'Tomb Raider': What the Critics Are Saying

A new kind of feminist hero or a total bore? Critics are split on Alicia Vikander’s new take on Lara Croft in this reboot of the film series.

The reviews for the Tomb Raider film reboot are in, and it appears critics are split about actress Alicia Vikander’s take on Lara Croft, 15 years after Angelina Jolie hung up her hot pants.

With a 49 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes as of Wednesday, the critical consensus so far seems to be that the film’s origin-story setup, which shows Croft traveling to the mysterious Pacific isle Skull Island in order to find out what happened to her missing father, is a derivative bore. The film’s deviation from previous versions of the Tomb Raider mythology, which shows Vikander’s Croft as a capable, powerful and unobjectified heroine, has, however, energized many critics familiar with Jolie’s take. 

The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy found the film derivative of the original two movies starring Angelina Jolie, which were released in 2001 and 2003, respectively. He said the films was “a grimly determined by-the-numbers rehash of the same sort of plots and action moves that animated the first two Lara Croft films back in the early 2000s” that featured supporting characters that were “straight out of 1930s movie serials.” 

The one bright spot to the film, he added, was Vikander herself, who “fully embodies physical tenacity and grit, along with absolute determination not to give in or up.” Though Vikander recovers from injuries remarkably quickly, she “is the element here that makes Tomb Raider sort of watchable,” McCarthy added. 

The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw similarly pointed out that the film’s origin-story setup — which shows how Croft came into her wealth, her martial arts skills and interest in tomb raiding — borrowed much from films of the past, especially the Indiana Jones films. But Bradshaw was less taken by Vikander’s take on the heiress heroine: “throughout Vikander maintains a kind of serene evenness of manner. Blandness is Lara’s theme,” he wrote.

In Vanity Fair, critic Jordan Hoffman complained about the slowness of the action in the new film, pointing out that it takes 76 minutes for Croft to complete her titular mission in the 116-minute film: raid tombs. Of director Roar Uthang, Hoffman wrote, “Uthaug’s take on this material is almost aggressively boring.” Hoffman additionally argued that the action scenes are often so dimly lit that it’s difficult for viewers to see much of the action; he also called Alien vs. Predator a “masterpiece” compared to this reboot.

“Having Lara Croft leap around and avoid traps should be an easy formula—but for this crew, it remains an unsolvable puzzle,” Hoffman wrote.

The Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Phillips, meanwhile, enjoyed the first half of the movie but found the violence in the second half gratuitous. He argues that after making Croft “identifiably human” the film “turns Lara into a punching bag and an onlooker” which he said felt condescending given her action-heroine status. Phillips ended by suggesting the sequel that the film sets up as a possibility be more “enlightened.”

Forbes‘ Scott Mendelson, too, looked forward to a sequel to this film, saying that although the fact that being a half-good video game movie “qualifies as a miracle,” the film’s premise did not allow Vikander to be Lara Croft, action heroine, until the very end. “This is a franchise that should have skipped straight to the sequel,” he wrote.

Leah Greenblatt’s review in Entertainment Weekly was far more forgiving, calling Tomb Raider “actually pretty good fun.” Greenblatt commends the film for updating some sexist norms of the Jolie film, including slow-motion shower scenes and Lara Croft’s breasts “command[ing] a lead supporting role.” Greenblatt additionally argues that Vikander, an Oscar-winning actress, elevates the film. Greenblatt calls Vikander “tiny but powerful, an ab-rippling sprite to Jolie’s hourglass Amazonian” and an actress who expresses the character’s vulnerability in the face of losing her father.

The Los Angeles Times’ Justin Chang had perhaps the most glowing take on the new Lara Croft, arguing that the movie makes “course corrections” to update the story for the times, replacing Croft’s signature short shorts with trousers and casting a smaller-sized actress. Though Chang has no problem with the film’s origin-story setup, he says that the best part about the film is Vikander, who “has risen” to the task of “tak[ing] a soulless digital avatar and mak[ing] her a persuasive amalgam of flesh, blood and feeling.”

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