Alicia Vikander, as Lara Croft in the reboot of the franchise, has large shoes to fill. Angelina Jolie lent a certain gravitas to the character. Vikander doesn’t quite match up; she comes across as rather plastic. But then again, to be fair, she’s not enacting a Shakespearean sonnet. She’s too busy saving the world. And Lara, anyway, is not exactly known for her sentimentality. Remember her rather bland response in the 2003 movie when Gerard Butler tells her that she could break his wrist, but he would still kiss her? This time, too, Daniel Wu makes a valiant attempt: “Some men like dangerous women,” he ventures. To which she retorts: “Some men are foolish.”
The reboot is also the origin story of Lara Croft. After her father, Richard Croft, an intrepid adventurer, leaves her when she is very young, Lara grows up to be a cynical, brash young woman who cuts classes, steals apples, can hardly make ends meet, delivering parcels on her bike. And then: metamorphosis! It all takes place rather suddenly though. She discovers a videotape recorded by her father in his secret hideout, listens to it, and decides to go in search of him. And voila! Lara Croft, the kicking, boxing, running, climbing, fighting machine is born. She teams up with Wu and heads to an island off the coast of Japan where she believes her father went in search of the tomb of a mythical queen who, it is believed, had supernatural abilities. But Richard Croft is not the only one searching for the tomb. If Lara was fighting the IIluminati trying to control time in the 2001 film, this time she’s battling an evil corporation called the Trinity who’s trying to control humanity by reawakening the dead queen.
If one were to find fault with the story, we could question why everything—bridges, mountains, caves—crumbles around Lara; in fact, her ability to dangle is more on display here than her fighting skills. But, it doesn’t behoove one to ask useless questions. This is Lara Croft; she can dangle all she wants. We know she’s going to haul herself up in her own sweet time. That’s the thing about video game heroines—they never lose. The bonus of a good popcorn movie is that you can sit back and relax in the surety that the worst that can happen to your heroine is a few broken bones.
But the real fault with the movie is not Lara. It’s all the rest of them—West as Lara’s father, Wu as her accomplice and Goggins as the villain. Their main role is to catapult Lara to greater heights of glory and brilliance. They do that admirably by letting her shine in comparison to them. Wu is too wimpy. All the fun he has is to pull the trigger a few times. He bungles even that up by managing to get himself shot. West, as the father, gets really sappy dialogues, like reminding Lara that she’s “ten times his worth” and that she’s “always been the brains in the family”. Goggins is too dumb to be credible as the chosen representative of the Trinity. He’s spent half his life trying to find the tomb, which Lara does in a trice. Then, he has to get her to find the combination to open the lock and lead the way inside, because, as he says, “ladies first” (grow a spine, you dope).
The more fantastic Lara is made to seem, the less real she becomes. If Uma Thurman is pulp fiction, Lara Croft is pulp fantasy. As long as you remember that, and don’t go looking for anything deeper, Tomb Raider is a rollicking ride.
Directed by Roar Uthaug
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Daniel Wu, Walton Goggins
And she’s back!