The updated Tomb Raider manages to be more than just a video game movie.
I confess, I never played the original Tomb Raider video game. Shameful, in hindsight, but the blocky Lara Croft - with her giant chest and barely-there shorts - always felt more geared towards teen boys. The Lara in the 2018 remake, on the other hand, is the sort of character I'd be pleased for my daughter to watch when she got older. Played by the stellar Alicia Vikander, this Lara is tenacious, smart, loyal and athletic. She's a three-dimensional, believable character - relatable in ways that video game characters seldom are. That alone puts the new Tomb Raider ahead of most video game movies.
When we first meet Lara, she's a scrappy bike messenger struggling to make ends meet despite being heiress to a massive fortune. Claiming the inheritance would mean giving up hope on her missing dad and declaring him dead, something Lara is loathe to do. Her attachment to her dad, though falling into "rich girl with daddy issues" cliches, gives the movie a solid emotional footing.
The action is at times gritty and grounded, best exemplified by two action scenes early on: a clever bike race and a visually-gratifying foot chase through a Hong Kong harbor. These early scenes demonstrate Lara as resourceful but also fallible. At about the halfway mark, though, the tone shifts. Lara is put through one death-defying stunt after another, with (admittedly cool-looking) set pieces that defy physics and common sense. As the challenges pile up, at one point she looks heavenward and cries an exasperated, "Really?" It was a cute moment, but a paltry balm to my bruised suspension of disbelief.
The movie tries too hard to reconcile the interesting character they introduced with her video game persona, and this is ultimately where it falls short. No amount of "oh by the way she practiced archery" flashbacks could sell Lara's abrupt transformation from plucky everygirl to full-blown action hero chasing down armed mercenaries with a bow and arrow.
Still, the movie was pretty good overall - an enjoyable, action-packed treasure hunt. The ending was clearly angling for a sequel, and I certainly wouldn't mind seeing Lara Croft head off on another adventure.
- Princess Power:
- Bechdel Test: Pass
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