Tomb Raider breaks the so-called curse of video game movies by simply not trying too hard or changing the formula of the games. In other words: it stays true to the source material. However, to clarify, it is the 2013 rebooted game that is the inspiration for this latest iteration of Lara Croft and her adventures.
The key element of the Tomb Raider game is a determined, smart, and capable leading lady whose main objective is to survive. Director Roar Uthag and screenwriter Geneva Robertson-Dworet focus primarily on this aspect of the games, which undoubtedly made the process of making this film so much easier. Tomb Raider isn’t a lavish action-adventure. Lara Croft isn’t trekking around the world to exotic new locations to take on overly elaborate challenges that require an insane IQ to solve. The film isn’t that ambitious because the most important task is establishing who Lara Croft is and who she will become. This isn’t to say that the adventure portion of the film is not entertaining. In fact, this film is finely crafted. Lara doesn’t have an easy journey. She is put through some very trying ordeals, but it is her resilience and endurance that is put to the test. Audiences will be very rewarded as we watch Lara push herself over and over and over again. This film’s greatest success is providing audiences with a heroine that is immensely entertaining to watch and relatable.
Anyone who had any reservations about Alicia Vikander’s ability to embody Lara Croft will certainly be rethinking that after they watch this film. Vikander is Lara Croft. She and Lara’s sheer power of will is awe-inspiring. Yes, she isn’t Angelina Jolie. She isn’t the type of woman who will have men drooling at her feet. Her boobies are not triangular. She isn’t prancing around in booty shorts and a push-up bra. Vikander’s Lara Croft is not designed to be a sex symbol first, action heroine second. However, her small frame, built arms, and rock hard abs are nothing to scoff at. She does not need to be Jolie to be sexy. Sexy comes in many sizes, shapes and forms. Sexy is about how you carry yourself. The way Vikander carries herself as Lara Croft is no different from how Jolie did when she embodied the character. If it is Jolie’s Lara Croft you seek, her films still exist – go watch those instead.
Vikander’s Lara has a great balance of sweet and edgy. The opening portion of the film establishes Lara as someone who is incredibly determined and tough. She is sweet and kind to those around her. Adventurous, bold, and reckless. Smart, sassy, and sweet. Vikander is able to bring an evolved Lara Croft that has bits and pieces of the character from the games and Jolie’s films. She is a multi-faceted woman.
The depiction of Lara Croft is a refreshing take on the action heroine. However, the film suffers from the Lone Woman Syndrome. Yes, she does have encounters with a few women in the film, but she is overwhelmingly surrounded by men. Her place of employment and her adventure on the Yamatai are just heavily populated with men. It is just unrealistic and unnecessary. Luckily, the film doesn’t have Lara treated differently because she is a woman. In fact it is very refreshing to see the lone woman’s gender has little to no effect on her story or how others interact with her. At the beginning of the film Lara takes on a challenge that elicits some concern because of her gender, and Walter Goggin’s Mathias Vogel is slightly creepy but that is really the extent of it. If there is to be a sequel, it would be imperative to include more women on her adventures, or have vital roles in her life. Kristin Scott Thomas’s Ana Martin may stick around, as she is revealed to be a big part of Richard Croft’s secret tomb raiding life. Lara cannot simply be the lone woman to take on such challenges and adventures. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s rather ridiculous to ask for more representation for women.
As noted before the films primary focus is developing Lara Croft. The film’s story is crafted solely to develop and showcase Lara’s personality, intelligence, endurance, and physical strength. The island, the puzzles, the tomb, the villains, and the side characters, are all designed to prop up Lara. Daniel Wu’s Lu Ren is severely underdeveloped as a result. Aside from Lara, Lu is arguably the other lead of the film but as the film is so focused on Lara, it manages to overlook what Wu brought to the film. He is incredibly charismatic, a natural badass, and a great actor. As there are so few Asian actors in leading roles in Hollywood, it is sad to see this waste an opportunity to have a great male character played by an Asian man. An extra 10-15 minutes to Lu Ren’s arc would have been enough to establish a well-rounded character who is Lara’s ally and potential love interest and someone who is worth bringing back if there is a sequel. However, since Wu and Lu Ren are wasted, there really is not enough of either to grab audiences. Fans of Wu will certainly be eager to see him again, but those who don’t know him will probably forget his name once the film ends. Such a shame.
*Sidenote: Goggin’s is very good at playing a villain. Vogel was interesting to watch, but he too is underdeveloped and forgettable.
All in all the film is very entertaining. Tomb Raider establishes a compelling lead played by an actress that embodies all that makes Lara Croft an incredible action hero. The potential franchise has a strong foundation to grow from. All this film needs now is to succeed at the box office and we might have an Indiana Jones type franchise with a woman front and center.