Movie Beat: Alicia Vikander good in solid, entertaining “Tomb Raider”
By Jenniffer Wardell
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and for some language
Screenplay by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons, story by Evan Daugherty and Geneva Robertson-Dworet
Directed by Roar Uthaug
Starring Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi and more
Grade: Three stars
Though it’s far from perfect, “Tomb Raider” has a ton of potential.
The movie, which is clearly hoping to be the start of a new franchise for the property, is a solidly-made action-adventure movie with likeable, potentially interesting main characters, a handful of genuinely good action sequences, and an important sprinkling of humor. It doesn’t re-invent the genre in the way I suspect it thinks it does, and there are a handful of small moments throughout that made me wince a little, but overall it’s two hours of solid action-adventure fun.
For those not familiar with the video games or the 2000s-era movies starring Angelina Jolie, the “Tomb Raider” properties are basically a more modern, female Indiana Jones. This movie sets up a new backstory for the character, starting her in humble circumstances before getting her sucked up in a quest to find her father. There are the required secret lairs, treacherous islands, evil overlord figures and mysterious temples, as well as hints of a larger arc that the studio undoubtedly hopes will carry her through the next several films.
The movie is based on the 2013 reboot game, and fans of it will recognize several references to the game’s original storyline. Thankfully, however, you don’t even need to know it’s based on a video game to appreciate the movie – if you’ve ever seen any intrepid hero get washed up on an island or make their way through an ancient, trap-filled temple, you’ll know what to expect from “Tomb Raider.” There’s a little bit of a twist on the usual Mystery Prize hiding inside, enough to be mildly interesting if not revolutionary, but a lack of cleverness in some of the other puzzles makes it harder to get genuinely sucked in.
The action scenes have a similar problem. There are a handful of moments that are interesting, but there are also enough small but significant bonehead moves to make me shake my head. One is the kind of fumble that should have probably turned into a plot monster if the movie hadn’t just ignored it, and another drains a lot of potential out of a potentially awesome face-off.
The chase scenes are overall much better, with Lara leaping and swinging all over the place and making inventive use of the surrounding environment. One scene across several small boats is actually quite a bit of fun, and a run/fall along a river and through a jungle are complicated and well-timed enough to remain interesting throughout.
The best part, though, are the two leads. Alicia Vikander proves she has the chops to be an action heroine, convincingly whipping through all the physical requirements while handling the required witty one-liners with panache. Daniel Wu is great as Lu Ren, who fulfills the usual “token girl requirement” (gender-flipped here, naturally) with charm and low-key humor. While there’s no romance, the two have enough chemistry that I hope they bring Wu back if a sequel gets greenlit. Walton Goggins is actually less creepy than some of his usual roles as the villain of the story, with a backstory just understandable enough that it’s hard to hate him even at his worst.
(Photo © Warner Bros.)