It must be said that Lara Croft’s shoes are not the easiest to fill. The famous female adventurer has been cracking puzzles, swinging on vines and dodging everything from spring-loaded spikes to rolling boulders for over 20 years since the video game first appeared in 1996. What’s more, she has already been immortalized on the big screen by none other than Angelina Jolie.
When the persona is someone that thousands of fans have grown up with and appears as the character and cover girl of different types of entertainment, the challenge is huge. On the one hand, you need to stay true to the massive weight of expectation, yet at the same time, you want to bring something fresh and new to the role, to justify remaking the film in the first place.
Fortunately, in the new version of Tomb Raider, Alicia Vikander manages to balance both, giving us a Lara Croft that is both hard-hitting and vulnerable, an authentic game character but with real personality.
Apparently chosen ahead of the likes of Daisy Ridley, Cara Delevingne and Saoirse Ronan, Vikander makes the role her own, with a mix of hard action and softer emotion that flesh out the two-dimensional woman of the games into a believable human being. What’s more, she manages all this without feeling the need to flesh out her character, leaving the tiny shorts and skin-tight top of the game character behind for more comfortable combat gear.
It’s a performance that captures the current zeitgeist perfectly, with a strong female lead who doesn’t have to be like the boys to succeed. This Lara Croft can be vulnerable, both physically and emotionally, while still getting the job done in some style.
Not only does she do all her stunts, having worked out and muscled up for the role, she is also not afraid to get dirty when she is in action, unlike so many heroines who seem to come out of every situation with perfect hair and makeup.
She may be playing a video game character, but Vikander anchors her role firmly, in reality, getting properly hurt along the way rather than plowing impossibly through without a scratch.
By contrast, her co-stars are sadly rather two dimensional, with her father, played by Dominic West, such a wimp that it’s hard to believe he could possibly have built the company and reputation that he has. Even the main villain, Mathias Vogel, played by Walton Goggins, seems more interested in getting back home to his family than any of the usual motivations like world domination or supreme power.
Tomb Raider will keep the purists happy, with a whole bunch of puzzles and action sequences that are so like the game that you’ll find your thumbs twitching for the jump button as Vikander dodges each swinging spike. Think of an hour-long version of the opening sequence from Raiders of the Lost Ark and you’ve got a good idea of the second half of the film.
It has divided the critics, however, with some admiring the more subtle strokes of the film compared to your average mindless Marvel mayhem while others have found it a little dull and unadventurous. They both have a point; it does take far too long to get her to the tomb in question, but once there, the action is consistent and gripping.
It remains to be seen whether this reboot has got enough about it to start the new franchise the producers are hoping to reboot. After all, its predecessor struggled to get beyond that difficult second film, despite the best efforts of Jolie and co. But franchise starter or not, Tomb Raider is still well worth your ticket money for Vikander’s performance alone.