While Marvel has mastered the art of bringing comic book superheroes to life with fully realized films, successfully translating video games to the big screen has remained a puzzle for the ages. In Tomb Raider, Norwegian director Roar Uthaug attempts to buck this trend by injecting Lara Croft’s latest outing with the same grit and realism that made the video game’s 2013 reboot such a breath of fresh air. The results are... mixed.
An origin story through and through, Tomb Raider introduces us to a young and reckless Lara (Alicia Vikander), who’s refused a vast inheritance following the disappearance of her father (Dominic West). But with her day-to-day struggles as a London bike courier mounting, her father’s old business partner (Kristin Scott Thomas) convinces Lara to protect the Croft estate from being sold off. It's not long until a mysterious Japanese puzzle shows up, leading to a hidden chamber under Croft Manor, and soon, Lara teams up with a Hong Kong boat captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) and heads for Yamaha—a mysterious island off the coast of Japan said to be the final resting place of the cursed Queen Himiko.
Watching Lara claw her way through one impressive set piece after another makes for a fun, visually compelling experience.
Tomb Raider shines brightest when it pits Lara against the odds and gives Vikander the chance to showcase her talent, along with the training and muscle building that went into the role. Whether she’s biking the crowded streets of London, dangling from the wing of a rusted airplane hanging over a vertigo-inducing waterfall, or solving what’s essentially a deadly escape room puzzle, watching Lara claw her way through one impressive set piece after another makes for a fun, visually compelling experience.
Unfortunately, the script doesn’t give the supporting cast the same opportunity, and the movie drags because of it. Walton Goggins doesn't get a chance to inject his trademarked crazy-eyed weirdness into the movie’s villain, who mostly just seems sleepy; meanwhile, West’s overbearing presence looms too large over his daughter’s adventure, and Wu isn’t given enough to do after befriending Lara and wrecking his ship.
Tomb Raider approaches solid popcorn flick territory when it stays true to its source material, and the movie deserves props for reinventing the historically problematic character of Lara Croft as a realistic, empowering hero. But beyond Vikander’s impressive turn, there just isn’t enough depth or excitement here. Sure, this Tomb Raider is one of the better video game movies out there (for what that's worth), and I’d be curious to see what a sequel could bring. But with the likes of Black Panther and Annihilation in theaters, everyone has better moviegoing options—except die-hard Tomb Raider fans.