The Tomb Raider series has long been ripe for a reboot. It’s 15 years since the last of the Angelina Jolie movies, which were not good. Campy and lacking a decent story between them, they squandered an excellent lead and an opportunity to establish Tomb Raider as a female-led action franchise. Now that opportunity is squandered anew, in a whole new variety of ways.
There are things to admire in this version, both written and directed by relative newcomers (Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons, and Roar Uthaug, respectively). Lara is given a little more character depth. She’s a young woman who has been left alone in the world, following the death of her mother and the disappearance of her father (Dominic West), who dropped off the map on a mission for a mystical doohicky. Lara refuses to claim her rightful inheritance, because to do so would mean admitting dad is dead, so she’s trying to manage on her own in Shoreditch. This does give her a bit of an air of trust-fund baby doing some poor-people cosplay, but Vikander makes it sympathetic. Vikander is by far the movie’s greatest asset. She shows us the struggle Lara goes through to become an action hero, weeping the first time she kills someone, because it’s her only choice, and the loneliness she feels. It’s not a game to her.
The semi-supernatural device that kicks off the plot, as Lara heads to a secret island to find the artefact that took her dad from her, is clever and smartly resolved. It’s the rest of the movie that’s rubbish. The action is dreary and repetitive, so frequently dependent on Lara making perfectly timed jumps that it gives the feeling of watching someone play one of the games. And there are few things more tedious than watching someone else play a game. The plot similarly has the on-rails progression of a video game. The villain (the better-than-this Walton Goggins) is just a generic bad guy with a staff of henchmen who can’t shoot in a straight line.
What really sinks it is a total sense of humour failure. It takes itself so seriously, which it really has no cause to do. Indiana Jones is a clear influence – one sequence is almost a complete replay of a scene in Temple of Doom – but it never thought to nick its sense of fun. It’s a shame. Vikander is the best Lara Croft in the worst Tomb Raider movie.