Alicia Vikander is sublime as arrow-firing heroine, Lara Croft, in an origins reboot of Tomb Raider that defers from its gaming roots, but doesn't quite hit the bullseye.

For anyone who remembers the original Lara Croft, Tomb Raider films, the overwhelming memory is one of a sultry, pouting Angelina Jolie in skimpy shorts and low cut vest tops wielding guns strapped to her thighs. Jolie’s character was a heroine forged from the fantasy imaginations of male gamers, idling on their consoles imagining the perfect fighting woman. That’s not to diminish what Jolie’s croft did for female action heroines; she provided a genuinely fierce and terrifying action hero for millions of little girls who didn’t find what they were looking for in Indiana Jones or James Bond.

Vikander’s Lara Croft shows how far we’ve come on our journey towards populating Hollywood with female heroines to rival the opposite sex. It’s testament to her skill as an actor that Vikander is able to transition herself so masterfully from her acclaimed roles in drama (The Danish Girl, Testament of Youth, the Light between Oceans) to a thoroughly ripped, badass action figure.

Lara Croft Alicia Vikander 2018

Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider reboot. Photo: GK Films, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

In 2018’s origins take on Tomb Raider, we meet Lara Croft as a young Deliveroo (essentially) courier shacked up in a small London flat in what we can only assume is Shoreditch or Hoxton, spending all of her non-existent money on boxing. Of course, that’s not really true, since Croft is the heir to a fortune left to her by her businessman father (Dominic West), presumed dead on an overseas exploratory mission.  Her guardian, Ana (Kristin Scott Thomas), tries desperately to help Croft come to terms with the death of her father and sign the forms to legally pronounce him dead, and claim her money. The scenes in which we see Lara in her natural environment  are some of the best of the film; one scene including a ‘fox hunt’ around east London on bikes is particularly notable even if Croft would have ended up with more than a slap on the wrist were this real life.

It’s upon signing the forms that Croft is given a secret puzzle left to her from her father, which leads her to discover his underground research laboratory at Croft Manor. Lo and behold, her father was working on a mission to find the tomb of the ‘Death Queen’, Himiko, on a far-off Japanese island which, of course, Lara has to find for herself to discover the truth about her father. This is despite her father warning her to burn all his research to save it, and its potentially disastrous supernatural powers, from falling into the wrong hands. When she arrives, following a journey that in reality would have seen her and her captain (Daniel Wu) die within the first minute, she is met by ‘the wrong hands’, Mathias Vogel (the brilliantly named Walton Goggins), who explains his mission to blow up the whole island to find the tomb and take Himiko back to the mainland.

Alicia Vikander Walton Goggins Lara Croft Tomb Raider GK Films, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Walton Goggins and Alicia Vikander in Tomb Raider. Photo: GK Films, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Goggins is well cast as the thoroughly dislikable nemesis of Richard Croft, and is somewhat alike to Walter Donovan (Julian Glover) in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, who (spoilers) comes to a similar grizzly end in a Petra tomb. Equally evil is the ambiguous character of Ana, portrayed by Kristin Scott Thomas. Those hoping the Lara Croft reboot is set for a longer run will be delighted by the end, which certainly signifies at least a sequel is on the cards.

Kristin Scott Thomas Tomb Raider

Kristin Scott Thomas as Ana Miller in Tomb Raider. Photo: GK Films, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

However, it is Vikander who carries the film. Her seamless transition from period drama heroine to all-round action hero is a delight to watch. Her Croft is far more human and realistic than Jolie’s Croft ever was. She is a Lara Croft you could expect to meet at the pub downing a pint in a black leather jacket and skinny jeans, but still one that you wouldn’t want to get in a fight with at the end of the night. The story of the tomb itself is almost irrelevant when the whole film is essentially a series of establishing shots for more Croft films down the line.

If you ignore the fact that Croft should probably have died around fifty times over during the course of Tomb Raider, if not from gunshots, falls, plunging into rivers from a great height or boat crashes, then certainly from septicaemia, director Roar Uthaug’s reboot is a pretty solid attempt at adapting Lara Croft for a millennial audience. As is so traditional in the regeneration of films, let’s not pretend that the original Tomb Raider series was anything other than an action-fuelled frolic brimming with supernatural beings, huge set-pieces and a powerful, determined and inspiring woman on a mission for little girls to look up to. 

★★★☆☆

Tomb Raider is out in cinemas and in IMAX 3D now. Book tickets here.