Lara Croft is strong.
Lara Croft is a problem solver.
Lara Croft is what we all want to be.
This week, Square Enix’s video game Tomb Raider saw a new iteration born on the big screen, and unlike the last time we her on the big screen, this time we got a woman we actually care about.
Minor spoilers ahead.
This time around, Lara Croft is portrayed by Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander. All due respect to Angelina Jolie, Miss Vikander is a step above. From the very first moment we see her, Vikander’s Croft is a force to be reckoned with – and an “everyman” at that. Choosing to live without her inherited wealth, we first see Croft in a kickboxing ring (!) with abs of steel. Yes, she has a 6-back that almost any male action star would love to have. Not only that, she clearly knows what she is doing.
Kickboxers are by their nature graceful and powerful. They are compact in how they carry themselves, and deliver punches and kicks with explosive force. Vikander clearly knows what she’s about and more than holds her own in every fight she finds herself in. The great part is this: she can also act. Her facial expressions; her humor; her charisma. I wager she can not only hold her own in the ring, but she can hold her own on screen with any major actor out there today. I believed her. That, dear reader, is the highest compliment I can give any actor.
And on top of it, she honestly (there’s that “believe” thing again) conveys it – Vikander is Croft, and Croft is Vikander, and that is to be treasured in any performance. Any shortcomings in the story are made up for by an actor who stands out and adds depth to a shallow caricature born of a video game.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
The story was predictable (which was in and of itself predictable – this is a movie franchise based on a popular video game after all), and the characters fell flat. There was attempts to add depth to the villian, true, but they were an after thought added to someone we aren’t supposed to like.
Even Croft’s character was a bit light, though Vikander is not to blame. In fact, she made a damn good showing for what little “meat” there was in this script, and I don’t think anyone could have done better. I did note one way that her character would have been even stronger, however, and this falls on the director not the star.
The most interesting characters are those with a strength that is juxtaposed with vulnerability. The obvious opportunities were passed up – and while I wish they weren’t I understand why they were. I think there was a feeling that if she showed a softer side in certain situations people would think less of her because she is a woman. They felt they had to make her strong emotionally in all situations, and while I respect that even the strongest hero needs to show cracks. This is why movies like the Die Hard movies fall flat – McClean is strong physically but lacks any emotional vulnerability.
Vikander won’t be taking home another Oscar for this movie, but it is damn good and deserves your patronage. See it in the theater – the special effects and fight scenes play very well, and Vikander’s nuanced expressions are a beautiful sight to behold.