If you’re thinking about checking out the latest Tomb Raider feature this weekend, here are a few things to keep in mind: Alicia Vikander absolutely carries the movie, it’s one of the best big-screen video game adaptations in existence, and despite being a rather paint-by-numbers action flick, it’s serviceable for folks looking for a mindless, run-and-gun, tomb-raidin’ adventure. It’s especially entertaining if this is the first time you’re seeing an action movie in the theater, which is a real possibility for the younger moviegoers out there who might find a heroine to root for in Vikander’s capable Lara Croft. (You can also read Matt Goldberg‘s review here for another perspective, though my own take is a little sunnier.)
Even if you haven’t played each and every Tomb Raider game since the franchise’s debut back in 1996, or its more modern reboot in 2013, and even if you haven’t seen the Angelina Jolie versions of the story in the 2001 and 2003 features, the story of Roar Uthaug‘s film is quite easy to follow. The only thing that might bring you up a bit short is Tomb Raider‘s ending, both from the point of view of a curious character twist for Lara Croft herself and that of a plot twist that, the studio hopes, could be the spark that ignites a feature franchise for the title character. We’ll get into spoilers from here on out as we discuss the ending of Tomb Raider, so reader beware.
In order to understand where Lara Croft ends up at the film’s conclusion, it’s important to know where she starts in this picture. Surprisingly, we’re introduced to Lara as a bike messenger in London, a down-on-her-luck young adult who’s struggling to make ends meet in the modern world. This is a two-fold twist on the typical version of Lara we’re used to. Though her origin stories have changed quite a bit over the last 20 years or so, Lara is often the daughter of an aristocratic family and is orphaned in a variety of ways: plane crash, mysterious disappearances during archaeological expeditions, and presumed suicides. The twist here is most similar to the latest iteration of Lara’s early life that sees her opting to forgo her inheritance and easy-going lifestyle in order to pay her way and really experience life. The secondary twist is that moviegoers get to see Lara participate in a surprisingly fun bit of sport with her fellow bike messengers that feels more like a spiritual sequel to Premium Rush than an aspect of Tomb Raider, but it was delightful.
Unfortunately, Lara’s story takes a turn for the dark and dismal from here on out. Going in search for her long-lost father–and before officially signing his death certificate which would grant her inheritance but also cement his death in her mind–she inevitably stumbles across an ancient organization with terroristic tendencies that hopes to use her father’s research as a means toward carrying out atrocities all over the world. It’s standard villainous fare. The “weapon” in question that the organization, named Trinity, is looking for is the corpse of the mystical Lady Himiko, a queen of death. While I applaud Tomb Raider for keeping this plot grounded in science and biology rather than the supernatural (ie, revealing the “mummy’s curse” as a pathogenic wasting disease rather than an avenging spirit), it’s all pretty predictable. But what’s less clear, and what bears explanation here, is the shift in character for Lara and her revelation at the movie’s end.