What is Alicia Vikander doing in “Tomb Raider”? That’s easy. She’s cashing in on a rebooted franchise. She’s a marvelous, Oscar-winning actress, but then again, so is Angelina Jolie, who first took on the role following its video game incarnation. I don’t begrudge Vikander for wanting to hit the jackpot, but I would wish for her a different career trajectory than, say, Robert Downey Jr., another marvelous actor who has pretty much jettisoned his career as a “serious” actor in non-franchise fare, thus depriving us, and himself, of some potentially great performances that don’t involve suiting up in superhero armor.
“Tomb Raider,” sloppily directed by Roar Uthaug, would not be worth watching without Vikander, who darts, leaps, and pummels her way through this mediocre escapade with a winning fierceness that makes you wish she had paired up with Indiana Jones in his heyday. As Lara Croft, a spunky bicycle courier in East London, she attempts to solve the mystery of her tycoon father’s mysterious seven-year disappearance. (Dominic West performs the patriarchal honors.) Refusing to believe he is dead, and therefore refusing to sign the legal documents making her his sole heir, she tracks down his last known whereabouts on an uncharted island full of cliffs and chasms off the coast of Japan, where, in explorer mode, he was searching for the usual supernatural hoo-ha that propels these plots.
Most of the movie involves Lara extricating herself from danger, which she does in fine form. Her derring-do helps divert us from the glaring fact that the chasms in this movie are not nearly so wide as the gaps in its plot. Grade: C (Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and for some language.)