This article previously appeared on Crossfader
Director: Roar Uthaug
Genre: Action, Adventure
I wasn’t sure what to think as I was walking into the theater to see TOMB RAIDER. The film is based off of the long-running video game series that inspired the modern-day action adventure game, so it had quite a bit to live up to. My biggest concern, however, was the female objectification in prior Tomb Raider installments starring Angelina Jolie—a trailer for the DVD of LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER literally said the words “she’s all yours.” However, due to the empowerment of recent female leads, from Imperator Furiosa to Gal Gadot’s WONDER WOMAN, I was curious to see if the same would apply in director Roar Uthaug’s vehicle. I am happy to report that I walked out of that theater feeling wholly satisfied with TOMB RAIDER. A little confused by some of the material I saw, but satisfied nonetheless.
This is Roar Uthaug’s first English feature, with his 2015 disaster film, THE WAVE, making a big splash in the indie scene. It seems his translation to Hollywood has largely been a success! TOMB RAIDER is the story of Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) and her journey to find her missing father on a mythical island. It’s a thrilling action-adventure that does a beautiful job of leaving the romance at home. Uthaug replaces a sickeningly sappy romance with a girl’s simple love for her father and his safety. Furthermore, Alicia Vikander did all of her own stunts. Talk about an extra boost of girl power! The film combines story elements from the 2013 TOMB RAIDER reboot and its sequel, RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER, two video game installments that tried to rebrand the heroine into a more relatable icon of female agency.
Look at Alicia Vikander and all her grungy, badass glory!
I absolutely loved the way Lara’s character was written. She was strong, brave, independent, and stubborn in the best possible way. No one told her what to do, not even death. It made me, a giant film nerd who screams when a cricket jumps, want to go out and learn to kickbox. Having said all that, I did have some issues when it came to various aspects of the story. At the beginning, we see Lara pick up food for delivery. There is a boy that clearly wants to ask her out, but doesn’t. His parents get mad at him, his mom hits him upside the head, it’s all fun and games. It’s an odd moment that registers as completely arbitrary. The viewer never sees him again and the scene feels unnecessary. It is a half-hearted attempt to critique action-adventure romances, but it falls so very short due to the lack of follow-up that it becomes a non-sequitur. Furthermore, while the ending incorporates a small twist that didn’t leave me rolling my eyes, there were some aspects that were easily predictable.
That said, the action scenes had me on the edge of my seat, practically screaming at Lara to run, hide, or otherwise save herself. She was obviously badass enough to get herself out of each life-threatening situation, but the sequences were tense and inspired me to feel the same, so the film passed with flying colors. Having said that, while the tension was great, the dialogue was notably flat. It wasn’t necessarily a bad or cringe-worthy script itself, but the delivery had me rolling my eyes. What did have me cringing, however, was Vikander’s co-star Daniel Wu. It’s a given fact that Wu didn’t have a whole lot to work with, but his performance made me look away from the screen, while someone getting impaled by a floor spike didn’t. Thankfully, like the unnecessary scenes previously mentioned, those lines were few and far between, so it was surprisingly bearable. That, and Alicia Vikander made up for it with her portrayal of Lara Croft.
“Some men like dangerous women.” Oh my god, stooooooop.
Clearly we do not have a cinematic masterpiece on our hands, but in regards to video game adaptations, avoiding complete disaster is a feat unto itself. Does TOMB RAIDER suffer from acting and writing issues? Yes! But the result is a net positive for female-led action films, proving yet again that Alicia Vikander is a force of blockbuster entertainment. What Roar Uthaug has delivered is a film that displays a fierce actress portraying an iconic character with a refreshing lack of male gaze. As long as the audience doesn’t focus on Daniel Wu too much and gives Alicia Vikander the recognition she deserves, then viewers should buckle up for a wild, awe-inspiring ride that—and I cannot stress this enough—has all of the adventure and none of the romance.