Alicia Vikander makes us feel Lara Croft’s pain, with every grunt, whimper, yelp and gasp of exertion she makes as the “Tomb Raider.”
Yes, the Oscar winner is a Swedish slip of a thing, and having her stand next to — well, any of her co-stars save Walton Goggins — makes it clear that all that kick-boxing and wrestling we see her do to set up her mad skillz in the physical realm will convince nobody.
It’s not physique, it’s physics. She can barely reach the villains she’s spin-kicking left and right, much less deliver the throw-weight to make a punch look like more than a slap.
She makes for a more serious Lara Croft in a duller, less supernatural and somewhat less fun version of the video game heroine based on Indiana Jones. If it seems only yesterday that Oscar winner Angelina Jolie was playing the “Let’s get PAID” role in a T & A & L (especially “L”) take on the tank-topped terror. Maybe that’s because SyFy has been airing the 2001 film repeatedly these past few weeks to gin up interest in the re-boot/remake. And present comparisons when the new film comes out.
That film was more stunts/somewhat less digital, though both “Tomb Raiders” are a bit let down by their villains. Here, it’s Walton Goggins as the pistol-packing predator running a tomb-search on a remote Japanese island. He has a few scenes with a sat-phone, as if to head off charges that he “phones it in.” It’s a half-hearted turn at best, and pales next to his murderously mincing menace in TV’s “Vice Principals.” Now THERE was a bad guy.
Lara is a London pizza delivery heiress in the new film, a kickboxer who never knows when to quit, a bike racer who treats the mean streets as her BMX course.
Her guardian (Kristin Scott Thomas) wants her to take over the family multi-national, but that would mean admitting that Lord, billionaire and avid Indie-imitator father Richard (Dominic West) is dead. He may well but, Dad’s “first letter from my final destination” (post mortem) gives her fun clues to work out that tell her what he was up to.
And that sends her to Hong Kong in search of Lu Ren, every Hollywood action movie’s Compulsory Chinese Content. He will help her find her way through The Devil’s Sea to the island where an ancient Japanese sorceress was buried.
That’s where Lara runs up against Mathias Vogel (Goggins) and his minions. And that’s where he learns she was quite the kickboxer, and before that, an archer for the ages.
The chases and fights are ho hum with a capital H. Vikander is game, and hurls herself over digital gorges, through digital gauntlets and into digital raging rivers. A shipwreck almost impresses, until you remember the execrable “Hurricane Heist” managed one of those. Not the hardest thing to fake these days.
Aside from the presence of Nick Frost (as a chatty pawn broker), it’s a humorless affair. There’s no urgency to the plot, even though Dad warned of world-ending consequences to the discovery of this tomb. The quest just sort of shuffles along, a gunfight here, a crawl across a ladder there.
Vikander is more the coquette here than any English language film has ever let her be. But even at that she seems a tad too serious to want to hang with. Jolie let her vamp flag fly, and that’s sorely missed. The movie’s dull, and at least a little of that falls on Vikander.
The rest? I’d credit the director whose first name seems like a promise he’s ill-equipped to keep, Roar Uthaug.
Not that the original film is any better or anybody’s idea of a classic, or even passable entertainment. But when your set pieces fail to surprise, your dialogue fails to deliver even one decent one-liner and your villain looks like he’s dealing with dysentery on location, maybe 17-18 years isn’t long enough between reboots.
Just don’t tell “Spider-Man” that.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and for some language
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Dominic West, Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi
Running time: 1:58