The Tomb Raider review embargo has lifted, and let’s just say the critics aren’t exactly enamored with the latest big-screen Lara Croft adventure. Not even Oscar winner Alicia Vikander is enough to elevate this video game movie – although there are some kind words here and there. Our full Tomb Raider review round-up is below.
Lara Croft is back on the big screen again in Tomb Raider, Roar Uthaug‘s adaptation of the popular video game series. Alicia Vikander is the titular tomb raider, embarking on a dangerous, globe-trotting quest. The character has had two previous big screen adaptations before – Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, both starring Angelina Jolie. Neither of those films were particularly good. So does Vikander’s take on the character rise above the previous films? Apparently not. The Tomb Raider review embargo has lifted, and the general consensus seems to be that this is yet another disappointing video game movie – a mixed bag at best.
Tomb Raider Review Round-Up
Entertainment Weekly‘s Leah Greenblatt offers one of the more positive takes on the film, saying that for all its flaws, Tomb Raider is “pretty good fun”:
“The latest big-screen iteration of the blockbuster video game isn’t a film for the ages, but it’s actually pretty good fun; an old-fashioned treasure-island adventure tale gilded in circa-2018 wokeness (Lara Croft’s breasts no longer command a lead supporting role) and anchored by an Oscar-winning actress far more gifted than the story requires. It’s also a vast improvement on the 2001 original starring Angelina Jolie, Jon Voight, and a pre-Bond Daniel Craig — which, revisited, has the distinct whiff of late-night ’90s Cinemax: erotic slow-mo shower scenes, hokey digital effects, prancing villains in George Hamilton tans.”
Over at Birth Movies Death, Russ Fischer praises Vikander’s “boundless energy”:
“Never let it be said that Vikander isn’t up to a challenge. Tomb Raider exploits her ability to injects a boundless energy into the Croft persona as she sweats through jungle chases, bike races, and dock brawls with a compulsively watchable level of effort. Vikander doesn’t make this all look easy. Rather, like that guy in those movies that the Tomb Raider franchise relies upon for inspiration, it’s just difficult enough that success feels like an accomplishment. “
IndieWire‘s Kate Erbland calls Tomb Raider “dumb fun” but says the film “can’t get away from the typical tropes of the genre”:
“Despite a fresher heroine, “Tomb Raider” still has all sorts of retrograde video game movie tropes. A cheesy voiceover serves as dunderheaded prologue, and all but consumes the narrative motion of the second act; flashbacks get out of hand in their attempts to round out Lara and Richard’s relationship. (In the film’s final moments, it even flashes back to a scene 90 seconds earlier.)”
Todd McCarthy at the Hollywood Reporter is another critic to single out Vikander’s performance, while also saying the film itself is lacking:
“When all the one-dimensional supporting characters and familiar action moves fall by the wayside, the one thing left standing is Vikander. Slim and not tall, she doesn’t cut the figure of a muscled powerhouse, but here she fully embodies physical tenacity and grit, along with absolute determination not to give in or up. The film strains credulity even for a vid-game fantasy by letting the leading lady recover awfully quickly from bad injuries, but other than that Vikander commands attention and is the element here that makes Tomb Raider sort of watchable.”
James Marsh at South China Morning Post says the film’s action – one of its chief selling-points – leaves much to be desired:
“Norwegian director Roar Uthaug (The Wave) makes the most of his locations, but the action is edited to ribbons, and an over-reliance on CG augmentation starves the more ambitious set pieces of any sense of threat or physicality.”
Slate‘s Inkoo Kang is one of the few critics to offer a genuinely positive review of Tomb Raider, describing the film as “thrilling”:
“An obligatory setup for a sequel slows down the final moments, but until then, Tomb Raider feels like a perfectly paced trio of espresso shots, with a shot of adrenaline to the heart as a chaser. It’s been a thrill to see so many physically powerful women on screen in recent years, but this deglammed Lara Croft feels like the rare heroine who proudly wears dirt under her chipped fingernails.”
Reviewing the film for AP, Lindsey Bahr says Tomb Raider “isn’t half bad” and adds:
“[T]his video game adaption is better than most with set pieces that are both fun and ridiculous (like a high-stakes escape room) that actually seem to approximate the experience of playing a video game.”
Heroic Hollywood‘s Nick Kazden says Tomb Raider is “another mediocre film adaptation”, adding:
“Tomb Raider hits the basic requirements to be called a decent origin story. It’s just a pretty lackluster film overall. Sloppy visuals and unnecessary amounts of exposition take away from a movie that does a good job setting up Lara Croft as an interesting character.”
Game Informer‘s Imran Khan has good things to say about Vikander, and not-so-good-things to say about everything else:
“Tomb Raider is not without positive qualities, such as Vikander’s characterization and a few genuinely fun action scenes, but they are only redemptive of their individual moments and not the movie as a whole. If there is a curse on video game movies, Tomb Raider only breaks it insofar as being worth watching on a streaming service in the background while engaging in something more compelling.”
Over at Forbes, Scott Mendelson says “Alicia Vikander’s Lara Croft Deserves A Better Movie”, and adds:
“The good news is that the Oscar-winning actress offers an entertaining and occasionally devilish take on the famed video game heroine, on variation that can stand side-by-side with Jolie’s two attempts. The bad news is that the film is explicitly in “don’t screw it up” mode, going through the motions and offering somewhat generic action heroics and run-of-the-mill perils. It’s solidly decent, which for a video game movie qualifies as a miracle, but it gets off to such a solid start that it’s a little disappointing when it starts going through the motions. This is a franchise that should have skipped straight to the sequel.”
Slant‘s Jake Cole says the film is far too beholden to its video game roots:
“Then there are moments that translate video-game mechanics so literally that we see Lara do menial game tasks like use exposed beams as makeshift monkey bars for crossing gaps. This isn’t an adaptation of a video game so much as an adaptation of a video game’s tutorial level…”
Matt Singer at ScreenCrush says Tomb Raider is a “forgettable and thoroughly mediocre Indiana Jones knockoff,” going on to say:
“While the movie is never less than competently staged, it’s also rarely exciting or interesting enough to justify its existence. There is too much backstory about Lara, her absentee father, and his research, none of which matters. There’s even an “origin” scene for the two pistols Lara Croft carries around in most of her video games, contradicting their previous origin, which was that the creators of Tomb Raider franchise watched a ton of John Woo movies in the ’90s. Either way, who cares? If you’ve seen the previous movies, any of the Indiana Joneses, or YouTube videos of bow and arrow tricks, there’s nothing remotely new here.”
Jamie Broadnax, reviewing the film for Black Girl Nerds, says that film is entertaining enough to be worth a watch:
“Is Tomb Raider a movie you should take seriously and expect to be a groundbreaking film? No. Is this a movie that you can enjoy with a box of popcorn and see some cool action sequences and shoot-em-up adventures? Yes.”
Consequence of Sound‘s Clint Worthington offers another positive take, calling Tomb Raider a “genuinely good video game movie” and adding:
“For all the stigma attached to video-game adaptations, it would be a shame for Tomb Raider’s many charms to go forgotten. The Tomb Raider games had long ago shorn the elements that made Lara Croft such a gaming punchline, so it’s nice to see the films following suit. Vikander is a beautifully effective avatar for the American Ninja Warrior version of Lara Croft. Stripping down the bombast of the original games (and films) allows Uthaug’s reboot to feel comparatively grounded and immediate, without dragging itself down with unnecessary pathos.”
Tomb Raider opens March 16, 2018.
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