Tomb Raider Review: The Alicia Vikander Reboot Gets Lost in the Jungle

Behold Alicia Vikander, leaping, swinging, and flexing her way through Tomb Raider—a franchise resurrected not because there was consumer demand, but because it is a brand name everyone recognizes.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, released in 2001, is still the video-game movie adaptation with the largest gross in domestic history. (The Resident Evil films blow it out of the water worldwide, as does, Lord help us, The Angry Birds Movie.) But its 2003 sequel, the perplexingly named Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, was an underperformer. Gamers have their own relationship to the character, but those who aren’t in the fold, if they think about her at all, hear the name “Lara Croft” and instantly conjure up Angelina Jolie at her most adventuresome and buoyant, playing a more agile, puzzle-solving, female answer to Indiana Jones. The movies themselves were terrible, but as a snapshot of the period’s pop culture, Jolie in Croft’s athletic outfits bordered on iconic.

By contrast, the only thing about the new Tomb Raider with any pizzazz is the name of its director: Roar Uthaug. (It gets less exciting when you learn he is Norwegian; perhaps he was one of five different Roars in his class.) Uthaug’s take on this material is almost aggressively boring. I checked my watch: the first tomb doesn’t get raided until 76 minutes into the movie’s 116-minute run time. Seventy-six minutes!

So, what happens in those first 75 minutes? After some expository voice-over about an ancient curse that goes in one ear and out the other, we meet Vikander’s Croft: a tough, kickboxing bike messenger. Jolie, if you recall, was living like a zillionaire, taking steamy showers surrounded by servants; “I’m not that kind of Croft,” Vikander says more than once, which I suppose is something that will cause a dust-up on the last remaining Tomb Raider message boards.

But her extreme lifestyle hides a secret: she is, in fact, an heiress, and would inherit the Croft fortune if she’d just sign the official papers acknowledging her father’s death. But while Papa Croft (Dominic West) disappeared on a trip to Japan seven years ago, his body was never found.

A quick scene with business minders Kristin Scott Thomas and Derek Jacobi leads to the first breadcrumb, then a puzzle, then a picture; finally, Lara heads to Hong Kong to try and track down her missing dad. There, after a chase with local hoods, she meets Lu Ren (the abundantly charismatic Daniel Wu), a ship captain whose father also disappeared when he was hired by Lara’s father seven years ago. From here on in, both characters only wear tank tops.

They decrypt a message from a journal, find coordinates to a hidden island, get into a wreck, and, next thing you know, end up slaves of Walton Goggins. He’s there at the behest of some unseen bigwig to find whatever it was that Dominic West was looking for. For a hot minute, it all feels like the 1976 King Kong.

But suddenly, Goggins sends everyone on a dangerous march . There are baddies with guns, but if you’re looking for traps and adventure and stealing things from caves, you’ve got to wait. Past another chase and a lot of thrashing about in a waterfall. Even when—spoiler alert, I suppose—Dominic West turns up after all to babble about curses and magic, we still haven’t raided any damn tombs!

Even once the promise of the title finally kicks in, there’s another problem: nobody brought any damn lights. Uthaug, whose previous adventure film The Wave was corny but at least kept up the tempo, shoots a lot of the action in settings so dim we can’t actually see anything.

The other main issue, alas, is Vikander. While she’s likable and offers no shortage of concerned, white-of-the-eye reaction shots, she simply doesn’t click as an action hero under Uthaug’s direction. When she’s supposed to let out a war cry, she gives a whimper. Her skin always looks gorgeous, despite all the tussling—no doubt the humidity of the island jungle is doing good work for everyone’s pores. But this plus some very noticeable C.G.I. creates a teflon quality to the danger that keeps the suspension of disbelief far at bay.

All that would be forgivable if something original were happening on screen; it isn’t. I never thought I’d say this, but the similar Alien vs. Predator is a masterpiece in comparison to this reboot. While I wasn’t exactly expecting greatness from the film, I did think it would contain a few thrills and maybe some laughs. Having Lara Croft leap around and avoid traps should be an easy formula—but for this crew, it remains an unsolvable puzzle.

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Full ScreenPhotos:Every Best-Actress Winner in Oscar History

2018: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Photo: By David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock.


2017, Emma Stone, La La Land, in Givenchy

Photo: By Christopher Polk/Getty Images.

2016, Brie Larson, *Room*, in Gucci.

2016, Brie Larson, Room, in Gucci.

Photo: By Christopher Polk/Getty Images.

2014, Cate Blanchett, *Blue Jasmine*, in Armani Privé.

2014, Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine, in Armani Privé.

1930: Norma Shearer, *The Divorcee*, in Gilbert Adrian.

1930: Norma Shearer, The Divorcee, in Gilbert Adrian.

1972: Jane Fonda, *Klute*, in Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche.

1972: Jane Fonda, Klute, in Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche.

