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Tomb Raider

Year: 2018
Production Co: GK Films
Studio: MGM
Director: Roar Uthaug
Producer: Graham King
Writer: Geneva Robertson-Dworet/Alastair Siddons/Evan Daugherty
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Gogins, Kristin Scott Thomas, Hannha John-Kamen

This movie is the perfectly realised business model of several of the most cynical practices that make up the Hollywood content pipeline. First is the producer or studio who realises to him/her/itself that a character based on a popular videogame should be a winner with kids and teens if they keep costs down, that it's been a generation since the last cinematic outing of the same character and that the audience for this film won't remember (or have been born) when everyone else realised how terrible it was.

The second is to take an up and coming director who's shown a love of the Hollywood Machine, throw him into a mid-tier production with a terrible script and let him sink or swim. Native Norwegian Roar Uthaug's The Wave was as effective a Hollywood disaster movie as there's been for the last decade, so unashamedly a signal about what he could do it might as well have been a neon sign reading 'Hey Hollywood! Give me a career!'

And the third is that when those elements are unceremoniously crammed together they think they can hoodwink us out of our money before we realise it has a dull script, flat characters such as the rent-a-sneer actor to play the cookie cutter villain (Walton Goggins, washing away any credibility he had from The Hateful Eight like a stream of urine against a beautiful watercolour) and barely visible performances – even from an Oscar winner like Alicia Vikander.

Looking like a 12 year old girl, Vikander is woefully miscast as the titular swashbuckling heroine. When we meet her she's a London bike courier who wants nothing to do with her family fortune but gets wind of a secret treasure her missing Dad (Dominic West) was on the trail of, apparently a great explorer rather than the rich industrialist everyone (including her) thought he was.

So she follows his path into the jungles of some island where the treasure – a mythical power – is said to be hidden. Once there she learns that a shadowy institute is already on the trail, employing slave labour miners to dig their way to it. Lara has to go on the run with some Central Casting accomplices and use her skills of running, archery and pouting like a teenager to beat them to it.

Like a lot of the criticism levelled at the entire Lara Croft mythology has been, it's like a tween girl's version of Indiana Jones, and not just because it features what appears to be a tween girl playing Lara, but because everything about swashbuckling archaeologist explorers has been done before much better.

If there's one high note it's this; when fighting bad guys, the script doesn't give Lara supernatural-level ninja skills of strength and cunning enough to beat down ten fully grown men. When she's in fisticuffs you can see her being overpowered and trying desperately to get the upper hand. It's a very small concession to realism amid an ocean of fantasy that's ironically both overcooked and half baked.

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