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"TOMB RAIDER"
(2018) (Alicia Vikander, Dominic West) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Action: A young woman hopes to find her long-missing father and must contend with a villain who's on the verge of potentially releasing something cataclysmic from a long-buried tomb.
PLOT:
Lara Croft (ALICIA VIKANDER) is a young woman working as a bike courier in London. She doesn't need to live that way, what with being the sole heir to the company, country estate and other riches created by her tycoon father, Lord Richard Croft (DOMINIC WEST). He's been missing for the past seven years, and while Lara's guardian, Ana Miller (KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS), wants her to sign her inheritance papers, Lara refuses, believing her father may still be alive.

She gets a number of clues about his last known whereabouts when she uncovers her father's secret work in relation to the rumored but never discovered tomb of an ancient Japanese queen, and that he chartered a ship out of Hong Kong to take him to an uninhabited island in hopes of finding that.

Lara travels there, and while she doesn't find that man, she finds his son, Lu Ren (DANIEL WU), who reluctantly agrees -- for pay -- to follow in their footsteps into treacherous seas. They end up shipwrecked and now prisoner to Mathias Vogel (WALTON GOGGINS) who knew both of their fathers and has many prisoners working as slave labor for him in trying to find the same tomb Richard was after.

From that point on, and after unintentionally leading the villain to the exact spot he was looking for, Lara does what she can to free herself, rescue her father, and stop Vogel before he releases something potentially cataclysmic.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Name just about any profession and you're likely to find a film (or two, or three or more) that features a character in that sort of role. Granted, some professions (lawyer, doctor, etc.) are more popular than others (proctologist) in movies and are so numerous that it's often difficult to pick out the one that best represents, or at least is the most memorable of, whatever that given field might be.

Others, on the flip side, are fairly easy. If you asked the average moviegoer or film critic to name the best film that features an archaeologist, I'd bet most would pick -- without much if any pause -- "Raiders of the Lost Ark." I seriously doubt many, if any, would select "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," the 2001 action film where Angelina Jolie played the title video game character brought to life.

While I've found proof that I saw the film (i.e. my review), I don't recall a single thing about the plot, characters and so on beyond Jolie physically fitting the bill of representing her game counterpart. Having gone back to read that review, I'm reminded that the flick ripped off scenes and material from other, better pics but still couldn't turn that into anything particularly satisfying.

Alas, the new reboot of this franchise -- simply titled "Tomb Raider" -- suffers from much of the same fate in that it will repeatedly remind viewers of the far better, more entertaining and clearly memorable "Raiders." Yes, there are differences -- namely, our protagonist here (Alicia Vikander) isn't an archaeologist and only ends up in a tomb while trying to save her long-missing dad (Dominic West) from one of the more lackluster villains (Walton Goggins) to hit the screen in years.

Yet, once they're in that massive carved out cave complex, both the beginning of "Raiders" (with all of the booby traps minus the big rolling boulder) and ending (where the bad guy wants the power of what's inside a long-sealed container for those who employ him) clearly will come racing back into viewers' minds.

To be fair and transparent, I never played the original game or the relatively recent resurrection of it, so it's always possible the script by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons is closely hewing to the source material. But even so, they and director Roar Uthaug (yes, that's his credited name) could have done something with the story, setting, and characters to make things more interesting, engaging or least stupidly entertaining.

I've always liked Vikander as an actress (and she's perfectly fine in the dramatic and lighter action moments), but despite reportedly training for months and adding a dozen or so pounds of muscle to her frame, she seems too small for the role and the physical abuse she takes at the hands of various villains and what she's put through by the film's stunt coordinator and special effects team.

Despite an early kickboxing sparring scene designed to show us she can take a licking and keep on going, I just didn't buy it, especially when "Raiders" was smart enough to have Harrison Ford's character look battered and state "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage." The same holds true for her ability to leap extraordinarily long distances (she could be a gold medal contender) and then precariously dangle for a few moments.

But it's the origins story that never truly leaps off the page or screen. Not wanting to sign the inheritance papers her guardian (Kristin Scott Thomas, clearly set up for a larger role should this offering be big enough to generate a sequel) says she should, Lara instead believes her father, gone for seven years, could still be alive.

After finding clues in her dad's bat cave, um, subterranean mausoleum workshop, she leaves London for Hong Kong where she hooks up with a boozy young man, Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) who's similarly seven-years-missing pop gave Lara's father a boat ride to an uncharted island. Richard was in search of a long-buried queen yet simultaneously didn't want anyone else to find her lest she unleash some sort of cataclysmic event on the world.

Lara and Lu Ren end up shipwrecked on the island and then find themselves prisoner to Vogel (Goggins) who's likewise trying to find the long-buried ark, uh, queen and get his hands on the reportedly related supernatural power. All of which leads to the cave complex, tomb and striking "Raiders" similarities and memories.

If you've never seen Steven Spielberg's far, far better film, this might come off as passable enough entertainment to some, and Vikander certainly brings more humanity to the role than Jolie was afforded way back when, at least based on what I wrote in my original review. But just as I don't recall that first cinematic incarnation of Lara Croft, I have a feeling the same memory fate will befall this offering. Completely forgettable, "Tomb Raider" rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed March 13, 2018 / Posted March 16, 2018


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