‘Up down, X O O O, left. BOOM. Exposition. Fight. Exposition. Bit of climbing. Oh oh, Boss fight‘ – Dara Higgins on Tomb Raider
First the question: why bother? We’ve had films already (they weren’t good). There’s about 2,000 games. So why? By the end, it’s obvious. It’s just money. There’s no deeper reason. There rarely is, but when you feel, at the end of a film, that you’re being set up for a filleting, it irks.
Lara Croft’s legend is 20 odd years old now. We thought we knew it all, but here it gets a retelling. At the beginning she was a moneyed toff who enjoyed robbing artefacts from graves and smashing up old stuff for her, and our, enjoyment. A more innocent time. As time went on she became more nuanced and less pneumatic, but the premise never really changed. Jump, shoot, nick that, move on.
In this reboot film we met a 21 year-old Lara before she’s gone on her first adventure. Refusing to believe her missing father (McNulty, a simpering mess here) is dead she’s living as a millennial bike courier who, like, knows Hamlet and stuff? To make ends meet she races around London’s streets and gets lifted by the law, bringing her back to the attention of her family’s company’s trustee (Kirstin Scott Thomas with bills to pay). You’re a gazillionaire, girl. Why live like a crusty? This unexplored minor detail is tossed to one side when circumstances lead Lara to uncover her father’s secret study, full of intriguing stuff. Intriguing enough to pawn a family heirloom and travel across the world in search of daddy, like a backpacker and not a heiress. Cos, I dunno, relatable?
Thus begins Lara’s adventure, leading to some grave robbing on a remote island off the coast of Japan that apparently no one knows about. The film plays out like a game. We have some action, where you’re mashing the X button, followed by a cut scene with some laborious exposition. Then you’re hanging off a bomber’s wing, mash Y, mash it, and doing a bit of fighting. Up down, X O O O, left. BOOM. Exposition. Fight. Exposition. Bit of climbing. Oh oh, Boss fight. Kablammo. Coda… what? There’s DLC coming next year? Fuck.
The irony is that the CGI on the big screen looks worse than the graphics on the PS4, but Alicia Vikander gives her role all she can. From snotty posho slumming it, to fish out of water, biting off more than she can chew, to eventually killing and hopping around with insouciant glee. This woman has an Oscar. But then, so does Cuba Gooding. So what can you do?
However, what do you expect? A reboot movie based on a console game that debuted in 1996. A reimaging of the awful Angelina Jolie (Oscar!) vehicle from SEVENTEEN years ago. The first in what will undoubtedly become a “franchise” of equally, sugar-rushed, brainless cinematic experiences. The kids might like it. If you can tear them away from their consoles for five minutes. Ha! Irony, eh? EH?