Cast: Alivia Vikander, Daniel Wu, Dominic West, Walton Goggins – Directed by Roar Uthaug
It finally happened! They finally mastered the video game movie. It only took twenty bloody years. It’s important because not only is it the first lady of computer games, but because for people in their twenties she made up the big three of computer games. Lara Croft was many people’s first crush; the busty, short-short wearing archaeologist, mixing simple genre thrills of Indiana Jones with the figure of a centrefold, the Tomb Raider series was a staple of anyone with a console. Her, along with spunky little dragon Spyro and the box bashing bandicoot Crash made up the original trio.
We’ve done our rundown of the video game films – a full history will be incoming soon – but no film has ever been a fully fledged proper film in its own right. Owing mainly to changing too much from the simple origins of the games they adapt. The high-end ones, such as the Silent Hill films and the original Tomb Raiders, are still duds.
Directed by Roar Uthaug (great name), this Tomb Raider takes its lead from the 2013 reboot game that ditched the busty broad for an altogether more realistic take on the legend. Here Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) lives her life scraping by as a bike courier. She lives in almost poverty, out of refusal to sign papers which would admit that her father Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West) is dead, having gone looking for an ancient tomb and the shady organisation of Trinity.
From the get-go, Uthaug lays out his table clearly: there’s going to be great action throughout, and shots lifted straight from the video game. Vikander nails the role of Lara Croft, giving her a self-awareness, arrogance and vulnerability that make Croft the compelling hero that she is. It helps that she looks like her video game counterpart, but she also has the physicality to sell the stunts of which there are many. Together Uthaug and Vikander keep the pace of the film going as they lay out the table of who she is.
She’s a so-so boxer, a reckless biker, an intelligent young woman, sitting on a fortune she refuses to access. All of this is shown quickly in a fairly wince-inducing boxing sequence, a bike race that is edge of the seat and dialogue that is sparky without being overly coy.
It also helps that Croft is joined in a cast filled with game, reliable actors even if some of them only appear for one or two scenes. Kristin Scott Thomas and Derek Jacobi are given short shrift as the supportive types who thoroughly want to help Lara but sit in a boardroom, while Hannah John-Kamen, Nick Frost and Jamie Winstone all show up for one scene filled with banter. Walton Goggins, Dominic West, and Daniel Wu as the villain, her father and her ally respectively, do a great job. The motivation of the villain may be the old “I work for a bad organisation” trope but this is a video game adaptation, after all, and it’s one that works well enough.
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The central enigma of what happened to Lara’s father provides a nice emotional core to the film that helps drive it, she misses her father, and through that story, we actually root for her, rather than just seeing her as a badass who wants to stop supernatural things happening around her.
It’s through this love for the main character that the film really works, even when the film decides to take it’s time in getting to the tomb raiding of the title. The ship wreck sequence could have been longer, and if there’s a flaw there should have been more tomb raiding, but this is an origin story. And how can anyone not cheer when the old school Raiders of the Lost Ark adventure – that most kids are raised on – is being fulfilled with a pulsing score by Junkie XL.
This is the beginning of a story, and it’s one that they have three brilliant game’s stories to carry on with. If this is to be the first in a franchise, and it really should be, then they should go for it. It’s about time that people respect the games, respect the source material and make decent, proper films out of video games. People clearly have a taste for tomb raiding adventures, and if Lady Croft can take up the mantle then maybe it’s time we see Uncharted, Legend of Zelda, Metal Gear Solid and Halo make it to the big screen. The world wants to see Nathan Drake, Link, Solid Snake and Master Chief; or then again, perhaps the boys aren’t up to the task – maybe it takes a woman to do the job.
Paul Klein is a Film Studies Graduate from London, former writer at The Metropolist.