Action Adventure

Film Review: 'Tomb Raider' Shows Us What It Means to Be Strong, Female and an Action Hero

March 15, 2018Ben MK

The video game industry is full of properties with cinematic appeal, but few have endured as long as the Tomb Raider franchise. Ever since the first game in the series debuted in 1996, gamers worldwide have been enamored by its headstrong heroine, Lara Croft, so it was only a matter of time before her exploits made their way to the big screen.

Of course, that pivotal moment came 17 years ago, in 2001, when Angelina Jolie put on a passable British accent and stepped into the character's boots for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, a film adaptation that, while flawed, was still successful enough to warrant a sequel, subtitled The Cradle of Life, in 2003. Yet, for the past decade and a half, that was where Lara's big screen adventures ended, and as far as moviegoers were concerned, she might as well have ventured off to explore the ruins of some long-forgotten Mayan temple, never to be seen or heard from again.

That is, until now. Arriving on the heels of the game franchise's 20-year anniversary, director Roar Uthaug's Tomb Raider reboot sees Alicia Vikander taking up Lara's bow and arrow and taking over the role first made famous by Jolie. And although the actress, best known for her dramatic turns in films like The Danish Girl and Ex Machina, has a very different screen presence from her predecessor, she still does well in capturing the essence of the character, cementing her as an empowered, 21st-century female action icon to be reckoned with.

Written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons, Tomb Raider's origin story finds 21-year-old Lara at a turning point in her life. 7 years earlier, her father, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), went missing while on an expedition to locate the tomb of the legendary Japanese Death Goddess Himiko, and ever since then Lara has been doing her best to carve out a life for herself. What that translates to, of course, is plenty of kickboxing and cycling, so that when it comes time for Lara to head to a remote Japanese island in order to solve the mystery of her father's disappearance, she's physically prepared for the obstacles and the opposition she'll face along the way.

Needless to say, the plot is something of a necessary evil, meaning that it exists largely to get Lara from point A (the novice adventurer she is when we first meet her) to point B (the badass she becomes towards the end). To both the filmmakers' and Vikander's credit, however, the transition feels hard-earned, which is also a testament to the rousing stunt work and action choreography. Factor in the respectable cast, which includes Daniel Wu doing his best with a throwaway role and Walton Goggins as the menacing antagonist, and there's a lot more to like here than just Lara herself.

It all adds up to an impressive leap forward in quality compared to the previous two Tomb Raider films. The action this time around is more thrilling, with well-placed nods Lara's 32-bit origins, and Vikander brings a great deal more dramatic depth to the part than Jolie ever did. And although the movie occasionally leans too heavily on its CGI set-pieces, this mostly grounded, definitely grittier take makes for a satisfying start to a brand new franchise.

Tomb Raider releases March 16th, 2018 from Warner Bros. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and for some language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 58 min.

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