What’s the use of rebooting a successful video game franchise if you can’t reboot the mediocre film series that it spawned? That appears to be the motivation behind the new Tomb Raider, which resembles nothing so much as a perfunctory early 2000s action programmer except that it has much nicer special effects. Alicia Vikander replaces Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, heiress to an incredible fortune and daughter of Lord Richard (Dominic West), who disappeared on a treasure hunt seven years ago. When Croft discovers a new clue to her father’s whereabouts, she heads off to the Far East on her first official Tomb Raid. That’s right, this character, deemed iconic enough to front a half-dozen games and now three films, is the latest victim of the studio system’s Origin Story Impulse. We see Croft at kickboxing lessons; at her job as a scrappy bike courier (because she at first declines her missing father’s millions as that would require her to declare him dead); and demonstrating her facility with intricate antique puzzles. In this version, the character has gone from a fortune-and-glory mercenary to a generic tough movie-babe with generic tough movie-babe daddy issues.
Mashing the X button at home actually goes a long way towards making it exciting to watch someone running from behind or dodging falling rocks for five solid minutes.
That wouldn’t be as bad if the rest of Tomb Raider weren’t so lugubrious. It takes something like 45 minutes to get Croft to the mysterious island where the ostensible action will play out, a section of the film that features a lengthy, completely superfluous foot chase involving some Hong Kong ruffians (an excuse to see that Lara’s really good at daring leaps across wide gaps). And even on said island, there’s a lot of exposition delivered by bad guy Matthias Vogel (a typically jangly Walton Goggins) followed by even more chasing and falling off cliffs. The puzzles that the game is famous for slip in quietly towards the climax. But all that running and jumping and all those hidden levers just fall completely flat; it turns out that mashing the X button at home actually goes a long way towards making it exciting to watch someone running from behind or dodging falling rocks for five solid minutes. But hey at least we learn where Lara Croft’s twin pistols and pick axe came from.