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Thursday, March 22, 2018 12:04 am

Vikander deserves better Raider

Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.

 

“Almost, not quite,” sums up Roar Uthaug’s Tomb Raider, another reboot of a long-dormant property that does its best to rekindle the initial fervor surrounding Lara Croft, the video game character that spawned two Angelina Jolie features. Thanks to a fresh take on her origin as well as a winning turn from Alicia Vikander that helps ground the action in a degree of reality, the film gets off to a promising start. However, it falters in its second hour with an adventure that comes off as a rote exercise despite its promising premise.

Lara has quite a chip on her shoulder. Working as a bicycle messenger, she’s turned her back on the vast fortune left by her father, Lord Richard (Dominic West). Having disappeared seven years ago, Lara finally cedes to the wishes of her stepmother (Kristin Scott Thomas) and signs documents that would declare him legally dead and put his fortune in her hands. However, just as she’s about to do so, a mysterious clue falls into her hands that leads her to discover just where her father went and his purpose for having done so. Commissioning a bucket of bolts from Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), whose own father went missing while taking Lord Richard to the South China Sea, this duo sets off for a remote island in the Pacific where supposedly a tomb exists that houses an ancient, evil queen.

So far, so good, but once the ship reaches its destination, the film switches to autopilot. Walton Goggins is the resident-heavy Mathias Vogel, who simply wants to uncover the tomb so that he might return to the mainland and his family. The actor does his best to bring a bit of life to the character but he’s hemmed in by too many clichés to make him genuine or memorable. Equally underwhelming is the exploration of the finally found tomb, replete with its requisite deadly booby traps, cryptic curses and logic-defying amount of interior space. The set pieces that drive our heroine to the edge lack the element of surprise or suspense and the fact that Uthaug and his three editors splice together the action scenes for maximum confusion prevents the viewer from becoming fully engaged.

All of this is a shame as Vikander proves to be an appealing action heroine, a far more relatable actress than Jolie and one who naturally brings a degree of much-needed levity to the movie. Screenwriters Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons effectively ground the character, as they don’t put Croft in the position of having to do the impossible in order to survive. This more modest approach is welcome as it prevents the film from spinning wildly out of control as so many big-budget action films do.

Plucky, fun, physical, charming and tough, Vikander is very good here, and we’re left with the sense that she deserves a better movie. Whether she will get a chance to plunder again will depend on whether foreign audiences embrace her or not. If she does, here’s hoping that when she’s put through her paces, it’ll be in service of a worthwhile quest, as the chemistry between Vikander and Wu pops and supplies a bit of needed levity to the proceedings.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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