Rating: 1.5 stars
Lara Croft in the new “Tomb Raider” reboot looks like a heroine of the moment. Gone are the Daisy Dukes and knee-high boots of Angelina Jolie’s 2001 version of the character. This incarnation, played by Oscar winner Alicia Vikander, wears a hoodie and cargo pants, spending her days biking around London delivering food — when she’s not brawling at the kickboxing gym.
You’d never know she’s the heir to a massive fortune. In fact, Lara could cash in at any time, but to do that she’d have to admit that her father, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), a businessman and adventurer who went missing seven years earlier, is dead.
This Lara is spunky and fearless, with a mind of her own. That’s nice to see, but what does it matter in a movie that’s dull when it’s not inexplicable, and is riddled with bad dialogue and worse special effects?
It tells you something that one of the most exciting scenes is the bike race that takes place in the movie’s opening minutes. Lara volunteers to be the fox on a two-wheeled imitation of a hunt, where dozens of bike messengers pursue her, weaving among buses and lorries. The chase thrills because — unlike the rest of the film — it looks real.
Soon after, Lara heads off to more exotic locations in search of her missing father. After stumbling onto a few clues as to his whereabouts, she heads to Hong Kong, where she meets the son of the last person likely to have seen her dad alive (Daniel Wu) and persuades him to captain his ship into dangerous waters, toward the uninhabited island that was Lord Richard’s last known destination.
The island contains the tomb of Japan’s first queen, who, according to legend, was some kind of homicidal sorceress. Before disappearing, Richard warned that if the wrong people found the tomb before him, it could lead to global catastrophe. After crash-landing on the island, it doesn’t take long for Lara to figure out who her dad was referring to. Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) is just the sort of cackling cartoon villain who might unleash a supernatural plague on the world — especially considering all the help he has from his army of thuggish machine-gun-wielding mercenaries.
Lara’s time on the island is action-packed, but strangely low-stakes, partially because it’s uncertain what exactly will happen if Vogel finds what he’s looking for. Even Lara doesn’t believe in whatever magic her father feared, so what’s the harm?
All the same, she stays busy: parachuting off the top of a waterfall and engaging in hand-to-hand combat with a man four times her size; scaling a cliff while bleeding profusely; and going up against all those automatic weapons, armed with nothing but a bow and arrow. As soon as one impossible scenario ends, another comes along to test just how far an audience can suspend its disbelief. It doesn’t help that the computer-generated action is so obvious that it’s as if the movie were paying homage to its video-game source.
Norwegian director Roar Uthaug has had past success with nail-biting suspense, as in his well-received 2015 disaster movie “The Wave.” He can’t quite replicate that same tension here, however. Watching a tiny-but-tough woman survive one danger after another tests not only our credulity, but our patience.
PG-13. At area theaters. Contains sequences of violence and action, and some strong language. 115 minutes.