Has the video game movie adaptation curse been lifted?
Has Tomb Raider finally broken the curse of the video game movie adaptations, the one that states they are all pretty awful? The short answer is… not really, but Alicia Vikander in the lead role of Lara Croft is winning over a chunk of critics.
Following in the footsteps of Angelina Jolie, Vikander’s Croft takes a nod from the most recent video games by seeing the character before she found her niche with raiding tombs. For EW’s Leah Greenblatt, the film was “actually pretty good fun.”
“Vikander brings some real grace to a role that wouldn’t necessarily seem to come naturally to her,” she writes, “whether she’s chasing pickpockets through a chaotic Hong Kong shipyard or strangling a man with her bare hands, she does it like an actual (albeit obscenely fit) human might, not a pixelated automaton.”
Other critics that had a more positive reaction called this version of Croft “entertaining and occasionally devilish,” “a uniquely interesting character,” and perhaps even “the most grounded and believable cinematic video-game protagonist.”
On the flip-side are those calling Tomb Raider an “instantly forgettable and thoroughly mediocre Indiana Jones knockoff” that’s filled with “run-of-the-mill perils.” All in all, it’s pretty decent for the game-to-movie genre.
In this world of Tomb Raider, seven years have passed since Lara’s adventure-seeking father (Dominic West) completely vanished. The heroine is now going in search of his last known location, which happens to be a mythical tomb on a mysterious island off the coast of Japan. Talk about a super Croft-y venue.
Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, and Kristin Scott Thomas join Vikander on this cinematic excursion, under the direction of filmmaker Roar Uthaug (The Wave). Geneva Robertson-Dworet, a writer on another movie about an ass-kicking leading lady (Captain Marvel), penned the Tomb Raider screenplay with Alastair Siddons (Trespass Against Us).
Read more reviews below.
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. 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.”
Owen Gleiberman (Variety)
“In Tomb Raider, [Vikander] doesn’t come off as an action star (the way the toned and implacable Jolie did). She comes off as an imploring, impulsive young woman who’s in over her head but will beat the odds anyway. Her Lara may be the most grounded and believable cinematic video-game protagonist I’ve seen (she’s based on the rebooted, origin-story version of the original game), and since we buy her as a person, the movie is actually that much more immersive. Vikander humanizes Lara Croft the way that Harrison Ford humanized her obvious predecessor, Indiana Jones. That doesn’t make Tomb Raider anything more than an engrossingly fanciful adventure lark, but it’s that rare thing, a propulsive blockbuster with a bit of heart.”
Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)
“It’s a new package for old goods in Tomb Raider, 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. Brandishing impressively packed abs and enough upper body strength to pull herself out of countless jams, Alicia Vikander gamely steps into the kick-ass role twice played by Angelina Jolie, but the derivative story and cardboard supporting characters are straight out of 1930s movie serials.”
Alonso Duralde (The Wrap)
“This Lara (played by Alicia Vikander) is introduced to us in the film through two grueling physical challenges — which she loses. She responds with genuine terror and disgust when she is forced to kill in self-defense. And terrible things happen simply because she refuses to follow very explicit video-recorded instructions from her father Richard (Dominic West), who’s been long-missing and presumed dead. 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.”
Kate Erbland (IndieWire)
“Familiarity with the Tomb Raider video game series isn’t required when it comes to enjoying the Tomb Raider reboot. By the time it gets gunning on its second act, shrewd audiences should be able to identify not only broad strokes of gameplay, but also whole missions required of Alicia Vikander in her quest to, well, raid tombs and such. Roar Uthaug’s new feature is positively jittery with action sequences, hopscotching from one scene to the next with little connective tissue. That’s OK: When Tomb Raider digs into its more creative action, it’s about as entertaining as popcorn entertainment gets these days. It’s when the film falls back on the old tropes that things grind to a halt.”
Miranda Sanchez (IGN)
“At its best, Tomb Raider is a passable action movie. It has some cool fight scenes and a neat tomb to raid. But this iteration of iconic adventurer Lara Croft misses the mark by reducing her identity to her relationship with her missing father and her physical prowess. This movie may directly lift many elements from the excellent 2013 video game reboot, but it disappointingly chooses not to adapt what made Lara an interesting and deep character.”
Susana Polo (Polygon)
“Tomb Raider, the 2013 video game, was lauded for revitalizing one of gaming’s biggest names and most venerable franchises, and it did it in part by leaning into the narrative side of the medium, with greater depth and characterization for its lead and a clear and compelling story it wanted to tell with her. Tomb Raider, the 2018 movie — an adaptation of that very game — has the opposite effect, favoring the reproduction of gameplay over story, fumbling its exposition, and dropping one of the Tomb Raider franchise’s core narrative hooks.”
Matt Singer (ScreenCrush)
“It’s been 15 years since the last Tomb Raider movie, 2003’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life. The new film, simply titled Tomb Raider, picks up where the previous one left off: By being another instantly forgettable and thoroughly mediocre Indiana Jones knockoff.”
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)
“As played by Alicia Vikander, Lara is also the best part of a perfunctory and skippable action movie. The lithe 28-year-old Swedish actress not only had the daunting task of playing a flesh-and-blood version of a video game icon, she was preceded in the role by ultra-alluring, fellow Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Angelina Jolie. She acquits herself well — er, well enough — in making the part her own. By comparison, Vikander’s Lara is more gritty than domineering, vulnerable than defiant, cool than bad ass. She feels pain. She has an aura of innocence about her, even when she’s frantically parachuting into the great unknown. Though the actress’ Bambi doe eyes probably account for that.”
Tomb Raider will open in theaters this Friday.