Lara Croft was one of the first cinematic female bad-asses of the time; she could have been ranked alongside Sarah Connor, Princess Leia, and Ripley. However, the early portrayals of the video game character have been incredibly sexualized, even with Angelina Jolie’s two films in the early 2000s. However, Alicia Vikander is stepping into the shoes of the famed tomb raider, and she brings with her a more logical and contemporary portrayal of a female heroine.
Tomb Raider is a reboot of sorts, adapting a 2013 video game, which in itself was a reboot of the earlier “Tomb Raider” video games. In the film we follow Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) as she lives recklessly in London, permanently scarred by the disappearance of her father (Dominic West) seven years back. However, once clues start resurfacing Lara follows her father’s footsteps to an uncharted island off the coast of Japan, which supposedly entombs a cursed Japanese queen.
Anyone who has played modern video games will see this film as a very good adaptation. There is a clear distinction between what would be gameplay and what would be a cut-scene, and director Roar Uthag is able to smoothly transition between these two elements. The story structure is also here, with a clear although conventional plot; unfortunately the cringe-worthy video game dialogue makes its way into the film as well. I would be surprised if I could find a single original line in the entire film, it all seems incredibly lazy and recycled. This certainly takes its toll on the film’s villain (played by Walton Goggins), who is such a cardboard cut-out I’d be surprised if you remembered him an hour after watching the movie.
But while this film could have easily been a straight-to-DVD release, it fortunately has Alicia Vikander. The Oscar-winning actress is almost too good for Tomb Raider, she somehow spins originality into the bland lines and carries the entire film on her shoulders with a contagious intensity. And while her portrayal of a female action-hero certainly breaks many molds, I can’t help but feel that it was treated as simply anecdotal.
I’m not claiming that every female breakthrough should be paused and circled in red on screen; certainly a normalization of women in non-conventional roles should be encouraged (such as Annihilation did a couple of weeks back). But given that we are still at the very cusp of the feminization of Hollywood, I can’t help but feel that certain scenes in Tomb Raiderwould have had a more impactful and celebratory feeling had this film been directed by a woman. There was one particular scene in the film, with Lara wielding a bow-and-arrow and felling enemies around her that I felt could have had as big an impact as the ‘no-mans-land’ scene in Wonder Woman.
Nevertheless, it’s nice to see a non-sexualized portrayal of a female action-hero in a blockbuster. I was certainly surprised to not see men bursting at the last minute when the going got too tough for our protagonist. The film can’t be called ‘good’ but with the amazing Alicia Vikander at the helm it certainly takes some fun turns.