Movie Review: New ‘Tomb Raider’ Unearths Lara Croft: Origins
Sure, sure: Lara Croft is a badass gun-toting treasure hunter who dispatches mercenaries as she travels through exotic locations to solve cryptic puzzles, but what was she like before all that boring stuff?
2018’s Tomb Raider, which might as well be called Lara Croft: Origins, begins with our young heroine (played by Alicia Vikander) in London, where she… works as a bicycle courier. And does some MMA at the gym.
She’s also drowning in debt, no thanks to her her billionaire old man (played in flashbacks by Dominic West), who mysterious vanished without a trace seven years ago. Despite dad’s money and mansion and laundry list of corporations, Lara can’t inherit anything until she declares him legally dead.
That’s exactly what unspecified relation Anna Miller (Kristin Scott Thomas) and the executor of dad’s estate (Derek Jacobi) have been urging her to do, but Lara just can’t bring herself to face the facts.
Yes, the filmmakers hired multiple Laurence Olivier Award-winning thespians Derek Jacobi and Kristin Scott Thomas to provide exposition. Jacobi delivers five lines between two scenes, seated at the same table. I trust he was well paid.
But just as Lara is about to sign away her father’s life - as a simple formality - she stumbles across one of dad’s riddles and discovers his secret life as a treasure hunter and last known location.
And wouldn’t you know it, we’re only halfway through the movie before Lara and her drunk boat captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) crash into the not-so-deserted island off the coast of Japan that may house dad’s remains - along with a long-buried evil spirit that is said to destroy the world if unleashed.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what a rogue group group of white-slaver mercenaries led by
Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) intend to do. And as Lara Croft fends off the baddies while navigating puzzles in an extensive underground crypt, Tomb Raider finally becomes the movie you're expecting.
It just takes an hour to get there, during which the film’s three big set pieces are a bicycle courier race through London, a chase with some pickpockets on the docks, and a shipwreck set in the black of night so dark you’ll be lucky to make anything out on the screen.
Imagine playing the video game, but before getting to the jungles and tomb raiding action-adventure, you need to sit through a 50-minute exposition-filled cutscene.
Climactic scenes do deliver the goods, and the final half-hour of Tomb Raider becomes a modest Indiana Jones style-adventure with a heavy dose of the 1999 version of The Mummy. But many, I suspect, will have already given up on the movie by this point.
2018’s Tomb Raider is an earnest, sincere adaptation of the popular video game, and fans of the franchise are likely to enjoy it more than the silly action spectacles provided by the previous two Angelina Jolie-starring movies, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. But it also comes without the goofy charm of those flicks, and is a lot less fun as a result.