All-world lead can’t elevate hum-drum ‘Tomb Raider’

Image courtesy Warner Bros.

6/10 They’ve remade Tomb Raider. They’ve remade everything, so that makes sense.

Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is living a hard-knock life in London as a courier. It’s tough to feel bad for her though since there’s a fortune waiting for her when she has her father Richard (Dominic West), who has been missing for seven years, declared dead. When she finally starts the paperwork, she discovers clues that lead her to The Devil’s Sea, where her father was searching for the tomb of Himiko, an ancient Japanese shaman-queen. There, she comes up against rival archaeologist Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins).

Alicia Vikander is perfect and wonderful and can do no wrong, but all Tomb Raider does with her is demonstrate how little a great actor really helps these action franchises. Given one of the most talented actors in the world and one who was fiercely dedicated to the role, the movie, and her character in particular, still falls flat.

Most of the press for this movie is about how much Vikander took it upon herself. She put on more than a dozen pounds of muscle as she went through months of strength, MMA, rock climbing and swimming training all so she could do her own stunts in a hardcore action movie, which Tomb Raider isn’t. The boxing scene in which she’s introduced is shot in that janky Bourne style, but from the outside, as if by a spectator who’s being chased around the ring. The boat jump, which Vikander is most celebrated for doing herself, took three shots to communicate and was too dark to see anyway.

This visibility issue extends to Himiko’s tomb, in which you can see almost nothing. I get that it’s underground and supposed to be dark, but this is where you can use your artistic license to make the movie, you know, visible. Adding torches and some nice yellows would make it more tomby anyway.

I guess they might have thought they were making an action movie, but questionable shot choices brought it down. Director Roar Uthag, making his first English-language feature, tries to dazzle at one point with a long take of Croft stealthily infiltrating Vogel’s camp, but that’s about the only camerawork that’s even trying to be impressive. In both of the problem scenes I mentioned earlier, the shot isn’t just cutting — it’s cutting across Croft, back and forth from one side of the scene to the other. It’s tough to get any bearing on the stunt. It’s like they’ve taken three good vantage points and combined them into one bad one.

The only stunts that are shot to look like Vikander is actually performing them are the pull-ups, of which there are many. There might be a decent drinking game there.

Despite her talent being central to the movie even being made, she’s not given much chance to shine. Croft doesn’t really have a personality in this movie. She loves her father, and that’s it.

There’s a decent tomb raiding plot here, but no story, no emotional hook. There could be something wonderful built onto this about processing grief, for example, but it’s just not there.

Tomb Raider isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s definitely less than the sum of its parts, and certainly not a justification for the… rumored Square Enix cinematic universe? Christ, make at least one good video game movie first!

Leopold Knopp is a UNT graduate and managing editor of The Lewisville Texan Journal. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter and Instagram and support it on Patreon. You can reach me at reelentropy@gmail.com.

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