WITH VIKAN­DER LEAD­ING, 'TOMB RAIDER' ISN'T HALF BAD

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Film - Im­ages: Warner Bros. Pic­tures via AP Re­view: Lind­sey Bahr AP Film Writer

In "Tomb Raider ," which has el­e­ments of "In­di­ana Jones," ''Bat­man" and even "Tron: Le­gacy," but with an angsty young woman at the cen­ter in­stead of an angsty young man, Ali­cia Vikan­der takes a lot of beat­ings. She is punched in the face, and in the stom­ach, she is thrown against rocks and sent ca­reen­ing through a for­est, she is im­paled, hit by a car, left in an im­pos­si­ble one-handed dead hang at least four times, and she is choked, re­ally choked, by both men and women alike.

And she pulls it off! The movie it­self is another, more com­pli­cated, story, but this video game adap­tion is bet­ter than most with set pieces that are both fun and ridicu­lous (like a high-stakes es­cape room) that ac­tu­ally seem to ap­prox­i­mate the ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing a video game.

Af­ter two pretty lousy at­tempts, and a lot of ter­ri­ble video game adap­ta­tions on the way, Hol­ly­wood has res­ur­rected "Tomb Raider," and plucked the most re­cent sup­port­ing ac­tress Os­car win­ner pro­duc­tion could get their hands on. And like An­gelina Jolie be­fore her, Vikan­der has, ex­actly two years af­ter her Academy Award win for an

emo­tional drama, stepped into Lara Croft's com­bat boots and de­cided to raid some tombs.

Di­rected by Nor­we­gian film­maker Roar Uthaug ("The Wave"), Lara is in­tro­duced get­ting her butt kicked in a box­ing ring. The gym mem­ber­ship that gives her ac­cess to th­ese low-rent Rock­yesque fa­cil­i­ties is one she can't af­ford to pay. She is scrappy and barely get­ting by on her bike courier ser­vice pay­check. She also isn't afraid to take on a chal­lenge for a few hun­dred bucks, like, say, bik­ing through the streets of Lon­don with a fox­tail at­tached to her ma­chine while two dozen guys try to catch her. But she's also not past see­ing a ran­dom busi­ness man on the street, think­ing that per­haps it is her lon­glost and pre­sumed to be dead fa­ther (Do­minic West) and go­ing into a hazy flash­back dream that dis­tracts her enough to lose fo­cus in the race and flip over a po­lice car.

At the lo­cal po­lice sta­tion, we learn the truth of Lara: This isn't some work­ing class girl at all, this is some­one who grew up wealth­ier than most could imag­ine and whose in­her­i­tance won't kick in un­til she signs some pa­pers ac­knowl­edg­ing that her fa­ther, who dis­ap­peared seven years ago, is dead. Just as she's about to con­cede to her fa­ther's deputy (Kristin Scott Thomas), she stum­bles on a clue that sends her on a jour­ney to find out what hap­pened to her fa­ther on that re­mote is­land off the coast of Ja­pan. He was look­ing for some an­cient "death queen" named Himiko that we spend the next half of the film talk­ing about and search­ing for.

Lara swings by Hong Kong first and gets the son of a man her fa­ther knew, Lu Ren (a com­pelling but un­der­used Daniel Wu) to join her on this ad­ven­ture. One har­row­ing boat ride later and they've smashed into the is­land and found them­selves in the pos­ses­sion of Vo­gel (Wal­ton Gog­gins), a mer­ce­nary who is try­ing to get the mum­mi­fied Himiko off the is­land.

It's here that the film's set pieces re­ally start to click, and Lara, whose bulging back mus­cles are shown off at ev­ery pos­si­ble op­por­tu­nity, is put through the ringer try­ing to es­cape from Vo­gel. That the pro­duc­tion put her in cargo pants for the du­ra­tion and not the Jolie short- shorts is per­haps a sign of progress too.

The film not-so-sub­tly bor­rows from a half dozen bet­ter films, but even so, there are def­i­nitely ways the story of "Tomb Raider" might have been im­proved. Lara is for all her gump­tion, a pretty pas­sive pro­tag­o­nist, for one.

As it stands, though, "Tomb Raider" is an of­ten fun and vis­ually com­pelling ac­tion pic, that is also some­times un­in­ten­tion­ally silly, with a great ac­tress lead­ing the whole thing.

Ali­cia Vikan­der in a scene from "Tomb Raider."

Daniel Wu and Ali­cia Vikan­der

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