I've said before that this is the most mature of the three Tomb Raider sequels, and you can see why. Unlike the first game, this one spends a lot of time exploring the psychology of Lara, and delving into her childhood and past. The relationship between her and her father is much more complex, and the movie serves as a kind of therapy session, showing us all the ways in which she was shaped by her upbringing and how she's still reacting to it. This is a character who was already a little screwed-up when she first appeared in the game, but the movie goes a long way toward explaining and defining who she is. That's not to say she's a sympathetic character by any means: she's very much a survivor, and she fights tooth and nail to get what she wants. But at least she's a complex one, and we can see how she's getting through each day with the help of her friends, and her relationships with men.
This movie is about people who've been hurt by their dads, and the ultimate payback they get for the wrongs they've suffered. Two of the most important characters--Lara's scientist father and Vogel's former mentor--are dual-role characters: fathers who hurt their kids, but who eventually decide to leave them a little better off than they were before. Lara gets to live, sort of, aboard a Star Trek-like ship. Vogel turns out to be a father of sorts. Lu Ren, a father himself, can't pursue his childhood dream of becoming a sea captain any longer, because the ship he's been serving on is too small to handle. The father-daughter relationship is the one theme that's most clearly explored, but it's not the only thing that makes Tomb Raider stand out among the crowd. It's got a grand sense of adventure, a very timely premise, and an excellent heroine who's a little too willing to take a beating. This is a step up from the original Tomb Raider in all kinds of ways.
The movie is packed with environmental backdrops, whether it's the snow-covered mountains of Siberia or the rain-drenched city streets of Hong Kong. This is one of the more visually arresting environments the franchise has set up in a long time. The city scenes are particularly effective; you can feel the cool mist and the steady rain, which adds to the sense of dread. One scene is particularly effective: it takes place in a cramped Hong Kong subway car, and the director, Simon West, and his cinematographer, Matthew Jensen, have made the best use of the space they've been given. It's like a claustrophobic, car-jacked Blade Runner set to the backdrop of a Hong Kong crime thriller. It's a convincing urban living room, and it serves the story well.
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