Entertainment Movie Reviews

Sunday 20 January 2019

Tomb Raider review: This action remake is a poor Indiana Jones rip-off without the deadpan humour


Welcome to the jungle: Alicia Vikander’s Lara finds herself in a lot of precarious situations while searching for her dad
Welcome to the jungle: Alicia Vikander’s Lara finds herself in a lot of precarious situations while searching for her dad
Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

A record-breaking three-dimensional 1996 action video game, Tomb Raider launched a franchise beloved by horny teenage boys the world over, and set the mould for many adventure games that would follow.

Though its heroine, Lara Croft, was a heroically chested English aristocrat, she was a total rip-off of Indiana Jones with a little bit of Batman thrown in, and spent most of her time swinging on jungle vines and swiping archaeological treasures from under the noses of scheming philistines.

She spawned two movies, which gents of a certain age may remember fondly as they starred a hyper-sexualised Angelina Jolie, who couldn't save them from mediocrity.

These days, however, as we know, any old half-baked rehash an audience might recognise is better than taking a punt on a new idea, and so we have Tomb Raider, a clean-limbed reboot that stars Swedish actress Alicia Vikander as a young and callow Lara, who's earning her living delivering curries around London on a push bike when fate intervenes.

Her father, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West) disappeared nine years previously: a billionaire businessman and philanthropist, his real passion had been archaeology, and he'd pottered off in the general direction of the Sea of Japan in search of a mythical island containing the tomb of a notoriously evil ancient Japanese queen. He's now presumed dead and Lord Richard's associate Anna Miller (Kristin Scott Thomas) is urging his daughter to sign the papers that will transfer the estate, its holdings and the family mansion into Lara's name.

But Lara feels that signing them would be disloyal and so prefers to live in a kip and eke a living as a courier.

Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft
Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft

Yet when she finds a clue left by her father, she visits the family crypt and discovers a secret chamber containing all of Lord Richard's files and work.

He was convinced he'd located the final resting place of the Queen of Yamatai, and must find it before a sinister organisation called Trinity gets there and unleashes her supposed destructive power.

It all sounds bonkers, and Lara is sceptical, but she also reckons her father's map and cryptic notes may just lead her to him. So she takes off for Hong Kong, boards a rust bucket of a fishing boat and sets her course for the ominously titled Death Sea. She'll eventually find the island and lots of potentially fatal cliff-hanging situations.

For all their stunts and derring-do, the thing that made the Indiana Jones films really special was humour, a steady stream of visual and verbal gags expertly handled by the master of deadpan, Harrison Ford.

Welcome to the jungle: Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft
Welcome to the jungle: Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft

But humour is precisely what this Tomb Raider reboot lacks. It's strangely stiff and wooden from the get-go, and heavy-handed writing stops it taking off.

There are decent actors knocking around on the fringes like West, Scott Thomas and Derek Jacobi, who plays an impeccably mannered family lawyer, but none of them are given much to do, and though Scott Thomas schemes, she does so half-heartedly.

Walton Goggins does inject some life into the proceedings, playing an American archaeologist with lots of teeth and no scruples, but not enough to save the viewer from lengthy troughs of tedium.

There are twists, but all are inadvertently telegraphed, fight sequences are rare and strangely disappointing, and the action looks hackneyed, over-familiar.

There's a decent bit of business involving a plane wreck precariously lodged on the edge of a terrifying precipice and a nice cycling chase sequence through narrow side streets at the start, but once Croft ventures into the queen's tomb, it's Indy rip-offs all the way.

Vikander is a very fine actress and perhaps it was an agent or publicist who advised that fronting an action film like this would open all sorts of doors for her.

It may or may not, but while she's a perfectly adequate Lara Croft, she seems miscast and ill at ease, unsure of how to navigate her way through this anodyne, juvenile nonsense.

Tomb Raider (12A, 118mins) - 2 stars

Films coming soon...

Pacific Rim Uprising (John Bogeya, Scott Eastwood, Charlie Day); A Wrinkle In Time (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine); Unsane (Claire Foy, Juno Temple); Dark River (Ruth Wilson); The Third Murder (Mahaharu Fukuyama).

Irish Independent

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