Just over halfway through Roar Uthaug's Tomb Raider 2018, our skeptical Lara Croft (a marvelous Alicia Vikander) at last plunges with a squad of villains and her own father into the usual under-mountain hellmouth. What follows is like an old pop star's greatest hits medley, where you get just listless scraps of what you turned up to see. Uthaug smash-cuts from one peril to the next, the explorers never seeming to move from chamber to chamber. We keep joining them there, the exploration already in progress. Lara solves a brain-teaser to open the doors to this tomb, but the movie doesn't involve us in her thinking or invite us to play along.
This Tomb Raider movie, like all Tomb Raider movies, shirks the immersive pleasures of the video games. Still, it's a better Tomb Raider than Angelina Jolie starred in. Here's a grittier Lara Croft, one stripped of the advantages of her wealth and all bruised up from the rigors of her adventure. Vikander makes clear, as her Lara strangle-drowns a henchman in a mud puddle, that the act of killing has hardened this young woman, and traumatized her, too.
A set piece in a rust bucket plane perched on a waterfall delights in its one-thing-after-another cartoon logic. But the best sequence is the quietest, when Lara infiltrates the camp of the movie's Bad Dude (Walton Goggins, for once not playing a racist galoot).
Vikander is a first-rate action star, her abs and jawline running form as sharp as mid-career Tom Cruise's. Her eyes express everything a relatable hero's should express: quiet confidence, then raw fear, then I pulled that off!, then what now?, then I got this.