I don’t really have a strong opinion on Ed Sheeran. He does his thing, it’s not really my thing, and life goes on. But on my way back from seeing the new Tomb Raider movie with Alicia Vikander, his insanely popular song “Shape of You” came on my radio. If you don’t know, it’s basically a moderately catchy tune where Sheeran repeatedly sings “I’m in love with your body.” And there just isn’t a better analogy for the way the character of Lara Croft has been traditionally viewed from the time of her creation through the time of those two Angelina Jolie movies. Nor a more perfect opposite to the way she is viewed in Vikander’s incarnation.
It should be clear by now that this Lara Croft movie arrives during a time when our society is going through an incredibly important movement towards greater equality for women. It feels insane that we’re still fighting for this in 2018, but here we are, and praise God it seems positive change is happening. So, hearing a man sing an ode to a woman’s body, while not necessarily bad on its own (seriously, nothing against poor Ed), just has a different feel about it right now. So, too, does this fairly entertaining, yet mostly forgettable action movie.
Tomb Raider is fun. It really is. The action set pieces are quite enthralling and give Lara every manner of jumping, swinging, diving, tumbling and running you can imagine – which is the way it should be. The tomb raiding mystery, firmly retread storytelling, is well crafted and feels fresh (how have I never heard of the Himiko the Japanese shaman queen before? Very cool.) The performances are extremely far beyond what the script deserved and there are some decent hooks for world building that make you curious for the next chapter, if not exactly craving it. All in all, it’s a solid-not-great action movie that does enough to earn the ticket price.
However, the biggest strength of this popcorn flick is that there’s an equality between characters that is simply and wonderfully inherent. Alicia Vikander is outstanding in the role of Lara Croft, which, mind you, has big shoes to fill. She and the film give this character a new energy. It is the character’s journey that is the focus of the film. Not her body. Her fight to find her father, herself, and her destiny is the narrative driving force. There’s little concern over her physical features. And this fact doesn’t feel overtly intentional. The filmmakers don’t wave it in your face that this female is equal to everyone else. It’s just there. Life goes on. And that is what is exciting to me.
I don’t often like to pull out the “I’m a dad with a daughter” card (they give them out on your first day of dad camp, ok?) but it’s my reality. A parent can’t help but wonder about the world their kids will live in. I wonder about it all the time. Watching Tomb Raider felt like getting a small peak into what movies more often might be. Seeing an action movie, even an admittedly not-that-great one, with characters who were simply on an equal playing field regardless of gender because that’s just the way things were, felt exciting. That’s what I want my daughter to grow up in. After all, it is how the gospel calls us to view people. As equal.
You know, I was honestly expecting to write more about how this movie relates to Tomb Raider video games. But the film is mostly unconcerned with that other than visual allusions. It’s just trying hard to be a great movie. And though it falls short of that, I can’t help but feel connected to it. Maybe it was the solid father-daughter relationship that struck me, or maybe it’s just that it’s long past time for more non-padded-bra Lara Croft-style action heroes. Either way, I am surprised to be thankful for a middling action movie. Because there’s a time for Ed Sheeran songs. But I doubt even Ed would argue against having a lot more time for stories with equality built into their DNA.