1969: Barbra Streisand, *Funny Girl*, in Arnold Scassi & Katharine Hepburn,* The Lion in Winter.*

1969: Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl, in Arnold Scassi & Katharine Hepburn,* The Lion in Winter.*

2018: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
By David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock.
2017, Emma Stone, La La Land, in Givenchy
By Christopher Polk/Getty Images.
2016, Brie Larson, Room, in Gucci.
By Christopher Polk/Getty Images.
2014, Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine, in Armani Privé.
2015, Julianne Moore, Still Alice, in Chanel
From Getty Images.
2013: Jennifer Lawrence,* Silver Linings Playbook*, in Dior.
2012: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady, in Lanvin.
2011: Natalie Portman, Black Swan, in Rodarte.
2010: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side, in Marchesa.
2009: Kate Winslet, The Reader, in Yves Saint Laurent by Stefano Pilati.
2008: Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose, in Jean Paul Gaultier.
2007: Helen Mirren, The Queen, in Christian Lacroix.
2006: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line, in vintage Christian Dior.
2005: Hilary Swank,* Million Dollar Baby*, in Guy Laroche.
2004: Charlize Theron, Monster, in Gucci.
2003: Nicole Kidman, The Hours, in Jean Paul Gaultier.
2002: Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball, in Elie Saab.
2001: Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich, in vintage Valentino.
2000: Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry, in Randolph Duke.
1999: Gwyneth Paltrow,* Shakespeare in Love*, in Ralph Lauren.
1998: Helen Hunt, As Good as It Gets, in Tom Ford for Gucci.
1997: Frances McDormand, Fargo, in Richard Tyler.
1996: Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking, in Dolce & Gabbana.
1995: Jessica Lange, Blue Sky, in Calvin Klein.
1994: Holly Hunter, The Piano, in Vera Wang.
1993: Emma Thompson, Howards End, in Caroline Charles.
1992: Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs, in Armani.
1991: Kathy Bates, Misery, in Jeff Billings.
1990: Jessica Tandy, Driving Miss Daisy, in Armani.
1989: Jodie Foster, The Accused.
1988: Cher, Moonstruck, in Bob Mackie.
1987: Marlee Matlin, Children of a Lesser God, in Theoni Aldredge.
1986: Geraldine Page, The Trip to Bountiful, in Gail Cooper-Hecht.
1985: Sally Field, Places in the Heart, in Holly Harp.
1984: Shirley MacLaine, Terms of Endearment.
1983: Meryl Streep, Sophie’s Choice, in Christian Leigh.
1982: Katharine Hepburn, On Golden Pond.
1981: Sissy Spacek, Coal Miner’s Daughter.
1980: Sally Field, Norma Rae.
1979: Jane Fonda, Coming Home.
1978: Diane Keaton, Annie Hall, in Ruth Morley.
1977: Faye Dunaway, Network, in Geoffrey Beene.
1976: Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, in Fiandaca.
1975: Ellen Burstyn, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.
1974: Glenda Jackson, A Touch of Glass.
1973: Liza Minnelli, Cabaret, in Halston.
1927/1928/1929: Janet Gaynor, 7th Heaven, Street Angel, and Sunrise.
1971: Glenda Jackson, Women in Love.
1970: Maggie Smith, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
1929/1930: Mary Pickford, Coquette.
1968: Katharine Hepburn, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
1967: Elizabeth Taylor, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
1966: Julie Christie, Darling, in her own design.
1965: Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins.
1964: Patricia Neal, Hud.
1963: Anne Bancroft, The Miracle Worker.
1962: Sophia Loren, Two Women.
1961: Elizabeth Taylor, Butterfield 8, in Dior.
1960: Simone Signoret, Room at the Top, in Desses.
1959: Susan Hayward, I Want to Live!
1958: Joanne Woodward, The Three Faces of Eve, in her own design.
1957: Ingrid Bergman, Anastasia.
1956: Anna Magnani, The Rose Tattoo.
1955: Grace Kelly, The Country Girl, in Edith Head.
1954: Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday, in Givenchy.
1953: Shirley Booth, Come Back, Little Sheba.
1952: Vivien Leigh,* A Streetcar Named Desire.*
1951: Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday.
1950: Olivia de Havilland, The Heiress, in I. Magnin.
1949: Jane Wyman, Johnny Belinda.
1948: Loretta Young, The Farmer’s Daughter, in Adrian.
1947: Olivia de Havilland,* To Each His Own*, in Ann Lowe.
1946: Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce.
1945: Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight.
1944: Jennifer Jones, The Song of Bernadette.
1943: Greer Garson, Mrs. Miniver.
1942: Joan Fontaine, Suspicion.
1941: Ginger Rogers, Kitty Foyle.
1940: Vivien Leigh, Gone with the Wind, in Irene Gibbons.
1939: Bette Davis, Jezebel.
1938: Luise Rainer, The Good Earth.
1937: Luise Rainer, The Great Ziegfeld.
1936: Bette Davis, Dangerous, in Orry-Kelly.
1935: Claudette Colbert,* It Happened One Night*, in Travis Banton.
1934: Katharine Hepburn, Morning Glory.
1932: Helen Hayes, The Sin of Madelon Claudet.
1931: Marie Dressler, Min and Bill.
1930: Norma Shearer, The Divorcee, in Gilbert Adrian.
1972: Jane Fonda, Klute, in Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche.
1969: Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl, in Arnold Scassi & Katharine Hepburn,* The Lion in Winter.*

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