All Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) had to do was sign her name on the dotted line, and she'd be a millionaire. Instead, she chooses to be poor, carrying the hope that her long-lost father (Dominic West) is still alive somewhere.
Richard Croft left his young daughter seven years ago to go look for a supernatural being buried in the mountains deep in the forest, and there are two finalities Lara is dealing with: her dad shipwrecked on his trek to the unknown, or he is actually found what he was looking for. At home, she fights instead of pitying his disappearance, willingly taking a beating in the ring. She scraps for cash that places her next to poverty instead of taking a handout. When she finds out that her dad's life wasn't all boardrooms and galas, that he had a different adventure in mind, Lara takes it upon herself to find the truth.
It is the simple quest of a daddy's girl that springs Tomb Raider into vivid motion in a movie that's easy on the eyes, senses, and brain. Director Roar Uthaug's first mainstream feature is a successful reboot of a seemingly dead cinematic adaptation series in a genre that carries more poison than virtue. Michael Fassbender couldn't coax many into watching his Assassin's Creed last year, and Angelina Jolie last strapped on the Croft gear over a decade ago. Still, the theory holds that if you find the right actress to embody the role, another try isn't a bad idea.
Here's the thing: Vikander makes this film work. She instills in Croft a willing soul who isn't just up for the action heroic stunts, but the soul of the character as well. Arguably as talented and beautiful as Jolie, Vikander slips on the iconic tank top and bandages with ease, making the film a fun endeavor instead of a tiring college try. Vikander is in her every single frame of the film, which places the entire film on her shoulders. It's a good thing she worked out for the role, because she can handle the weight.
Of course, every hero has to run into some kind of trouble, and in this film that is Mathais Vogel, played with a charming menace by Walter Goggins. Yes, I can't get Goggins' Boyd Crowder out of my head whenever I see the actor break bad, but the dude's seething badness comes off as organic and works like a charm here. A mercenary looking for the same thing Richard was but more twisted about the route in getting there, Vogel has a mission and won't stop. With the help of a drunken yet resourceful boat captain, Lu Ren (the winning Daniel Wu), Lara is up to the task.
If you can't handle supernatural beings and dark magic, the plot may alienate you, but the screenwriting team of Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons really invest a healthy amount of time in the father-daughter subplot, which gives the rest of the film a decent charge for when the mayhem starts. The center of the film revolves around Lara not only finding where her dad went, but why he did so. The reveal isn't mind blowing, but it's worth the wait.
West gives a good performance as Richard, the father full of smiles but even more mystery. Like Goggins, he was perfect for the part and forms a quick chemistry with Vikander. If there is a sequel, which carries a slim chance, the filmmakers need to give Croft and Lu Ren more time together. Vikander and Wu are a solid match and produce the usual hero-sidekick quirky highlights. It leaves you wanting more.
I appreciate the filmmakers not going all CGI and done on the audience. The action consists of many sequences crafted from good old fashioned stunt work. A couple actors getting hit instead of a nerd clicking enter and shift-C-F2 a few times in post-production. The Jolie films lost my attention when it felt like I watching a guy play a video game for two hours. Uthaug thankfully kicked it old school.
Will this film blow your mind? No. Will it change the way you see movies? No. Is it a fun two hours? Yes. Was there a reason for doing it? Yes.
The pleasures are easy to find in this film if you allow them to find you. Just remember that Vikander is the reason it all works. She's the reason the reboot doesn't feel like a tacked on moneymaking exercise. The Oscar-winning actress is the real deal and powers this flick. It's her getting dirty, kicked around, punched in the face, and hustling. You believe every second of it. Alicia Vikander is Lara Croft, indeed.
I'm no video game guru, but I'd say Tomb Raider is a fine adaptation.