The 400-Word Review: Tomb Raider

By Sean Collier

March 21, 2018

I'm sorry! I was just a bigger Timothy Olyphant fan!

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This movie stinks.

I could leave it there; Tomb Raider has no respect for its audience, so I can’t think of a reason why I owe it more.

The two films in this franchise starring Angelina Jolie, while serviceable for early-2000s action tentpoles, are not exactly classics. Yet the drop from those to this lukewarm, inept reboot is profound — think Tobey Maguire Spider-Man to Andrew Garfield Spider-Man — making one wonder why anyone even bothered.

Consider first the utter lack of cultural relevance currently possessed by Lara Croft. True, the recent video games in the series have been praised, but are far from the cultural zeitgeist that Croft briefly occupied in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Nor has the notion of video-game cinema, even now, proven to be a particularly good idea; more promising (Assassin’s Creed) and more popular (The Angry Birds Movie) properties converted in recent years have demonstrated that Hollywood still does not know how to turn a game into a film.


Next: About this casting. There’s no denying that Alicia Vikander is a skilled actress; she has an Oscar, after all. But what you very much do not need when casting Lara Croft is the kind of nuanced, delicate performance found in The Danish Girl. (And yes, Vikander was quite good in the arguably similar The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but in a sidekick role.) She does not wear the mantle of an action star comfortably, nor is she suited to the broad and declarative style of the script. Dominic West is similarly out of place. (Walton Goggins, as the sinister villain, is admittedly a good choice.)

Speaking of the script: Any Tomb Raider film should stick fast to the “Indiana Jones” model, opening with a big set piece and stringing new locales and challenges together with a simple, fantastical mystery. So this movie opens with ... a half-hearted recitation of a legend, shot like a Ken Burns documentary. That’s followed by a young Lara Croft, not yet acquainted with tombs or the raiding thereof, living a simple life as a plucky London bike courier. It’s only after discovering a message from her missing father that she begins her adventure.

Yes: This is a Lara Croft origin story, something that no one has ever wanted or asked for. The scant thrills that follow aren’t enough to carry Tomb Raider even to base competence.

My Rating: 3/10

Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at



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