Lara Croft has always been a problematic character – a strong iconic female action hero but one that was definitely created as a teenage male fantasy. This reboot starts with Vikander looking ripped engaged in a boxing bout to indicate that this is not about eye candy for the teen boys. She is working as a Deliveroo type cyclist to be independent as she refuses to accept her father is dead and thus take her inheritance. This is a nice set up, as it gives her enough of the action skills she’ll need later without making her an ex-CIA agent. Of course, she discovers a secret about her father’s disappearance and sets off to track him down.
Although it didn’t fare that well, Tomb Raider is a reasonable action film, and certainly better than 90% of the fare with a male protagonist. When making Batman, Tim Burton said he cast for Bruce Wayne, and that is often the problem with action films, they cast for the fighting, not the talking. But Vikander can act, has touches of humour & is believable as an action hero, specialising in hanging off collapsing things. This gives the whole venture a more human thread rather than just a sequence of action set pieces.
It is quite conventional as an action movie though, and this is it’s downfall. When we’ve had Kingsman redefining fight scenes, Black Panther raising issues of cultural theft by museums, Thor and Guardians playing with the genre and even Jumanji riffing off the computer game connection, playing a fairly straight Indiana Jones script seems dated. There are lots of nods to the features of the game – swimming in rapids, jumping from breaking logs, solving puzzles etc. But they’re just used as action scenes, although a few, such as the collapsing plane are very effective.
Maybe this as good as a Croft movie can be – it’s a video game after all, and one that has been itself superseded by other developments.