It’s fair to say the new “Tomb Raider” movie accurately re-creates the experience of a video game.
To be precise, it’s like when you buy a new game and you can’t wait to play it. So you race home with the game in your hand and tear the wrapping off and stick the disc in your games console and it takes what seems like forever to boot up. Then there’s a logo screen that sits there for ages apparently not doing anything. Then your console decides it has to update itself. You’re bouncing up and down on the sofa — just let me play the darn game! Finally the game is ready. You seize the controller.
The game starts with a cut scene.
And another. And another.
All you want to do is play the damn game and it won’t let you!
That’s what this 2018 big screen reboot of the long-running archeology-’em-up video game is like.
Directed by Norwegian Roar Uthaug and largely based on the 2013 prequel, the new film follows a young version of ruin-robbing aristo Lara Croft tracing her antiquity-obsessed lost father to a mysterious island. Once on the island, surrounded by desperate mercenaries and haunted by an ancient curse, there are some decent thrills. Star Alicia Vikander gamely throws herself across every chasm in the vicinity, sorts out bad guys with a bow and arrow and generally takes every opportunity to show off how much time she’s spent at the gym lately.
The problem is it takes absolutely foreeeeverrrr to reach that point. It’s an hour before we make it to the island, with the first half of the film playing out like that dreaded introductory cut scene that just won’t let you get on with it. It’s nice to see Lara given a backstory about her family business and her refusal to inherit a vast fortune, but we’re repeatedly beaten over the head with it. Her dead dad has five — five! — expositional voiceovers, most of which repeat the same information.
To liven up all this backstory a couple of tacked-on action scenes are dropped in out of nowhere, feeling like those annoying introductory mini-games where you run around a garage learning how to duck.
I did quite enjoy an early London-set bicycle race, but mainly because it was filmed round where I live. Lara is working as a Deliveroo-style food courier. (How very modern.) But perhaps in a nod to the era of the original game, the ensuing bike chase is the most ’90s thing you’ve ever seen. Thumping dance music plays as Lara zips around the streets in x-treme fashion, nearly knocking over the square normies bimbling about on the pavement. Get out the way, normies! If you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much room! Oh look, there’s my local pub.
Lara swings into action.
So eventually Lara sets out on her quest. There’s a nice irony to the first tomb she raids, which sends her off to Hong Kong for another airlifted-in action scene involving some street thugs. Apparently you can’t go anywhere foreign without nasty foreigners trying to mug you and stab you and generally ruin your stay, which will be news to the millions of people who live and work and do touristy things in Hong Kong all the time.
Instead of leaving a strongly worded review on TripAdvisor, Lara boards a boat and sails straight into a storm. At last, things pick up. Finally on the island, Lara faces off with some mercenaries who plan to use her father’s research for their own nefarious ends.
My favourite thing about the film is