Ah, it’s “great” to see Hollywood has remained predictable with a reboot of yet another film franchise. It’s been 15 years since Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life, and even though I believe no one was ferociously clamoring for another Tomb Raider film, MGM and Warner Brothers thought it would be a good idea bring Lara Croft back. This iteration posits Oscar winner Alicia Vikander as Angelina Jolie’s successor, and backed by a script from Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons, Tomb Raider is an origin story that’s grittier and a tad more realistic than its predecessor.

Directed by Norwegian filmmaker Roar Uthaug, Tomb Raider borrows plenty from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and only in certain scenes does it try to replicate (or pay homage to) its video game roots. With the focus more on Lara Croft and how she came to be, this may be Hollywood’s best video game adaptation. That’s not saying much because video game films have largely been terrible, but I guess Vikander felt inspired to one-up husband Michael Fassbender and his efforts towards Assassin’s Creed.

Because it’s an origin story, Tomb Raider’s first hour is the most interesting portion. Many fans know Lara is a child of great wealth, and here she shuns that aspect of her life in an effort to remain detached from happy memories of her father Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West) and the painful fact that he’s been missing (and presumed dead) for the last 7 years. Lara is broke, reckless and carefree and early on she’s bicycling all over London as a delivery person. Her recklessness gets her into some legal trouble and it inadvertently brings her back to her wealthy beginnings. Faced with losing her inheritance, Lara reluctantly accepts it and suddenly discovers an opportunity to learn the truth of her father’s disappearance. This is the catalyst which leads her to her true calling – the one we all know and love.

Uthaug takes his time in developing Lara’s backstory and its exposition balances out the rest of Tomb Raider. That’s a good thing because the final act devolves into typical action film tropes which, as mentioned, borrow from Last Crusade. In my opinion, ripping from Indiana Jones isn’t a bad thing - at least audiences who don’t like this can easily claim, “Eh, it’s just a crummier version of Last Crusade, just with a woman as the lead and no Nazis.” They aren't wrong but at least Tomb Raider is exciting and fun.

What's difficult to get behind is the action. The obvious complaint is it's unoriginal and uninspired, and there isn't much of it. Less obvious, but more pressing (as these times are sensitive) is how the action shines a light on the (mis)treatment of women. Although Lara Croft is intelligent, strong, athletic and more than capable of taking care of herself, she gets kicked, punched and choked quite often. All of it is inflicted upon her by main antagonist, Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins), and his small army of mindless henchmen, and at times I felt it when they'd hit her. Still, Lara displays scant signs of her true badassery, surely due to this being an origin story, but severely limiting in regards to Lara and her potential (which we’ve already seen).

Goggins, who’s defined as an excellent character actor, is on board to be as menacing as possible, although he didn’t seem to have fun chewing up scenery. But considering Mathias has been in search of an artifact (and living on a remote island) for 7 years, he gets a pass

Worth mentioning is the appearance of Daniel Wu, best known in the States as the star of AMC’s Into the Badlands. He’s Tomb Raider’s main male protagonist (what, an Asian guy in the lead role?) and is there only to support Lara. His Lu Ren isn’t the most memorable character, but with this reboot looking to become a film franchise it’ll be exciting to see if Wu will be allowed to take this character in positive and new directions.

Tomb Raider isn’t a must-see feature but Vikander unleashes plenty of charm and exudes a wealth of confidence to warrant a look. This effort stumbles a little with the action but with its solid exposition it has the potential to surpass the Jolie-fronted series. The move towards a more grounded Lara Croft could help audiences better identify and thus should add to their longevity and staying power. A few improvements with future scripts (if sequels are greenlit, of course) could turn Lara into a pop culture phenomenon (again) but possibly on the same level with Wonder Woman. But right now we should be happy a decent video game film is available to enjoy.

3 stars out of 5

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