118 minutes (18)
The road to video game movie hell is paved with good intentions.
While Paul W.S. Anderson did solid work with Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil, cinema history is littered with disastrous movie adaptations of popular video games.
Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter, Doom and Hitman are just a few of the familiar titles to get disastrous film adaptations.
Even Alicia Vikander’s other half, Michael Fassbender, has fallen foul of the phenomenon with his Assassin’s Creed movie failing to hit the right notes.
It’s therefore something of a relief to report that Vikander’s first Tomb Raider outing has managed to dodge that particular bullet, delivering a solid video game outing that’s a definite step-up from Angelina Jolie’s CGI-led outings as Lara Croft.
The plot sees Croft living out her days as an unambitious London bicycle courier until a series of clues send her sailing off to a mysterious island and the mysterious tomb of Himiko, the mother of death, who more than lives up to the bill.
In the wrong hands, the film could have ended up following a similar path to the previous two Jolie outings but, thankfully, director Roar Uthaug took a more nuanced approach, following the gritty, more physically-challenging path set out by the Jason Bourne films.
A filmmaker who favours practical effects over computer-led antics, his Lara Croft feels more contemporary, a living, breathing action heroine who feels the exertion of every death-defying leap, archaeological dig or cycle through the streets of London.
The days of Jolie and the breast implants she wore under her costume as Croft are over with Uthaug establishing that from the off with Vikander introduced to audiences midway through a spot of MMA sparring.
Vikander is a lean, mean, fighting machine, rather than the two-dimensional character that existed prior. The action, meanwhile, is fast, frenetic but, most importantly, grounded in some form of reality (if you can forgive the rather pristine depiction of London.)
In the era of the female action star, Vikander more than holds her own and is central to much of the film’s success. She doesn’t do it all on her own though. Dominic West provides dependable support while one of the film’s biggest successes comes in the casting of Walton Goggins as the principle villain.
Goggins has been playing watchable bad guys since The Shield and in an era when most superhero movies struggle to deliver a compelling villain, he’s a rare and valuable commodity. It’s a;sp great to see Kristen Scott Thomas turn up too and there could be even more to come from her.
The central plot comes off a little derivative of Indiana Jones at times but then Tomb Raider has always been that and a plot that moved away from ancient burial grounds and supernatural hokey would have been a betrayal of the franchise’s roots.
Tomb Raider isn’t without its faults of course – the movie takes a little too long to get to the actual tomb raiding part of the story while Daniel Wu’s alcoholic boat captain feels a little one dimensional.
But Uthaug and Vikander deserve credit for making a solid Tomb Raider film that’s fun, surprisingly scary in places, boasts plenty of memorable action set pieces and, most importantly for fans, stays faithful to the source material while feeling modern and timely.
Tomb Raider isn’t perfect by any means but it is a good adaptation of a decidedly wafer-thin computer game premise and there aren’t many video game movies you can say that about. Roll on the sequel.