Lara Croft is back in theaters nationwide this weekend with the release of Warner Bros.’ Tomb Raider, a reboot of the film franchise based on the popular video game series. However, if the initial reviews are any indication, the greatest threat facing the famed archaeologist-adventurer isn’t the villainous Trinity but rather … indifference.
Starring Alicia Vikander as a young and reckless Lara Croft, who sets out to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance, the film opened last weekend in several Asian markets, leading to an initial wave of reviews that drove Tomb Raider‘s Rotten Tomatoes rating to 45 percent. With the embargo now lifted on domestic reviews, it doesn’t appear as if Lara is about to experience a dramatic change of fortune.
“Vikander’s stellar performance isn’t enough to rescue a story that falls apart with just the slightest bit of scrutiny,” CBR’s Meg Downey writes in her review. “Nor does it change the fact that Lara is, frustratingly, never actually given a stand-up-and-cheer hero moment.”
Here’s a selection of what the critics are saying about director Roar Uthaug’s Tomb Raider:
Scott Mendelson, Forbes: “Alicia Vikander’s Lara Croft deserves a better movie. 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.”
Mara Reinstein, Us Weekly: “Despite the exotic location, the various set pieces generally lack suspense. Escaping from a fragile, skeletal airplane about to disintegrate over a waterfall is a doozy; running and leaping in a single bound is a snooze. And after four Hunger Games movies, I do believe it’s time to retire the shot of a heroine using a bow and arrow to dispatch heartless enemies in the chest.”
Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly: “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.”
Owen Gleiberman, Variety: “The exciting surprise of the new Tomb Raider, directed by the Norwegian genre specialist Roar Uthaug, is that it doesn’t tamp down Vikander’s inner flame, or the three-dimensionality of her talent; it doesn’t fold and insert her into an overly gymnastic and CGI-happy thrill ride. The movie is full of vine-swinging, bow-and-arrow-shooting, ancient-spirit-meeting action, but most of it is staged on a convincing human scale, one that’s been expertly tailored to its star’s understated directness.”
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Sandy Schaefer, Screen Rant: “Tomb Raider makes for a serviceable Lara Croft origin story and prequel/reboot to the Jolie films. The movie further plays out as a glorified pilot episode for future sequels, in that it leaves big plot threads dangling and devotes its world-building efforts more towards setting up a franchise than serving the story at hand. Tomb Raider is naturally drive more by action than plot and aims to create the feeling that danger lurks around every corner for Lara, no matter where she is. Ultimately, however, the film’s action scenes and set pieces feel more like (you guessed it) challenges in a video game that Lara must beat in order to reach the next cutscene, rather than a series of events that form a streamlined narrative.”
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: “The script by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastir Siddons is very much a connect-the-dots affair, unburdened by the need for subtlety, subtext or deep characterization — how many times we hear the father go all soft and call his daughter by her pet name (‘Sprout’) cannot be tabulated.”
Miranda Sanchez, IGN: “Tomb Raider does at least bring in the action and death-defying feats from the 2013 game in interesting ways. […] But these game homages ultimately can’t compensate for the film’s overall mishandling of Lara. As if her character being underdeveloped wasn’t bad enough, Lara is also subjected to creepy lines from men such as: ‘I have two daughters like you. Dark hair like you. Pretty like you.’”
Inkoo Kang, Slate: “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.”
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush: “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.”
Clint Worthington, Consequence of Sound: “For all its merits, Tomb Raider doesn’t completely escape the many pitfalls of video-game adaptations. The pacing is more than a little clunky: the film takes forever to get Lara to Yamatai, spending quite a bit of time setting up her lost-little-girl dynamic and frittering screen time away with Nick Frost cameos and incessant flashbacks to Lara’s past with her daddy. The shenanigans on the island start to drag in the middle act, Lara’s death-defying setpieces let down by the very loose threads that connect them. Shave off 15 minutes or so of the film’s protracted two-hour runtime, and the audience can get to the actual tomb raiding – and all the delicious traps and Last Crusade-esque puzzle-solving they crave – that much sooner.”
Alonso Duralde, TheWrap: “Such a uniquely interesting character deserves more than a run-of-the-mill action franchise, but Tomb Raider is exactly that, a formulaic adventure so predictable and pre-ordained that it could have been written on one of the many maps the characters use. Nearly 40 years after Raiders of the Lost Ark and we’re still getting pits and spikes, spiders and snakes.”
Directed by Roar Uthaug, Tomb Raider stars Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft, Dominic West as Richard Croft, Daniel Wu as Lu Ren, Kristin Scott Thomas as Ana Miller, Hannah John-Kamen as Sophie and Walton Goggins as Mathias Vogel.
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