The character was always a serviceable platform for any load of generic nonsense any writer cared to heap on it.
Like Indiana Jones and whatever the name is of the bloke Nicolas Cage plays in National Treasure, Lara Croft is an all-purpose adventurer with the wit and resources to potter around the world looking for an array of bog-standard plot devices.
This relaunch sees Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) don the sweaty grey singlet (with a battered pair of camo’ pants replacing Angelina Jolie’s daft short shorts).
Vikander, who trained the house down for this role, definitely looks the part. We first meet her Lara in an MMA sparring session, landing sharp combinations with unfakeable speed and accuracy. Vikander is a sinewy, wiry presence on screen.
The plot sees Lara Croft re-established via a familiar origin yarn. Richard Croft (Dominic West, doing exactly what is expected as kindly-Daddy-with-a-secret) has vanished looking for a tomb on a lost island in the Sea of Japan. Lara is the heir to the vast family fortune, but prefers to make her living as a cycle courier in London.
Soon enough, Lara gets bitten by the family bug and finds herself hiring the son of Daddy’s sea-captain to take her in search of that same island. From which point, dear reader, I imagine you can fill in the rest of the plot of Tomb Raider yourself.
There’s the gang of inscrutable baddies with nonsensical motivations. The cheerful stereotypes who make up Lara’s allies. And before too long, Daddy Croft himself, complete with a wig left over from Braveheart and a remarkably white set of teeth for a man who has been living on seaweed in a cave for seven years.
Director Roar (Roar!) Uthaug has a deft enough way with a digital effect or a stunt scene. His calling card was the Norwegian tsunami thriller The Wave (Bolgen), which at least proved he knows his way around the waterfall and rapids combo that provides a mid-point highlight of the film. Armed with a script that serves mostly as an excuse to have Vikander nearly fall off things, Uthaug is perfectly adequate at setting up the mechanics of the film.
But what neither he nor Vikander can manage is to make the damn thing interesting.
After a promising opening – a couriers’ bike race is the most genuinely spectacular sequence in the entire film – Tomb Raider quickly turns into a frustratingly unambitious and lumpen procession of set pieces.
Jolie, Cage, Harrison Ford and co. have all spun gold out of this sort of Friday-night dross by winking and smirking their way through the plot. Letting us know in a hundred different ways that they are in on the joke too.
While Vikander may bring it physically, she totally lacks the chemistry of a lasting matinee idol. She never makes us laugh. And for a film called Tomb Raider, that really is missing the point.