By Griffin Sendek | Staff Writer
After 15 years, Lara Croft made her return to the big screen on March 16 with the enjoyable, albeit imperfect, Tomb Raider.
The box office bomb of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life in 2003, starring Angelina Jolie, made it look as if the series would never find its way to theaters again. Basing this rendition off the 2013 video game of the same name, director Roar Uthaug takes his stab at the franchise, and filling Angelina Jolie’s shoes is Alicia Vikander, portraying a much younger and very different Croft.
The film opens with Lara (Vikander) struggling to scrape by in London while being pressured to sign the death certificate of her father Richard Croft, (Simon West) who has been missing for seven years. Signing brings a transfer of the Croft Family fortune, but Lara refuses, believing her father is still alive. After discovering a clue concerning his last location, she sets off to the island where he went missing.
The opening sequence sets out to introduce the audience to the character of Lara and to give some background on the relationship with her father. This is effective to an extent, but the movie certainly drags at this point. A bike race early in the film, for example, while somewhat entertaining, seemed ultimately unnecessary. The movie really starts to pick up when Lara meets with the ship captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) and sets out for the island.
Vikander’s performance is undeniably the best, and though the Oscar-winning actress won’t be carrying home another award, she certainly carries the film. While her portrayal of Lara will likely be debated amongst fans of the game series for years to come, Vikander makes the transition from game to film as smooth as possible.
The villain, however, is one of the weakest links of the film. Walton Goggins’ performance, while not awful, is ultimately lackluster and leaves the audience wanting more. This is mainly due to the writing portraying him as a jaded man that does what he has to do to make it back to his family. Goggins is not given enough characterization and screen time to effectively show this. He is a good actor, but he is simply not given enough to work with. In the end, it creates an uncompelling villain.
The cinematography of Tomb Raider might not be award-winning, but scattered throughout are a handful of shots that are very beautiful and show the skill and potential of those who worked behind the camera. There was one moment in particular that captures Vikander’s performance almost perfectly, creating an emotional and moving scene. It is obvious that care was put into this film, and Tomb Raider was not treated as just another throwaway video game movie.
The movie is an effective action-adventure film, and for those who have played the video games, it adds another layer of enjoyment to the experience. Tomb Raider wears its influence on its sleeve, and while the story ends up unfolding very differently, it does not try to hide the heavy influence from the 2013 video game. The costume designers looked at the outfit Lara wore in the game and replicated the attire almost exactly. Several action set pieces — and even some of the injuries Lara suffers — are taken directly from the source material. The director did not just make a live action version of the game, though. Uthaug used the game as a basis but made his own film.
For a fan of the franchise, it is these many references to the games throughout that transform this film from a good enough action-adventure film to a quite enjoyable one. Being in the theatre and watching a scene unfold that I have strong memories of playing truly brought a smile to my face. Audiences have been burned many times with bad video game movies, but this is not one of those times. Tomb Raider does not hit every mark, but aided by Vikander’s performance, the film does not miss every shot it takes. The end of the movie sets up a sequel and potentially the start of a series. I’m hopeful for this movie to succeed and to see Vikander return as the role of Lara Croft. I want to see Tomb Raider be the stepping stone for a more ambitious and superior sequel.