Tomb Raider (2018) Review

There is a criminal offence on the UK statute books, specifically section 35 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861 (subsequently amended by section 1(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 1948) which reads: ‘Whosoever, having the charge of any carriage or vehicle, shall by wanton or furious driving or racing, or other wilful misconduct, or by wilful neglect, do or cause to be done any bodily harm to any person whatsoever, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years …’. The last prosecution under this law was for wanton and furious cycling in 2009 a crime the new “Tomb Raider” movie gleefully replicates during its tedious and inexplicably unnecessary first act which exists purely to explain why Lara has no money when there’s literally no reason for her not to.

Following the disappearance of her father, Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) rejects her title and privilege to eke out a living as a bicycle courier until the need for money leads her to take up a bet which eventually lands her on the bonnet of a police car covered in paint. Bailed out by her aunt (Kristen Scott Thomas), Lara reluctantly agrees to sign the papers which will confirm her father’s death and bring her the inheritance she has so long rejected. But when an obscure artefact bequeathed to her by her father reveals a key to his secret workshop, Lara sets out to discover exactly what happened to Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West).

“Tomb Raider” reboots the movie franchise in much the same vein as the video games its based on, taking us back to Lara’s beginnings and taking a much more grounded, stripped back approach to the character. In Alicia Vikander, the movie has a star who is more than up to the task, so it’s a profound shame the story treats her quite so shabbily. Gone are the pneumatic super-heroics of Angelina Jolie’s take on the character and in their place is a more flesh and blood, fallible heroine. Unfortunately, that fallibility is embraced to a fault, meaning that Lara lacks any real agency and spends much of the film being a punching bag or bystander, defeated or outwitted by sparring partners, pawnbrokers, street thugs and nearly every bad guy she encounters. That is until she flat out kills a guy in a fight, during which she suffers a mysterious ‘stab wound of competency’ and is suddenly able to take on machinegun armed goons with nothing but a bow and arrow.

For a movie called “Tomb Raider”, the actual tomb raiding is confined to a mere twenty or so minutes towards the end of the movie. They’re a good twenty or so minutes, even though they feature some of the dumbest mercenary archeologists (after accidentally setting off two separate death traps by stepping on the wrong part of the floor, nobody thinks to proceed cautiously or look down to watch where they’re putting their feet as they saunter through the rest of the tomb) to grace the silver screen since “The Pyramid”.

The real problem with the twenty minutes of tomb raiding, though, is the hour and forty minutes of underdeveloped and clumsily exposited daddy issues you have to sit through with only the Zack Snyder-esque slow motion ‘look at this shot it’s exactly like that scene from the video game’ moments to break things up. I’ve never played a Tomb Raider game yet they’re signposted so obviously I’m pretty sure I spotted every single one.

Vikander has the potential to be a great Lara Croft, but she’s going to need a much better script with more focus on creating an exciting cinematic adventure than this slavishly cautious and unforgivably dull attempt to bring Square Enix’s fading cash cow back to the multiplexes.