Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Tomb Raider

Title: Tomb Raider

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:

GRANDPA: You're living in a fool's paradise Van Houten! If you fell down in the shower, that thing would be your tomb!

Brief Plot Synopsis: Dead dad directs daughter down dangerous destiny.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2.5 Stewart Grangers out of 5.

Tagline: "Her legend begins."

Better Tagline: "L1, triangle, R2, L2, L2, R2, circle, R1"

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is a reluctant heiress, eschewing higher education and her missing/presumed dead father's inheritance and scraping by as a London courier. Daddy's contacts still come in handy though, especially when Lara has a literal run-in with the local constabulary. She's almost convinced to declare dad legally dead when a riddle leads her to the family crypt, where she discovers Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West) wasn't mere landed gentry, but a hunter of the supernatural who disappeared journeying to the island of Yamatai, the final resting place of Himiko, a mythical(?) Japanese sorceress whose very touch was d-d-death.

"Critical" Analysis: If you can forget Tomb Raider is a "video game movie" for a second (it's loosely based on the game's 2013 reboot), you can discern the framework of a fairly appealing adventure tale, one with a daring adventurer traveling to an exotic locale to solve a mystery and derail the bad guys' plans along the way. You could almost call it Raiders-esque, given how clearly derivative it is.

Even with those Spielbergian file numbers not quite completely filed off, one must give director Roar Uthaug props for a couple things. First, he keeps the action rolling, never letting the nearly two-hour movie get bogged down. Second, "Roar Uthaug" is a spectacular name. Credit should probably go to his parents for that, though.

Tomb Raider's pace also keeps focus off its more implausible elements (some even more dubious than "Japanese death witch"). Among the most unrealistic aspects — and make no mistake, the physics here are as ridiculous as the video game that inspired it — is how Lara's background as a bike courier and a good-not great MMA fighter prepares her for adapt to jungle warfare and, well, grave robbing.

Not to say the cinematic equivalent of watching Croft search every passage for secret doors after returning to the last save point would've been riveting stuff, but it does comes to her rather easily.

And did someone say "Raiders-esque?" More like Last Crusade-esque, right down to the scene that's more or less a direct descendant of Sean Connery incredulously asking, "Do you think my son would bring my diary all the way back here?" The effects are updated, if you want to call it that (though to be fair, Uthaug makes the green screen as realistic as possible), and the cast's heavy hitters all pull their weight.

Vikander's credentials are solid: she's already got an Academy Award (for The Danish Girl) and another nom (Ex Machina...and she's only 29). Besides her, you've got West in full-on obsessive mode and Walton Goggins as the expedition leader for the nefarious Trinity organization, who want to unleash Himiko on the world. Watching Jimmy McNulty and Boyd Crowder teeing off on each other, with no less than Kristin Scott Thomas and Derek Jacobi in small roles, is pretty satisfying.

Hong Kong action star Daniel Wu (as the ship's captain who ferries Lara to Yamatai) is kind of wasted, but Lara Croft isn't a damsel in need of saving, which is made abundantly clear early on.

Ironically, for a movie about an intrepid explorer prone to death-defying acts of derring-do, Tomb Raider tends to play it safe. Had Uthaug and writers Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons loosened up the proceedings or injected a little more humor, we'd be calling this a spiritual successor to The Mummy (Brendan Fraser, not Tom Cruise). Instead, we have a perfectly functional action/adventure yarn, but one that feels like it's being played on Easy rather than Hardcore mode.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar