic feminist construct – a male fantasy, all big tits and guns. Alicia Vikanda plays the rebooted version, as seen in the 2013 game and beyond, less masturbatory aid, more serious adventurer. Vikanda’s version of the character is still physically flawless, you understand – she’s from the very best stock, but she’s a more believable human – vulnerable (both emotionally and physically – the latter point emphasised time and again by the filmmakers who relentlessly injure her) and occasionally floundering. In this and this alone, she acts likes a credible successor to the aforementioned Dr Jones – someone who can look after herself but occasionally has to make it up as they go along.
Unfortunately, the movie she’s in, loosely adapted from the aforementioned 2013 game, is depressingly derivative of Steven Spielberg’s series – to the extent that whole character beats, props, even the entire third act, is lifted from 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. If you’re going to steal from the best, copy the dynamism, the orchestration of great physical setpieces, the grit and the gore, but please God not whole chunks of plot without any of the above to drive them.
Without kinetic direction, a sense of style and memorable score, Tomb Raider is like, well, watching someone play a game. It’s very thin gruel that’s been salted with that old Hollywood standby, the family connection – in this case Lara’s missing Dad, (Dominic West channelling Tom Hanks in Castaway) in a desperate attempt to imbue it with a little emotional and psychological depth. Vikanda, who’s watchable as Lara, does her utmost to sell the story’s big moments between Father and daughter, but so clichéd is the device, in a daisy chain of clichés – that it’s almost impossible to care.
There’s a mechanistic feel to the whole movie; a palpable lack of creativity and inspiration. The film’s only comic scene, featuring Nick Frost as a pawn shop broker (who mystifyingly also sells handguns), feels ordered by committee. The rest seems to have been plotted backwards to presumptuously facilitate sequels, leading to a strain on the film’s internal logic.
Croft sits on a fortune of billions but, in a bid to delay her acquiring it until the end and discovering her true nemesis, she improbably opts to hunt for her old Dad without her inheritance, and the limitless resources it can provide, instead heading to his last known location with just his research, determination and £8,000. Said adventure’s instigated by a call to action on her Father’s oddly bulky video camera that still plays despite the 7 years it’s spent gathering dust in a subterranean office, and so on. A film that feels like it was written in less than a week, then, and consequently one that will be forgotten in much less time.