Say what you will about the new “Tomb Raider,” it shows a tomb being raided less than 20 minutes after it starts. It’s actually a false tomb with a secret room hidden under it, and it’s not raided so much as unlocked with a key, but we’re counting it.
You have to take what you can get with this film, which is based on the 2013 reboot of the Tomb Raider video game whose previous installments inspired the two Angelina Jolie-starring Tomb Raider movies in the early 2000s. Directed by Roar Uthaug (he’s from Norway) from a screenplay by the extremely British-sounding Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons, this “Tomb Raider” is a series of moderately exciting situations surrounded by — and barely attached to — a derivative fill-in-the-blanks adventure plot.
The appealing Alicia Vikander plays Lara Croft, a spunky young London woman who hustles to support herself as a bike delivery-person. Her billionaire father (Dominic West) vanished seven years ago, and Lara could have his fortune if only she’d follow the advice of family friend/former guardian Ana Miller (Kristin Scott Thomas) and sign the papers acknowledging his probable death. Instead, Dad’s lawyer gives Lara a Japanese puzzle box he left for her, leading her to his secret lair under the family tomb. Turns out Lord Richard Croft moonlighted as a globe-trotting adventurer and has left one of those “If you’re watching this I must be dead” videos with a message that Lara ignores in favor of going off to search for him.
The film is half over when Lara, assisted by Hong Kong boat captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), barely makes it alive to Yamatai, a “lost” island where her dad was hunting for an evil Japanese queen’s cursed tomb so he could prevent anyone from ever opening it and unleashing whatever dark forces it contains. In favor of opening the tomb is one Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins), a cold-blooded psycho with an army of slaves digging up the island in search of it.
As someone who has not played the Tomb Raider video games, I assumed Lara Croft would be the sort of heroine who fights a lot of dudes. That’s usually a safe bet. But in a disappointing nod to reality, Lara mostly runs away when threatened, never engaging in hand-to-hand combat till the end of the film. Mind you, she’s very good at running, and a chase sequence can be as thrilling as a fight, but where does it get us? In one instance, three punks steal her backpack and she chases them down and retrieves it before one of them produces a knife and starts pursuing her. She gets away without fighting anyone or losing the backpack. So what was the point of the sequence?
Most of the action feels like that: fun in the moment but unimportant in the big picture. Lara participates in a bicycle race (whee!); Lara is shipwrecked (exciting!); Lara hangs precariously from a great height (several times!). Nothing really connects until we get to the tomb, which naturally is full of Indiana Jones booby traps and puzzles, but by then it’s too late. The amiable mediocrity has stifled our interest.
C+ (1 hr., 58 min.; )