Lara Croft may be as rich as Midas—her father having collected scores of businesses under the Croft family banner—but you’d never guess it by looking at her. In fact, she leads a somewhat meager existence on the streets of London and can barely keep up with her bills.
The problem is, this pretty twentysomething simply refuses to admit that her dad is …
She even has a hard time even saying it. Thinking it. To take any money from his wealthy estate, she’d have to sign papers confirming his death. And that, she will not do. No matter how much the corporate officials plead.
Ever since her mom’s death when she was a little girl, Lara’s father, Lord Richard Croft, had been obsessed with supernatural things. He’d been determined to find any hint of things beyond this physical domain.
That had led him to the mystery of the ancient and mysterious Japanese Queen Himiko—otherwise known as the Mother of Death. Lara’s father had invested years of research into finding the woman’s hidden tomb. And that nagging quest took him away from his daughter years ago, without a word since.
“You can pick up where your father left off,” the estate executor tells Lara in the hope of getting her to sign the necessary papers. But Lara can’t do more than frown and assure the woman, “I’m not that kind of Croft.”
Lara isn’t an explorer. She isn’t an adventurer. She’s just a young woman whose life has been deprived of her dear father’s presence and love for the last seven years.
That’s when Lara discovers a strange Japanese puzzle, left behind in her father’s effects. His movable wooden puzzles had always been slightly annoying to her as a girl. But she was also very good at them—the cylinders clicking and shifting beneath her fingers as if on their own. And as this complicated gadget clicks into place, revealing a photo, a key and a further riddle, everything changes for Lara.
Could it be? Is there more to her father’s disappearance? Are there clues just waiting to be turned over, manipulated and clicked into place like an ancient wooden collection of gears, slides and nobs? Has something been left behind just for her? Some truth? Some message?
She has to find out. And along the way, Lara is beginning to suspect—deep down in a hidden corner of her puzzle-shaped core—that she just might be that kind of Croft after all.
We see via several flashbacks that Lara and her dad have a very close, loving relationship. So, even though Lara doesn’t see herself as being cut from the same adventuring cloth as her father, she can’t help but sell whatever she has of value to try and find the man she loves so dearly. And others are also inspired to take selfless action of their own.
[Spoiler Warning] Both Crofts are made of the same stuff when it comes to their self-sacrificial attitudes. Lara eventually finds her father after putting her life on the line. And both of them are willing to do anything for the other to get out alive at that point. Richard is ready to sacrifice himself for his daughter and for what he considers to be a threat to the world at large. On the other hand, as proud as he is of Lara’s bravery, Richard is hesitant to put his daughter in any danger. “You taught me to never give up,” she reminds him. “That was a different time. I was a different man,” he replies. “Well, I’m still his daughter,” Lara declares boldly.
In a flashback, Richard gives a very young Lara an amulet that he claims has magical powers, though we never see any evidence of that being true. There’s also a deadly ancient “curse” that is purported to be of a powerful spiritual origin. Eventually, though, we find out that the threat is more related to a virulent plague than anything supernatural.
It’s never played for titillating effect, but we do see quite a bit of Lara’s muscular, toned physique. She boxes another woman—both of them dressed in shorts and a sports bra and revealing ripped abdomens. Lara also wears a formfitting tank top throughout most of her adventure that reveals a bit cleavage.
Though this is an action adventure filled with gun-wielding thugs, Lara doesn’t want to kill anyone if she can avoid it. In fact, when she’s forced to fight for her life and kill a savage attacker, she’s very obviously shaken by her deadly actions. Things get even more violent from there, but Lara makes repeated efforts to wound and incapacitate when possible, instead of taking her assailants’ lives.
However, the men holding Lara and others captive have no such compunctions. The boss, Mathias Vogel, shoots one of a menial laborer (who’s helping to excavate a crypt) at point-blank range for being sick and slowing the work at hand. And when some captive men break free, they don’t hesitate to grab guns and shoot the baddies, either. Perhaps 15 to 20 people or so get shot or stabbed (though bloodlessly). Others are hit with rifle stocks and kicked while on the ground. Men are infected with a plague-like virus that causes their flesh to decompose quickly. Several mechanical traps kill men with spikes and by dropping them from great heights.
Lara herself is thumped around in precarious and believable ways. She’s never punched in the face by a man, but we see her tossed about, hit with glancing blows, choked and shoved. After being clocked on the head and knocked out, she touches her wounded head and draws back fingers lightly covered in blood. A female boxing partner does hit Lara in the face, pound her in the stomach and hold her in a choke hold till she nearly passes out.
We also see Lara jumping from precarious places and slamming into logs, rocks and crumbling rusted structures. She ends up with a short wooden spike in her side after one of these tumbling falls. (The wound is stitched with needle and thread by someone else). Lara runs into a car while riding a bike. She’s threatened by a group of young men with a knife. And she has to leap into roiling waters during a vicious storm.
A boat in a storm smashes up against huge rocks and disintegrates. Men use explosives to detonate large rock structures. We see a room full of hundreds of shelved corpses—each of which, we’re told, committed suicide for a special purpose. We also encounter a huge chasm partially filled with skeletal corpses.
Five s-words join one unfinished use of “f—” and two uses of “d–n.” God’s name is misused in combination with that last profanity as well.
When we first meet a boat captain named Lu Ren, he is quite drunk. So much so that he passes out and tumbles off his boat’s upper deck. We see him pull out a bottle to repeat the process later on, but then he puts the booze away.
Scores of men are held captive and used for slave labor. A secret organization wants to unleash a plague on mankind.
Recent films have wrestled vigorously with the idea of today’s “empowered” woman. Unfortunately, cinematic stabs at that concept often pair female characters’ praiseworthy strength and independence with a foolish parade of raunchy and/or aggressively violent choices that the average Jane would rightly balk at.
Actress Alicia Vikander and the Tomb Raider movie crew take a different tack here.
Their movie heroine gives a muscular cold-shoulder to randy and sozzled things. She’s focused, heroic, brilliant and tough. She’ll fight for her life, but doesn’t take anyone’s death lightly. She can leap from the highest cliff to the deadliest precipice with sweaty grace, and she solves ancient environmental puzzles as well as any archeological expert. Meanwhile, the film she stars in unabashedly trumpets the goodness of loving family relationships, even as it emphasizes the necessity of doing the right thing and of looking out for those in need.
Ironically, that’s all delivered through the persona of a video-game-character-turned-matinee-heroine that some people don’t always remember all that fondly. That digital damsel earned a reputation as perhaps the most sexually objectified, libidinously misproportioned gal in the gaming world.
But this tomb-spelunking young woman has come a long way. Or as she puts it repeatedly, “I’m not that kind of Croft!”
Granted, there is still some well-toned flesh on display and lots of derriere-kicking to go around. And amid the crumbling stone columns, automatic weapon firefights and flesh-shriveling crypt curses, there’s some death on display, too. But the film’s violence is never graphic, the beat-’em-ups never blanch-worthy. And Lara’s bold, heroic willingness to risk her life for others represents a brand of bravery that’s worthy of emulation.
All in all, this Lara Croft reboot does female empowerment right, albeit in a slightly over-the-top, cinematic video game sort of way.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.