What exactly should one expect when they walk into Tomb Raider? Should you go in expecting a video game movie? Or maybe a reboot of the 2001 film with Angelina Jolie? Should you expect to love to hate it, or just like it, or maybe you'll just be bored?

Well, I don't know if any of those are accurate. I'll try to explain. 

Tomb Raider stars Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft, the daughter of hideously wealthy businessman Lord Richard Croft. 7 years before the start of the film, Richard goes missing, and consequently Lara becomes a streetwise girl who works as a courier and takes kickboxing lessons; she doesn't have access to her father's wealth because she refuses to sign a piece of paper that would declare him legally dead.

The film picks up right as Lara gains access to a secret hidey hole her father had in their manor, revealing him to be a treasure hunter, and in that room she finds enough clues to start her journey to figure out what happened to him. I'll avoid spoilers, but her goal is to reach a dangerous, small island off the coast of Japan, which is said to be the tomb of an ancient Japanese empress who had to be locked away because of her evil.

In the basic plot summary, Tomb Raider has many similarities with the 2013 video game "Tomb Raider", which makes sense since this film is produced by the company that made the game, Square Enix. However, it is different enough that I hesitate to even call it an adaptation.

Warner Bros. Pictures via YouTube
Warner Bros. Pictures via YouTube

This movie feels to me like a late 1990's-early 2000's action movie, and I mean that in the best possible way. Films like The Mummy, Van Helsing, and Blade come to mind; films about a badass or group of badasses who need to fight against some otherworldly threat, or explore something that turns out to be more than they expected. However, I think this movie does a much better job of it; Tomb Raider is cliched, sure, but it knows how to play with tension and realism in a way that makes the audience take the movie seriously.

This is in great part due to the superb work of Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft; she's an Academy Award winner for a reason. Now, simply having an Oscar doesn't automatically make cheesy lines of dialogue Shakespearean, but she really keeps the character believable. Through this, she's able to make Lara Croft a female heroine that avoids, in my opinion, many of the pitfalls characters of this type face.

When you make an action movie with a leading lady, oftentimes she ends up needing rescuing as often as any damsel in distress. However, in an attempt to avoid this filmmakers sometimes go too far in the opposite direction, and create a character that is so invincible and unbelievable that you can't enjoy it. In fact, I feel Angelina Jolie's Lara Croft had this latter problem.

Vikander's performance as Lara manages to avoid this by presenting a woman that is capable and quick witted, but one who feels pain and suffers the effects of her action. She's able to jump across chasms and swing through trees, for example, but when she gets a branch stabbed through her gut in the process she gets pretty wounded. As well, Vikander's Croft is not overly sexualized, and I absolutely love that. At no point do we get an unneeded shower scene, or any other camera tricks or poses to accentuate her assets. Yes, she's wearing a tank top through this movie, but it makes sense in the context of what she's going through.

I know these might be little things, but I feel it's an integral part of what makes Tomb Raider enjoyable.

Warner Bros. Pictures via YouTube
Warner Bros. Pictures via YouTube

The other actors range from great to decent; there aren't really any characters I'd call "co-leads", but both Daniel Wu as boat captain Lu Ren and Dominic West as Lara's father Richard did feature somewhat. They both did great, but I wish we'd seen more of Daniel Wu particularly. His character was quite fun, and he didn't get enough screen time.

Walton Goggins portrayed the primary villain Vogel, and his character seemed at first to be a living stereotype of "evil expedition leader" complete with white shirt tucked into khaki pants. I feel though, that Goggins brought an interesting dimension to the character.

Looking at Tomb Raider, it almost feels like they took a script from the pretty terrible post-Matrix era of movies and brought it back to life in the modern day, and through the process of making it modernized they managed to change most of the things that made so many of those movies awful.

I'd definitely recommend it as a great action movie, and a pretty decent film in general. And as far as adaptations of video games go, this is frankly one of the best, but that isn't saying much.

See the trailer below.

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