In the 2013 game that lends itself to this latest adaptation of Tomb Raider, Lara Croft embarks on a courageous journey of self-discovery and endurance on the mysterious ancient island of Yamatai, a rich and memorable learning ground for the burgeoning heroine. Yamatai gets its film debut here, but like many of the aspects which the movie borrows from the game, it’s not nearly as unforgettable, nor as well developed as it was back in 2013. The pieces of the jigsaw are here, they just don’t fit together as snuggly as you’d hope.
Though we see glimpses of gritty survivalism, it’s kept to a minimum. The island’s mystical threats are supplanted by mediocre villains (namely Walton Goggins’s Mathias Vogel). The sense of wonder gleaned from exploring forgotten tombs is altogether missing. Where the game thrived on its immediacy, throwing Lara directly into danger in an unknown land, here we pick up with her in London, a directionless soul running away from her family legacy, in mourning over the loss of her father (played by Dominic West). It’s forty minutes in before we even reach Yamatai, and begin to unravel the truth behind the entombed Queen Himiko and her father’s fate.
Still, whereas director Roar Uthaug seems to willingly pass on the chance to cherrypick the game’s greatest strengths, thankfully there is some course correcting when it comes to Lara herself. Alicia Vikander is cast perfectly as the updated version of England’s most famous archaeologist (a calling she’s not yet stumbled upon here). While Vikander handles Lara’s emotional journey with her typical expertise, it’s the action scenes where she really excels. Seeing her pelting through the streets of London in a push bike chase or deftly firing arrows into her enemies piques interest, but the film’s highlight, a gauntlet-style survival challenge which throws Lara repeatedly out of the frying pan and into the fire straight up excites. Fairly obvious green screening creeps in, but Vikander sells the physical and emotional toil with impressive believability. She’s a million miles ahead of Angelina Jolie’s rendition of the character in 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, a much improved and vastly modernised heroine.
Her determination, inquisitiveness, strength and intelligence shines through in spite of her self-discovery taking a back seat for something a tad more generic. They nailed the character, it’s just a shame that they couldn’t give her an adventure that quite matches her lofty potential.
Rating (out of 5):