“Tomb Raider” Movie Review


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     If you listen to a cage side MMA coach during a fight, you will likely hear him yelling “Be first!” at his fighter, which is a prompting to go on the offensive before your opponent puts you on the defensive.  Now there’s no getting around it.  When viewing director Roar Uthaug’s “Tomb Raider”, there’s an immediate sense of the fact we have been here before.  Not only because the film is a reboot of 2001’s Angelina Jolie vehicle “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”, a film that also spawned its own sequel, 2003’s “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life”, but also with its consistent mirroring of both tone and action set pieces seen throughout the “Indiana Jones” trilogy.  As far as being first, this latest incarnation, which stars Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft, is the farthest from, but that doesn't mean it is without its own merits.

     Ironically, Uthaug’s film introduces us to Lara as she spars an opponent at an MMA gym in London where she trains often, but has problems paying her monthly dues.  Unlike Jolie’s version, this Lara Croft is a particularly vulnerable character who struggles to make ends meet while working as a bike courier and is seemingly without any direction or path in life.  All of this seems to be her own way of coping with the presumed loss of her father, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), who disappeared some seven years before when he went looking for the origins of a mysterious Japanese Queen, once thought centuries before to have the power to wipe out the human race.  When he didn’t return, Lara rebelled and swore off her inheritance of the company and fortune her father once presided over.

     Of course when faced with a number of legal and money issues, she has a change of heart after receiving counsel from her father’s confidant, Ana Miller (Kristin Scott Thomas), and proceeds to the building that houses the massive Croft empire in order to sign the paperwork.  But when it appears her father has secretly left a message that may indicate either his whereabouts or how he may have died, Lara decides to make the trip to the same remote Japanese island where her father was said to have disappeared.  In doing so, she first arrives in Hong Kong, and after a boat to boat foot chase straight out of Van Damme’s 1991 action film “Double Impact” which also takes place within the city’s fishing boat harbor, finds a man named Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) whose father once captained the ship that took Lara’s father on his journey.  After some coaxing, Lu Ren agrees to take her to the island.

     It takes a while for Uthaug to rev up the film’s engines, as the first hour is dedicated to a lot of character set up that establishes this Lara Croft as a completely different person than the one gamers fell for or what was presented in the previous film franchise.  In other words, Lara finds out quickly she’s in over her head, enduring the aforementioned foot chase in Hong Kong that almost costs her her life, only to wake up and find the ship taking her to the island in peril as the harsh weather and current seems to be carrying the vessel directly into hull crushing rocks along the coast of their destination.  Uthaug handles these sequences, as well as a death defying stunt in which Lara narrowly avoids death while hanging for her life from a crashed and rusted airplane that is positioned directly over a waterfall, with all the skill you would expect from a big budget film like this, but it isn't until the final twenty five minutes that we get to the actual tomb raiding the title promises.  And there isn’t exactly a lot of sharp and witty dialogue spoken on the way to getting there, nor are any of the characters outside of Lara remotely interesting enough to grasp on to in the sort of way we should expect.

     Lara’s arrival on the island is met with your typical carbon copy antagonist, an archeologist named Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins), who he himself says has also been on the island for the past seven years looking for the tomb of the same Japanese Queen, though for his own nefarious purposes.  Goggins, who is no stranger to these types of roles, is given very little to work with by screenwriters Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons, as his character joins Lara and one other in being surrounded by a bunch of red shirts whose purpose is to die when the story calls for it, while preserving the lives of the leads who must survive long enough for the story to reach its conclusion.  And with the ending allowing for a peek into just where the inevitable follow up may go, there seems to be this recurring feeling that the filmmakers may want to inject some humor into the proceedings the next time and not allow themselves to take this material, which is based on a video game, so serious.  Even the character they are clearly emulating, Indiana Jones, smiled once in a while.  Something this version of Lara Croft would have greatly benefitted from.  GRADE: C