Tomb Raider seemed to be an odd choice for a series reboot. After all, the original movies were pretty terrible the first time around, despite star Angelina Jolie doing her best ass-kicking. It seemed even stranger when acclaimed actress Alicia Vikander was tapped to star, right after receiving her Oscar. In addition to a buff bod, she at least hopefully got a good paycheck out of this. After all, women heroes seem to be (surprise!) making money, so studios need to milk their catalogs for all they are worth.
Unlike the Jolie movies, this time around Lara Croft is given an origin story. We meet a young woman of indeterminate age whose father Richard (Dominic West) disappeared 7 years early. I say indeterminate, because via flashbacks I first thought that the math was adding up to her being an alarming 16 or 17, but then far through the movie, she gets another flashback that comfortably puts her at least in her 20s. Anyways, Lara is pissed at her dad for disappearing, and we in turn start to get annoyed how many times we have to hear her dad call her Sprout. (Drinking game!)
Lara is a poor little rich girl, rejecting her father's huge countryside estate and business holdings, but when she has to legally declare him dead, she decides instead to use the clues he left her and find out what happened to him.
Tomb Raider has to have a tomb to raid, and this one is on a dangerous mystery-island somewhere near Japan. Lara hitches a boat captained by Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), who is an intriguing side-man until he, you know, basically goes missing for the second half of the film. Instead, when they arrive via a pretty cool shipwreck scene, they find that they are not alone on the island. There are lots of bad mercenary-type treasure hunter, including her dad's old nemesis (Walton Goggins), and many bullets and fists fly.
Alicia Vikander does the best she can with the material given. Her fighting and archery skills, not to mention her overall fitness (upper body strength!) are at least explained by her past. The best action sequence involves a waterfall, a rusted hulk of an airplane, and a rope (typing her wrists together). You hear Vikander grunt, shriek, and squawk a lot. You see her getting beat up a lot. You see her in situations that would break most mortals' bones (if not spirit).
Thing is, I didn't like to see tiny Vikander in physical, violent brawls with brawny guys. Unlike, say, towering Charlize in Atomic Blonde, Vikander is a small woman, and the brutality never provides entertainment value. The mystery/puzzle of the tomb also really doesn't offer much suspense. After all, she is Lara Croft. By the time she is running through a collapsing tunnel in the middle of a mountain, she may as well be Super Mario, jumping and scrambling over rubble and falling rocks with video-game-ease.
Though not as bad as the original movies, this reboot of Tomb Raider isn't particularly good either. When the best you can say is "It wasn't as bad as I expected," it's hard to be super-enthused to recommend it to others. However, Vikander is a talented enough actress that with a good script and director, I imagine that there may be potential for this series to actually get good. Now we just wait and see if it makes enough money to warrant a sequel.