There are games you can play more than once and discover nuances every time. There are others where you solve the mystery, play it once with no regrets and then await the next iteration in no great hurry.
Films are no different, and Tomb Raider belongs squarely in the latter category.
A grounded reboot of the franchise more akin to the later iterations of Lara Croft than the Angelina Jolie vehicle that could only have emerged in the early 2000s, this version, unlike so many lacklustre and disappointing adaptations ala Assassins’ Creed, actually feels that much more like a game. Commencing with our heroine (Alicia Vikander) couriering goods around London absent a stately Croft manor and adventure-filled father (Dominic West), a boxing sequence and two excellent bike and foot chases set the tone for a much more relatable aristocrat who has to keep levelling-up before confronting a few boss levels.
Seeking out an ancient Japanese Island where her father disappeared in search of an ancient tomb, the unveiling of which in the wrong hands will certainly bring great death and destruction, it’s at these stages where Vikander’s clear commitment to the role, physical and otherwise, lends Tomb Raider a vitality and intrigue that few will go in expecting.
A consummate and intensive actress who has stolen the show in a range of projects from Ex Machina to the very underrated The Light Between Oceans, Vikander brings the same emotional density to Croft as she has her other roles, recommending due attention and sincerity to even the film’s most outlandish scenes. Conversely, the few moments where she is compelled to deliver a near obligatory one liner fall flat. Vikander’s comic chops, sparingly on display here, are no match for her dramatic capabilities.
Action sequences, and several good ones at that, come thick and thin and in the best traditions of much gameplay fast, out of nowhere and with little wherewithal or explanation. Less an issue depending on the game, on screen the effect is notably conspicuous.
Walton Goggins, as talented an actor as he is, imparts little beyond a paper-thin and readily forgettable villain. Daniel Wu is excellent as Croft’s Skipper, though is given little screen time alongside Vikander or otherwise to register greatly. Passing up the opportunity to go without abruptly affirming plans for future movies, the denouement and penultimate twist comparably emerge as a surprisingly elegant touch, grounding the film and series in a move among many that seeks to emulate the best hallmarks of modern adventure fare, including, of course, Indiana Jones.
Similarities to The Last Crusade will not escape the keen-eyed Indy fan or movie-goer, nor will the few references to the classic Croft mainstays that first hit consoles so many years ago. A step above umpteenth game adaptations and similar to many games themselves, Tomb Raider is an enjoyable and roundly forgettable entertainment for a few hours, though that doesn’t mean you’ll want to turn away.
Tomb Raider is in cinemas now