Lara Croft, the underdressed heroine of the Tomb Raider video game franchise, is a survivor.
More than 20 years after she somersaulted onto the original PlayStation and had teenage boys furiously pounding handheld controllers in their bedrooms, the pixelated British archaeologist continues to chokehold gender stereotypes on new games consoles.
She has inspired comic books and defied the laws of physics in two lacklustre Hollywood adaptations, which shoe-horned Angelina Jolie – replete with plummy English accent – into Lara’s iconic vest and shorts.
Now it’s the turn of Swedish Oscar winner Alicia Vikander to imbue the acrobatic globe-trotter with tortured melancholy in a big budget origin story, directed by Roar Uthaug.
Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons’ script is reverse-engineered from a spectacular slam-bang finale, which permits Lara to delve into her bag of daredevil tricks: clambering, sprinting and somersaulting around a booby trap-laden temple as architecturally unsound floors and ceilings give way around her.
The dramatic calm before this special-effects laden storm is a surprisingly pedestrian affair, punctuated by tension-sapping flashbacks as well as historical hokum and secret society shenanigans worthy of The Da Vinci Code.
A pervading mood of deadly seriousness is enlivened by broad comic interludes involving Nick Frost and Jaime Winstone as bickering husband and wife pawnbrokers, whose store room of weapons suggests a bright future as armourers to Lara in the rich cinematic tradition of Q and James Bond.
Entrepreneur Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West) leads a secret double life as a globe-trotting protector of hidden ancient artefacts.
He vanishes during an expedition to the burial tomb of Japanese empress Himiko, who unleashed death upon her people with a single touch of her hand.
Seven years pass and Lord Croft’s daughter Lara (Vikander) refuses to sign papers declaring him dead or take up the reins of her father’s business empire alongside trusted business partner, Ana Miller (Kristin Scott Thomas).
Haunted by the past, Lara travels to Hong Kong to charter a boat captained by Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), whose father vanished with Lord Croft making the treacherous journey to an uninhabited island in the Devil’s Sea.
Lara subsequently clashes with sadistic archaeologist Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) and exposes an ancient militant organisation called Trinity, which seeks control of supernatural antiquities.
Tomb Raider is a lithe thrill ride that significantly improves on Jolie’s lamentable tours of duty as Lara Croft.
Vikander wrings out her reluctant heroine’s inner turmoil in touching scenes that bookmark overblown set-pieces and slow-motion leaps across gasping chasms with only a pick axe blade to break her fall.
Action sequences pilfer design elements from Jurassic Park and Wanted but are slickly executed.
Uthaug’s picture isn’t game over for further escapades with Lara, not does it emphatically kick ass.
It’s more of a polite spanking.