It’s hard to believe but it’s been 17 years since the first incarnation of the popular computer game character Lara Croft graced the big screen for the first time and 15 since the sequel followed. Both films did well and solidified Angelina Jolie as an action star at the time. Now the character has been brought back to film and the potential same trajectory for its star Alicia Vikander. Norwegian director Roar Uthaug helms this outing and does a wonderful job fulfilling the promise that was on display in his last film Norway’s THE WAVE.
The film opens with Lara as a small child spending time with her father Richard (Dominic West) before he heads out on his latest adventure. Fast forward to the present and Lara now finds herself strapped for cash, working as a bicycle delivery person and racing the city streets for extra cash to live on. Caught by police she’s rescued by the woman now in charge of the day to day operations of Croft Industries, Ana (Kristin Scott Thomas).
Ana wants Lara to settle down and take on the responsibilities that her father left her. If she fails to do so the entire company, including their estate, will be sold off. But even after 7 years Lara is unwilling to believe her father is dead. Meeting with the company lawyer Mr. Yaffe (Derek Jacobi) he presents her with a Japanese box puzzle her father left her before she signs the paper. Solving the puzzle she finds a note left just to her and follows the clues in it to a secret sanctuary her father kept on their property.
Inside she discovers an abundance of charts, maps, notes and books all that were used by her father in an attempt to discover the tomb of Himiko, a mythical queen who was said to have made the rivers run red with blood before her own soldiers captured her and imprisoned her in a tomb hidden on an uncharted island. He also leaves behind a video tape telling her to destroy all of his research. Knowing this is where her father went she follows in his footsteps hoping to find him ignoring his request.
Locating the son of the man who charted his ship for her father, the pair set off to follow his direction to the island that he found. The ship is lost at sea during a storm but fortunately near the island they were seeking. Knocked unconscious Lara wakes to find herself the captive of Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) who works for Trinity, the organization her father wanted to keep the information from. Instead he now possesses the book Richard left behind and the means to locate the tomb. Unless Lara can free herself and stop him first.
Like the video game the movies is based on there is plenty of adventure on hand here as well as enough stunts to keep a slew of union members employed. Also like the game the action is combined equally with the puzzles left to be solved by Lara, something she specializes in due to her father’s training. This makes for a special character for young girls to admire, a woman who outdoes the men in her life and proves she can be whatever she wants to be, a hero to be admired and emulated.
Vikander, who has been moving up slowly with feature turns in a number of films, seems destined for this role. She makes the character of Lara Croft seem more real than ever, a young woman with strong capabilities whose brain is a better asset than her body. Most incarnations of the character have been long on her short shorts and an over-endowed chest. Vikander doesn’t rely on these and instead presents the character more as an honest character. She may be athletically minded but not overly so.
While watching I was taken back to years ago when I sat down in a dark theater and watched as an archeologists by the name of Indiana Jones was unleashed upon the world. Lara Croft is similar to that character, a female incarnation if you will. By the end of the film you’ll be wishing that they continue using the character in more movies. The film is the perfect summer movie, a popcorn munching treat that will keep you entertained from start to finish.