• by Wes Singleton

Tomb Raider, C

Rated PG-13, 122 minutes

Most will associate Lara Croft and "Tomb Raider" with the early 2000's films starring Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie, though its really a popular video game that has been around for years. The entertaining yet unfocused, vacuous new version "Tomb Raider" provides a new reboot with another Oscar-winner in the lead, and will most likely please only those who loved video game and/or the earlier films.

Lara Croft (Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander) is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer (Dominic West) who vanished years earlier. Hoping to solve the mystery of her father's disappearance, Croft embarks on a perilous journey to his last-known destination -- a fabled tomb on a mythical island that might be somewhere off the coast of Japan. The stakes couldn't be higher as Lara must rely on her sharp mind, blind faith and stubborn spirit to venture into the unknown.

The slick and fast-paced action-adventure "Tomb Raider" is a bland slugfest in more ways than one, to reference both the fighting and the writing. Directed by relatively unknown Norwegian film director Roar Uthaugh and co-written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Allistair Siddons with story contributions from "Snow White and the Huntsmen's" Evan Daughtery, makes some improvements to the earlier films, all the while keeping in mind it's based on a video game.

Chiefly, Vikander is the standout as Lara Croft, imbuing her with toughness, humanity and even some empathy and is overall a better Croft than Jolie's lithe, moodier version.  Cinema needs more female characters who are tough, and a game Vikander answers the call nicely, and for video game fans, she resembles the video game version more than Jolie did. There also isn't a shortage of action, and even if the story isn't perfect, it'll keep you energized throughout.

A couple of big problems, though. Honestly, I don't remember much about the Jolie films except they weren't all that good, and this "Tomb Raider" has something in common with the earlier ones in that it has trouble executing a coherent, focused narrative. The first act is largely backstory, and it doesn't really get cooking until the second act, and the muddled story - with some shades of zombies - isn't fully developed. It also wastes a couple of fine characters in Dominic West ("The Square") as Lara's mysterious father, and "Justified's" Walton Goggins as one of the blander cinematic villains seen of late.

Vikander's Lara runs, fights and kicks some tail with such appeal you may not mind its sluggish story that's as empty as many of the tombs she's hunting for, or is it her father she's hunting? I forgot. Unsurprisingly, "Tomb Raider" leaves it open for more, opening some doors for a new female-driven franchise, which isn't a bad idea with the sublime Vikander as the lead, given you probably won't remember much about it except for her.

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