‘Tomb Raider’ review: fight without a cause

Young gun: Vikander brings in a millennial vibe to Lara Croft  

Space and setting play an indispensable role in action films, especially when it comes to Hollywood cinema. In Tomb Raider, Lara Croft finds herself in the spatial confines of Hong Kong and later on an island off its coast, believed to be the ancient country of Yamatai. She arrives there in search of her father, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances while conducting his research on Himiko, the mythical queen of Yamatai, who is said to have power over death. Of course, there are the evil men – the antagonists – as you’d have in any action film, who act as an hindrance in her journey, but in addition, the spatial setting itself provides for numerous elements of conflict. There are ancient booby traps, mystical elements beyond human cognisance and challenges of the wild. It’s quite a treat to see Alicia Vikander as the new Lara Croft navigate this terrain with stealth, but what the film misses out on is taking this potent setting beyond the obvious and the clichéd.

Tomb Raider
  • Director: Roar Uthaug
  • Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu and Kristin Scott Thomas
  • Storyline: Lara Croft tries to solve the mystery around her father’s disappearance

Norwegian filmmaker Roar Uthaug’s Tomb Raider is a reboot of the film series starring Angelina Jolie, which came out at the dawn of the new millennial. The series itself was based on a video game of the same name. But at the centre of the Tomb Raider franchise is the fascinating concept of death and morality derived from Japanese folklore. But Uthaug’s approach to the mythical tale is rather heavy-handed with an emphasis on hollow action sequences, making the film appear purposeless.

There are Chinese and Japanese characters in the film who lurk in the background and are never given a voice, barring Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) who helps Lara reach the island. For a film supposedly exploring a Japanese tale, Tomb Raider reeks of a Eurocentric and Hollywood-centric approach to characterisation, which stands out starkly in an “Oriental setting”. It’s disappointing to see the film pander to all the hackneyed tropes of Hollywood action cinema, when it had moments of (intentional or unintentional) depth like Lara balancing on a rusty, old wreckage of a plane at the edge of a waterfall. It’s an image that captures several contradictions; like that of modernity and wilderness, decay and freshness, disaster and wanderlust.

Despite making big bucks, Angelina Jolie’s two-film series are far from being counted among the memorable action films of Hollywood. The emphasis back then was on the fights, which Jolie immortalised as Lara Croft. Vikander brings in a youthful, millennial vibe to the character and the focus sharply – and still – remains on the action sequences, which is tactfully executed, no doubt. But this was a second chance for the film to go beyond and set things right in other departments, but it ends up being a cinematic manifestation of the proverbial saying – old habits, die hard.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 9:39:27 PM |

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