‘Really?’, Lara Croft exclaims as the rusted plane she’s balancing on crumbles again. It seems she’s having an improbably bad day. But at least she’s just as exasperated as we are.
Athletic daredevil Lara Croft is one of the few examples of video game characters that have been successfully recreated in Hollywood. The original character was brought to pixelated life in 1996 with a basic plot: intelligent female archaeologist goes exploring. Kitted out with two pistols and an hourglass figure, no tomb was too great for her to raid.
Paramount Pictures saw the potential and in 1998 they acquired the film rights. A few years later, the iconic character was made 3D by Angelina Jolie. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was generally panned by critics but, despite this, the movie was a box office success and grossed $274 million worldwide. Persuaded, Paramount went on to make the (questionably titled) Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life just two years later in 2003. The movie was slated and achieved a disappointing lifetime gross of $156 million. In this context of debatable success comes Tomb Raider (2018) – despite what any rose-tinted critics may be saying in retrospect.
Once more, Hollywood has been inspired by the video game’s reboot: Tomb Raider (2013). In this a young Lara is shipwrecked in mysterious circumstances. Traversing a seemingly empty landscape, Croft is vulnerable and must do what she can to survive. And now, the latest film in the Lara Croft canon – loosely based on the game reboot – is Tomb Raider (2018). In it the obstinate and reckless Lara Croft is played by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander. She struggles to pay her dues while working in her Deliveroo-esque courier job. So far, so well adapted to the time. Predictably, she then displays some impressive biking skills as she’s chased through the streets of London. However, this is one of the most enjoyable scenes of the film; the movie is realistic is when it is at its best.
This young Croft is not quite as confident as previous iterations and she makes mistakes. She fails; luck is not always on her side. This is important to keep the film from desperate improbability. Even she exclaims a ‘really?’ when it seems things could not get any worse. These moments make the film enjoyable, but they are limited. Most of the action scenes have Croft’s small but robust body thrown in attacks from people and nature. This lends the film a slight video game feel – and not in a good way. And then, there is also the problem of Alicia Vikander’s wavering English accent. Could an incorporated backstory of a stint in a Swedish boarding school account for Vikander’s lilt?
Some critics have positively noted that Vikander’s Croft is more appropriately dressed, with a modest sports bra and full-length trousers, to differ from Jolie’s figure-hugging vest and hot pants. The film benefits from this update, making our heroine realistic and allowing us to be in awe of her developing skills and strength. The problem was the ending: a big reveal that felt unnecessary. This development could have been used as an overarching theme, carrying a possible series to great success and giving Croft a more interesting storyline than she’s been afforded before. Out of uncertainty over a sequel, perhaps, they squeezed it at the end leaving future adaptations less exciting, and the purpose of this one convoluted. The film feels a placeholder, perhaps, a litmus test for possible future films. Regardless, Tomb Raider is perfectly enjoyable as a piece of escapist, fantasy adventure – if you don’t think too hard about it.
Image: Warner Bros.