DIRECTOR: Roar Uthaug STARRING: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Hannah John-Kamen UK/USA 2018
Lara Croft was one of the first videogame characters to ever enter my life. I must have been around 3 or 4 years old when my father purchased the first Tomb Raider game for Playstation and obsessively proceeded to spend weekends solving all of its puzzles and succeeding at instigating my mother’s jealousy. You see, at that time, pyramid breasts were a preferred turn-on for nerds everywhere; and while some argue that the character of Lara Croft was revolutionary in showing the industry that powerful female lead characters were captivating to the public and profitable, others say that her oversexualization was nothing but a display of misogyny from lustful male videogame developers. Now, you can probably figure that when I was 4 years old, my genitalia and sexual consciousness were not developed enough that I’d look at Lara Croft and get a raging boner from that. To me, Lara Croft was and is a badass character that I’m glad continues to have games being made about.
The franchise got a reboot a few years ago that tweaked Lara Croft’s appearance and chose to explore what had turned her into the character we knew before. It’s upon this remake that this year’s Tomb Raider film (now starring Alicia Vikander instead of Angelina Jolie) is based. Given the awful track record of videogame adaptations to film in history (and forget about the fact that we’re yet to see a truly great adaptation in the area), probably no one was expecting this to be a masterpiece. When I saw its first trailer, I seriously thought it was going to be terrible. Fortunately, it isn’t. And while this is still not that first truly great videogame cinematic adaptation, it might be one of its most commendable thus far.
Where Angelina Jolie had the physicality and looks, Alicia Vikander has the charisma and attitude, which is more valuable in my book. She seems genuinely excited to be a part of this world, embodying the character with passion and treating the movie as more than just “another adaptation” (you can easily search for her gym training online and see how much effort she went through to be prepared for the role). And here, Lara Croft is not just a badass: she is a relatable and vulnerable badass that at times recalls Die Hard’s John McClane in the franchise’s first couple of features. The film also incorporates certain game mechanics and situations that result in genuine suspense and at times have more aggressive results than what you might expect. Her emotional grounding (with the complicated and unresolved absence of her father for years) guides her through many of the plot’s conundrums in a way that feels neither cheesy nor forced. Her chemistry with actor Dominic West is particularly felt in these scenes.
If anything, the sameness of the film’s ultimate plot ends up being its greatest detriment. Of course that it involves, again, an evil organization just about to unleash the evilest of evils on the world, which in turn will cause the most threatening evil threat to engulf the world in… evil. There is, however, and interesting twist around this in the end, but the main point is that Lara Croft is trying to prevent the world from dying, alright? It’s also a little bit of a shame that Walton Goggins, who had me laughing hard in his role on Tarantino’s The Hateful Hate, was not given a lot of good material to work with here, making him feel like a cookie-cutter villain.
But this is a solid first entry in a new franchise with potential (if done right), and although the first two adaptations with Angelina Jolie were fairly alright lazy Sunday afternoon dumb fun, I much prefer a film that looks at Lara Croft and says “this can be a great character”. She always has been, and there are still a lot of possibilities for growth and exploration left.