When I first heard that “Tomb Raider” was getting a reboot, my exact reaction was a simple shrug. Though you could say I grew up with the character, first playing the game as a teenage girl, then watching the movies amidst hangovers in my twenties, I was exactly clamoring for a new start. Lara Croft, for all her tough, adventuring, girl power was always a bit more of a male fantasy than a fully fleshed out woman. I never thought she was relatable or real. And, if we’re honest, when has a film based on a video game EVER been done well? So yea, I had rather low expectations for Alicia Vikander’s go as Lara Croft. And, I am very happy to say, it’s actually pretty fun and…get this, she’s an actual real girl! WHAAAATTTT?!
In director Roar Uthaug’s reboot, which is based on the 2013 video game reboot (so many boots!), Lara Croft is a young woman in her early twenties. She is tough, athletic, a bit angsty, and broke- but not at all bothered by it. She lives in a flat with a roommate (an odd point, that’s only brought up in a blink) in the young, hipster area of East London. Her father, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), vanished several years prior, leaving Lara with many questions, with a slight “daddy issue” but she’s still figuring out her place and her direction in the world. Oh yes, she’s an heiress, but she refuses to sign the papers that would hand over her father’s fortune to herself because doing so would mean she accepts that he is possibly dead. Lara heads to her family’s mausoleum to visit her father’s supposed grave when she realizes there’s something out of place. That discovery leads her on a mission to find out what happened to her father, who she realizes went in search of Queen Himiko’s crypt, an ancient Japanese queen with legends of her awakening having the possibility to wipe out mankind. By way of a fishing boat and an alcoholic sailor, Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) with some daddy issues of his own. Together they voyage to what they both assume to be an uninhabited island and instead find Mathias Vogel (Walter Goggins), who has been searching for Himiko himself. Vogel claims to have killed both Lara and Lu’s fathers and forces them into working for him. Lara escapes and finds her father, alive, and still in search of Himiko. With Vogel on their tail, and the world at stake, Lara makes mistakes but uses her intelligence and skills to solve riddles and questions that lie ahead.
It is so refreshing to find a heroine who is actually seen as an actual young woman. Not many, if any, women I know had things figured out in their early twenties. Hell, at almost 40, I am still making mistakes as I go along. Vikander plays Lara like a real girl. She isn’t superhuman. She has conflicts. She overthinks or makes snap decisions. And she allows the audience to be part of her journey. There’s no sudden turn where she has got it all figured out, and refreshingly, there are no full body scans, boob shots or upskirt moments. We see Lara, gritty, dirty, sweaty, and Vikander is brilliant at allowing the camera to see her character process things like solving a puzzle or a riddle.
And unlike most action films, Lara is neither given a romantic interest nor subjected to terrible violence. She is on equal footing with the baddie Vogel, in both smarts and skill. She’s a bit less like Lara Croft of the past, and more of Indiana Jones of today.
Yes, the pacing can hit a few lags, but this is typical of an origin story. Also- the daddy issues, while it giver Lara more of a center, it can prove to be a bit uneven, and sometimes obtrusive to the story. But, the attempt of the emotional connection is quickly washed away when you see Lara facing waterfalls, baddies and more. In a way, this “Tomb Raider” is a bit of an homage to women- how you can be sporty, get dirty and be smart- but you don’t have to be perfect, just be who you are. If video game heroines can change, well… then there’s hope.
Tomb Raider opens March 16th