Adapting video games into movies has not resulted in much box office or creative success.
At the top of the heap and the closest thing you could come to a qualified success was “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” a modest hit that starred Angelina Jolie and came out 17 years ago (added to the list of things that makes me feel old).
That must mean it’s time for a remake!
“Tomb Raider” stars Alicia Vikander, improves upon the original (and the 2003 sequel), and by clearing that very low bar, becomes the best video game adaptation to ever come along.
Of course, it’s still got plenty of problems and, in the end, isn’t much more than a serviceable action-adventure flick.
For those of you who don’t remember the ’90s, “Tomb Raider” was a video game featuring a scantily-clad, ridiculously-proportioned heroine who would solve puzzles and shoot things in various archaeological settings.
Vikander gives us a less-sexualized Lara Croft, who gets by more with her wits and bravery than her ability to rock a tank top.
When we first meet Lara, she has turned her back on her aristocratic British upbringing for the humble life of a kickboxing bike messenger.
Her adventuring father, Richard (Dominic West), has long been missing and Lara refuses to accept his death and her inheritance.
Lara does some sleuthing and comes to believe her father’s final voyage was to an uncharted island off the coast of Japan on a quest for a supernatural MacGuffin.
She convinces a drunken ship captain (Lu Ren) to take her to the island where she finds Walton Goggins and a team of mercenaries embarking on the same quest as her father on behalf of a shady international organization.
“Tomb Raider” cribs heavily from the Indiana Jones movies and Norwegian director Roar Uthaug (OK, that’s a pretty kick-ass name) leans into it and seems perfectly content to follow Dr. Jones’ well-worn path.
Hardly anything in this movie could be confused for originality, but it at least does a competent job of ripping off other action-adventure movies.
It winds up being the cast that pushes this movie into positive territory. West and Goggins bring a little heat to their chalk mentor/villain roles, while Vikander proves to be the star we kind of already knew she was.
She grounds this one-dimensional character with real grit and determination and manages to make her a hero worth believing in. She also deserves credit for elevating a pixilated adolescent fantasy into a fierce and capable heroine.
“Tomb Raider” doesn’t raise video game adaptations completely out of the B-movie depths, but it does make for a fun two-hour distraction at the multiplex, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
“Tomb Raider” is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action and for some language.