Thanks to Roadshow Films we had the chance to see Tomb Raider before its Australian cinematic release. This is our review of the movie, but as usual, no matter what we say, we still recommend you to go and see it at your local cinema because there is no better critic than yourself!
I’m going to age myself here, but I played the original Tomb Raider series when Lara Croft was a posh adventurer made of about twenty five pointily intersecting triangles. She was a callous, relentless, bullet-spewing mass murderer with cut-glass enunciation and the moral and emotional introspection of a honey badger. She could leap across a chasm, slamming her comically-oversized chest into a wall and grab a ledge without so much as a slight wince.
Then there was reboot in 2013, and we had to have the gritty origin story, because nothing is allowed to just be silly fun anymore. It wasn’t bad, though.
This film, sadly, takes the second approach. And it is bad.
Alica Vikander‘s Lara Croft is introduced as a spunky courier who fights at a gritty urban gym and races her bicycle around London. This is all somewhat cringe-inducing, but it’s at least nominally in the same vicinity as fun. It emerges she is sitting on a massive inheritance that she refuses to cash because doing so would make her father officially dead after going missing nearly a decade ago while off an adventure looking for the tomb of Himiko. She is given a puzzle by the executor of the estate and, upon solving it, decides to travel to Hong Kong to chase down her father. She is shipwrecked and then taken prisoner by Walton Goggins‘ Matthias Vogel, who is also looking for the tomb.
There is action in this film, but while on the one hand I must congratulate it for not making Lara Croft another one of the new crop of invincible Strong Female Characters who implausibly fight squads of hulking men twice their size, I’m not sure where the fun is in seeing a callow woman convincingly sobbing in pain as she is punched and kicked and as she pulls shards of metal out of her abdomen. I also found myself mentally screaming “pick up the gun” at her more than once, but she chose a bow and arrow because of, presumably, some sort of branding requirement.
There is an extended sequence in a tomb, complete with (conspicuously) game-style puzzles and traps. This is actually mildly enjoyable, but also highlights the glaring tonal problem the movie has. After the breezy opening sequence, it’s a thoroughly lugubrious, laugh-free slog. Character reunions are stolid, sullen affairs rather than joyous events. Innocent people are killed by heartless mercenaries. Villains never chew scenery. Must everything be so miserable?