Despite the birth of the beloved franchise occurring before my time, but having played the 2015 game Rise of the Tomb Raider, I grew to love Lara Croft. Switching out the crop top and shorts for a vest and trousers (with pockets!), gave her a new appeal; she was realistic. Realistic for an adventure video game of course, but still a great leap from the pyramid breasts, invincibility and eternally perfect hair.
In the second iteration of the beloved heroine, Norwegian director Roar Uthaug utilises the more grounded origin story fans will recognise from the recent games. His Tomb Raider introduces us to Lara in the boxing ring in an intense sparring match with another woman. She taps out and loses, but not until withstanding a headlock for far longer than anyone would be expected to. This scene is indicative of the immense hard work Alicia Vikander put in during the seven months she trained for the role. Biceps and eight-pack abs on full display, this Croft is both beautiful and capable, already proving in the first fifteen minutes that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
Lara’s father (played by an infinitely charming Dominic West) has been missing for seven years. She chooses to live alone, working as a bicycle courier in London, rather than inherit her family’s fortune – signing the documents would mean confirming his death, a finality she refuses to accept. After stumbling upon his secret life of adventure, she decides to follow the clues left behind in his research and prove he’s still alive, somewhere on a hidden island in the treacherous Devil’s Sea, just off the coast of Japan.
Audiences won’t be disappointed by the ‘tomb-raiding’ itself, filled with Indiana Jones-esque booby traps, riddles and mechanical puzzles. The exact kind of fantasy and cliché that doesn’t feel like either, because it’s just so much fun; and Vikander’s grounded grit elevates it to a new level of believability.
The film pays homage to the games in subtle ways through it’s thrilling action sequences, signature moves of the virtual heroine are utilised by Vikander in slow motion, hinting (if not so subtly) that she’s becoming the Tomb Raider she’s destined to be. It’s an adventure rooted in realism, between every epic jump or fight, Lara is learning. She is not invincible and she doesn’t have a solution for everything. Sometimes she loses a fight or breaks down in horrific situations, but then she wipes away her tears and keeps going; because she is resilient, scrappy and full of hope.
Uthaug’s Tomb Raider is not completely flawless, it’s full of exposition and a plot that might seem familiar, but it’s hard to recognise all that when you’re enjoying yourself so much. This rendition of Tomb Raider is the female-led adventure film we didn’t know we needed, borrowing enough from the source material whilst simultaneously evolving and carving its own promising path. I, for one, cannot wait to go and see it again (and then go to the gym right after).
by Millicent Thomas
Millicent Thomas is a proud Mancunian who will be studying film at Bath School of Art & Design from September 2018. Hobbies include theatre, museums and waiting for Charles Xavier to show up and tell her she’s the world’s most powerful mutant. Her favourite films include Whiplash, Her, Logan and Short Term 12. You can follow her on Instagram at @millicentathomas and twitter at @millicentonfilm