Tomb Raider ‘franchise’ fails
Tomb Raider has only two things going for it, writes Darren Bevan.
Thankfully it's not the pendulous breasts bestowed on the first iteration of one of gaming's earliest icons.
Its two things of note are Academy award winning actress Alicia Vikander's committed performance, and the fact some of its action scenes are drawn from the gritty and immersive game reboot from 2013.
But, sadly it's what lies in between that saddles Tomb Raider with problems and ends up leaving you feeling that this film may be the Tomb Raider's flash in the pan (even though, Vikander's signed up for a sequel).
Rejigging plot from the 2013 game, Vikander is Lara Croft, heir to a fortune, but who's denying that because it means admitting her father (Dominic West) is dead, after he went missing seven years ago.
When she stumbles across a series of clues that apparently lead to his last whereabouts, Lara charters a boat, along with its captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) who was the last man to see him.
But the pair stumble onto an island, barely surviving a storm and treacherous seas, where a deeper conspiracy begins to unfurl...one which has the Crofts squarely in the middle of it.
The problem with the 2018 reboot of Tomb Raider is that it largely feels like it's trying to set up a franchise, rather than concentrating fully on doing its job properly.
Lara Croft herself benefits from the reboot, with Vikander nailing both the vulnerability and relatability that the game's reboot endowed her with, and that was so lacking in Angelina Jolie's performance.
An animated Vikander commits fully to the role; whether it's the action sequences (ripped faithfully and reverentially from the game) or the lacklustre dialogue and plot she's saddled with.
The film's lack of engaging success is not down to her - she's the best thing about this female-led blockbuster, that lacks a romantic interest or bizarrely, any other women. She has degrees of depth, and a frailty that the game's Croft had. Coupled with a sense of her finding herself and her place in the world, Vikander can hold her head up high and bat away the oncoming criticism.
However, it's in the other elements that Tomb Raider feels as hoary as a ripped off Indiana Jones film ever could.
From clunky narrative coincidences to an over-reliance on flashbacks between Croft and her dad, from an overuse of voiceover as exposition to barely enough plot to fill the two hour run time, the film squanders some of its chances.
It's not helped by one dimensional henchmen and a weak overall villain (Walton Goggins) who's never really given the chance to cut loose as much as he could.
The conclusion of the film feels anti-climactic, a rote redoing of all the usual tropes of the genre, meshing up The Mummy, zombies, and fights that leaves you feeling as much deja vu as wishing there had been some buried treasure unearthed in the plot department rather than relying on what's been buried in a tomb.
The visceral edges which channel the very best of the game's reboot, coupled with the fact it's a female-led film with an Asian sidekick means that Tomb Raider is doing some things right as it launches in an ever-changing media landscape.
But underneath the spit and polish of the regeneration, there's a nagging feeling that what passes in Tomb Raider is all too familiar - and as a conclusion cliffhanger dangles perilously in front of your very eyes, there's a feeling that the bloodless, lacking-real-edge Tomb Raider reboot may be consigned to history, rather than launching a series of ever-more impressive sequels.
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Kristen Scott Thomas, Daniel Wu
Director: Roar Uthaug
We value fearless, independent journalism. We hope you do too.
Newsroom has repeatedly broken big, important national news stories and established a platform for quality journalism on issues ranging from climate change, sexual harassment and bullying through to science, foreign affairs, women’s sports and politics.
But we need your support to continue, whether it is great, small, ongoing or a one-off donation. If you believe in high quality journalism being available for all please click to become a Newsroom supporter.