I doubt there will be a review in the world that doesn't compare the new film to the two lacklustre instalments starring Angelina Jolie in the early 2000s, and while I honestly don't care to pit them against each other, I will say just this... TOMB RAIDER '18 casts aside the comical facade and tackles the material in a darker, grittier and more violent manner, and for the most part it successfully sets itself apart from those former movies, establishing itself as a genuine stepping point for a new series.
The narrative serves as an origin story by establishing its protagonist's introduction to the world of tomb raiding. Her name is, of course, Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina) and she needs no introduction... but alas, that's what we get. Working as a bicycle courier in London she is the daughter of a missing (presumed dead) business tycoon (Dominic West) whose fortune she has refused to accept, until it is made apparent that his assets will be dissolved if she doesn't. She discovers that he led a secret life as an archeologist, and that his life's quest was to discover the existence of the supernatural. She finds a secret message from him and learns that his last known whereabouts was on a lost island in the middle of the Devil's Sea. And so before signing the documents to inherit his fortune (idiot) she sets out to discover the truth about his disappearance, which – obviously – leads her right into the arms of great peril. A ruthless fortune hunter (Walton Goggins) waits her arrival, and has already enslaved hundreds of Japanese men to help find the legendary lost tomb of the evil queen Himiko, whose discovery will put the entire world in line for annihilation.
It's all very silly, and in fact the synopsis I laid out doesn't include many of the subplots, twists and various other interwoven intricacies. You would be right to think that it sounds more like the sort of convoluted storyline from a video game... oh wait.
TOMB RAIDER is a classic case of style over substance, and while it slathers on the action the way an over-protective mother applies sunscreen, it forgets about the important things like character development and substance. Director Roar Uthaug (The Wave) and writers Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alistair Siddons have put all of their energies into crafting an action-packed adventure to the point that they lost sight of the things that keep such an adventure remotely interesting. Lara Croft's character lacks dynamic, and the audience isn't given a reason to cheer for her. She is simply a two-dimensional woman with mad fighting skills.
The film takes countless stylistic notes from Raiders of the Lost Ark but - yet again - it takes nothing from Indiana Jones' structure, character arcs and intellectual writing. Perhaps it's the current state of action-orientated cinema that is responsible for the dumbing down of stories, or maybe it's a misguided sentiment that video games need to be adapted into films... whatever the case, TOMB RAIDER is a ridiculous movie riddled with plot holes, contradictions and continuity flaws. From an unintentional ever-changing island environment (lush jungle one minute, dry arid bushland the next) to a never ending supply of arrows for shooting, to illogical absurdities such as intricately built mechanisms to allow access to a place which was never supposed to be found (lets not mention that huge fucking entrance that screams “welcome to the lost tomb). Actually, the continuity blunders are insulting... for example, Lara scales a ragged cliff face to a cave where she spends the night. The following morning she wakes up, walks outside the cave and onto a sandy beach... hang on, what?
Alicia Vikander gives an undistinguished performance, which is no fault of her own. Her petite physique does not lend itself to the brand of action being delivered, and despite having an incredible physicality, she simply isn't convincing. Her solemn demeanour offers no charisma and her apathy comes across as feigned. As mentioned, hers is a two-dimensional character created to appease the current movement of female empowerment, which – in my mind – would be a brilliant opportunity to make her likeable. Perhaps, also, by neglecting her character's former sexiness, they have deprived the film of much needed magnetism and excitement (even Indiana Jones was sexy, with his open shirt and sweaty chest).
Gamers will probably want to pull me up on my criticisms, and I concede that the film's failings are likely to be the game's strengths... but I didn't just play a game. I watched a very average movie.