‘Tomb Raider’ Has Lots Of Action, But Little Plot


The problem with Tomb Raider is all in the script. It contains a lot of action, but much of it is wrong-headed. Still, it makes for a decent time at the theater. Things move fast enough that the audience does not have the time to realize that the plot is nonsense.

There is not enough fun, however. Think of it as Raiders of the Lost Ark without a sense of humor. The action almost never ceases, so it seems like a lot is happening, even though much of it is simple and often repeats gimmicks from other films.

Tomb Raider is based on a successful computer game and, like most of these games, focuses on a very simple plot. There have been two previous films in the franchise, both starring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, and those tended to focus too much on Lara’s curves. This film presents the lead as tough and fit, rather than simply voluptuous. That does help the action. Yet it simplifies the plot until there is almost no room for characterization.

Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is barely getting by as a bike delivery person for an Indian restaurant in London. However, we soon find out that as the heir to Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), she would be a billionaire if she simply signed papers agreeing that since he had disappeared seven years earlier, he could be declared dead, and she would take over the family fortune. She refuses to do so. That may seem unrealistic, but compared to the rest of the film, that’s almost normal.

When she finally agrees to sign the papers, she discovers a clue to her father’s disappearance and, instead of signing, runs off to an island off the Chinese coast where a Japanese witch, so deadly that she killed thousands, was buried alive, according to myth. I am not exactly certain why a Japanese witch would be involved with a Chinese island, and that is never explained.

Lara has a few adventures in Hong Kong, where she convinces drunken Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) to sail his boat to the not-quite-mythical island. She arrives and finds a nasty group of evil doers called Trinity using slave labor to find the tomb because they think they might find something that could help them take over the world. Led by Mattias Vogel (Walton Goggins) they would do anything to get to the tomb and claim the weapon, and Lara will do anything to stop them.

There is a lot of action. Unfortunately, there is nothing really new here. Lara’s exploits almost always consist of leaping off something that is collapsing, not quite making it but grabbing hold of something and then climbing up. That trick was pulled at least a half dozen times and became a bit boring. The villains were Vogel and a handful of bumbling gunmen, all very buff and looking all evil, but not actually doing much.

Vikander handled the action well enough, although the stunts were repetitious. She has very nice shoulders and arms, which I presume is why she was shown hanging from them so often. She also looks great when jumping. The acting was not very difficult for her, and she handled a part that too often seemed to veer into simple stupidity. West handled the father’s part deftly. Goggins, however, never really seemed all that evil. He did kill several characters, but the film’s makers seemed to spend a lot of time on his wanting to find the tomb so he could go home to his wife and daughters.

But he comes across as the most complex of the characters. We learn almost nothing about Lara except that she loves her father, pays no attention to anyone’s advice, will do whatever she wants no matter how stupid. And she is the central character. When combined with “evils that can end the world” and so forth, much of the plot seems simplistic. So Lara keeps running and running. Her allies keep getting hurt but not badly enough they can’t help her, and finally the movie is over.

This is not a bad film in the sense that it would bore you. But the plot is silly with a few moments of sanity mixed in with constant movement so you don’t walk out. It is not bad, but at current ticket rates, save your cash.