Since her birth in the 1996 PlayStation game, Lara Croft became an action character that found popularity with both male and female gamers. Then, in 2001, Lara really came to life when Angelina Jolie got cast for the live action feature role; and in return, Jolie herself gained mainstream fame as the perfect embodiment of Lara. We can all agree that Jolie’s shoes are tough ones to fill, and when the reboot was announced, the casting seemed problematic from the get-go, until Swedish actress Alicia Vikander was announced as the “new Lara Croft” for the reboot story that (predictably) goes back in time to where it all began.
Lara Croft, secretly an heir to a great fortune, has left the world of the rich behind after her father Richard (Dominic West) disappeared; she now works as a bike messenger and has the tough street girl act down to the dot, even training kickboxing on the side. The suits that are heading the Croft corporation in her father’s stead want to proclaim Richard as deceased, but Lara refuses to believe it and to accept her inheritance. When she finally caves in and is about to sign the papers, she gets handed a clue that leads her to find her father’s hidden office and his hidden career – and there, she finds a lead to his whereabouts. In a blink of an eye, Lara finds herself in Asia, where she enlists the help of a boat captain, Lu Ren (Daniel Wu); he is to take her to a secret island that was her father’s last known destination, and also the location of the mystical tomb of Himiko, an ancient Yamatai Queen who yielded a magical power over life and death. But what they find on that island is not what they had expected…
Following all current trends and currents, the new take on the Tomb Raider franchise, directed by Roar Uthaug, goes for the sombre, realistic take at the story; gone is any hint of mysticism, or rather, any ideas involving mystical aspects get promptly shot down as insane. Vikander’s Lara is projected as a down-to-earth young adult (who is tortured by a mass of first-world problems, but never mind), has the “new sexy” looks (abs, abs all the way) and – on paper – seems to be the perfect female fighter icon. However, in reality, her rebooted personality seems to have been stripped of all of the fun.
But Lara’s character is not the only problem; the reboot engine actually stalls due to variety of reasons. There is the slow, stretched-out pacing, even though the film is quite short as it is. Also, the entire story is just. so. predictable. We have the global adventure (check), the mustached villain who is the only one with the satellite phone (check – pretty sure I’ve seen Walton Goggins in this exact role before somewhere), there is a mysterious yet completely predictable figure twisting and pulling strings from the background (check), there is a trusted, yet terribly underused sidekick (check – seriously, Daniel Wu is so underused it’s almost painful to watch), and basically anything involving her “Robinson Crusoe meets the old Indiana Jones” father is the epitome of “been there, seen that”. Not to mention the vast, VAST quantity of racial stereotypes that reach from Shoreditch, across the Hong Kong harbour and all the way to the dirty ditches of the “lost island”.
The first two Lara Croft films had numerous flaws, but there was something magical about them. Watching them, as a teenage girl, I wanted to be Lara. As I re-watched them recently in my now adult years, I could still feel the thrill of Lara’s character and her life. But the “new” Lara… Is just not that exciting. She gives off the feel that she does not want this kind of life (and repeatedly states it as well), and up to the very end, her character development is minimal. Sure, she decides to claim her inheritance in the end, but there is still zero thrill to be felt. So why would I as a viewer feel invited to project myself on her character, to want to feel what she feels and live out my adventure-seeking dreams through her? It makes zero sense, and by inviting this kind of viewer reaction, the story that started as a role-playing, action-adventure video game fails at its most basic level.
Written by Sanja Struna
All photos © 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.