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‘Tomb Raider’ wastes another opportunity for a great female action hero

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Alicia Vikander is Lara Croft in “Tomb Raider,” the new installment of the action series. (Courtesy Graham Bortholomew/ Warner Bros.)

The “Indiana Jones” series has inspired dozens of other movies, but few so intriguing as the “Tomb Raider” video game/film franchise, with its cool female protagonist.

Yet, like the last two attempts at big screen movies, the new “Tomb Raider” fails to capture the thrill of adventure that made the fedora-wearing, bullwhip-wielding Indy so special.

It has been awhile since “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” (2001) and its awkwardly-titled sequel, “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life” (2003) splashed on movie screens.

Now, Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander takes over the role from Angelina Jolie, and a new storyline comes from the successful 2013 video game reboot.

Whereas Jolie’s Lara Croft had too little character development, Vikander’s now has too much, and she disappears inside all her various motivations.

She first appears in a kickboxing match, and then working as a bicycle courier. She has a stubborn streak that usually does not lead to the best decisions.

One of those is that, though she struggles financially, she could be set up for life with a huge inheritance if she only signs a paper acknowledging that her father (Dominic West) — who disappeared years earlier on an adventure — is dead.

She refuses to believe this, but she does find a clue, leading to her father’s papers and records. So she jets off to Hong Kong to hire a boat and a captain (Daniel Wu) to take her to a deadly island off the Japanese coast.

After a nasty shipwreck, she meets the beady-eyed Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) who is seeking the treasure that obsessed her father: the tomb of Himiko, said to contain great powers, etc.

Everything in “Tomb Raider” is noisy and frenzied, more akin to a heavy, dull, repeating bludgeon than anything close to a deft, smooth ballet of action. Where the viewers ought to get a moment to breathe, there is usually another explosion.

It even has that weird, queasy PG-13-style violence, in which any amount of killing is allowed, so long as no blood is shown.

Every Indiana Jones-inspired movie ought to contain a library scene, in which the treasure is described in some musty book (preferably with a lock on its leather cover), and the heroes become awestruck.

In “Tomb Raider,” we get a hasty prologue before we even know what hit us. Perhaps worse, Lara isn’t even after the treasure; she only wants to find her father. There’s no awe here.

Irritatingly, most of what she does is defined by male characters. Even her badass quality — something Jolie managed to capture — is gone; this Lara spends much of the movie running away, screaming, getting hurt and crying in pain.

It’s a shame, especially now. The truth is that this meathead movie doesn’t especially care about who Lara Croft is as much as it cares about how her tank top fits. And certainly that trademark tank is part of her appeal, but it shouldn’t be the only thing to see in “Tomb Raider.”

The movie ends with the promise of another adventure, but it’s not clear how much more disappointment viewers can take. Perhaps this one will seal the franchise’s tomb for good.

REVIEW

Tomb Raider
Two stars
Starring Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu
Written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Alastair Siddons, Evan Daugherty
Directed by Roar Uthaug
Rated PG-13
Running time 1 hour, 58 minutes

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