Tomb Raider

 

            It's a movie based on a video game, after the first video game generated its own movie, so don't look for sequels or even comparisons.  It's meant to stand alone, but it's also meant to strictly entertain.

And entertain it does, mostly because of the star power of Alicia Vikander.  She's gritty enough to make you admire her, pretty enough to make you want to look at her, and just vulnerable enough to make you empathize with her.

            We meet Lara Croft while she's losing a kickboxing match.  She's obviously toned and skilled, but her opponent is getting the best of her, she just doesn't want to admit it.  She's a bike courier by trade, and scrapes along financially because she refuses to sign the papers that would allow for a big inheritance---because signing would also admit her father's dead---and she's isn't ready to accept that.  Richard Croft (Dominic West)  left seven years ago, when she was still a teenager, off to one of his archaeological adventures, and he's never returned.  After one more glimpse into Lara's determined character---she accepts a bike-race challenge which offers some pretty good chase scenes---Lara finally finds a clue to where her father traveled last, and she is determined to follow his trail, from London to Hong Kong.  There, she manages to meet up with a drunk boat captain, Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), whose father helped Lara's father.  Together they find the myterious destination island off the coast of Japan—or rather, they crash on the rocks there, now marooned, only to be captured by a rival, more violent, archaeological group, headed by the menacingly casual Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins).

            Lara's escape provides more harrowing chase sequences, and we even have time for an “aww” moment---her reunion with her lost Dad, who actually wasn't lost, but didn't come home because he was trying to protect her?  Well, Dads don't always turn out to be everything we projected on them as kids, and learning that is part of growing up, as well, even for fantasy characters like Lara Croft.

            But despite the emotional sidetrack, the focus is really on exploring the ancient tomb itself, complete with all its trap doors, hidden keys, dead-end passageways, skeleton guardians, and cryptic ancient puzzles.  There are some malevolent curses that will take the swagger right out of men with guns.  Mostly, it's about watching Lara Croft---one harrowing escape after another, fearless and ferocious, but not without a little tenderness.  It's just that we don't have time for any romance;  we're too busy saving the world and resolving our long-standing Daddy issues.

            Don't expect all the plot twists to resolve clearly, but do expect to be set up for a sequel.  If Alicia Vikander returns in the lead role, expect some enthusiastic anticipation.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association