Alicia Vikander dons the tanktop and cargo pants to play Lara Croft in this week’s Tomb Raider, but it isn’t doing particularly well with critics, and it might be a little too intense for younger viewers. With that in mind, Christy Lemire gives us the rundown on the movie and recommends three more that you may serve as worthy substitutes if you decide to stay home this weekend.
Rating: PG-13, for sequences of violence and action, and some language.
Alicia Vikander takes over the role of the adventurous, aristocratic video-game heroine Lara Croft, 17 years after Angelina Jolie first brought her to the screen. Norwegian director Roar Uthaug’s version is a bit of an origin story, introducing us to Lara as she lives a boho-chic life in London and learns what her long-missing father (Dominic West) really has been up to all these years. She travels to a mysterious and secluded island, teaming up with an inebriated boat captain (Daniel Wu) whose father also disappeared. Along the way, Lara gets the stuffing beaten out of her repeatedly, and usually by men, which is thoroughly unpleasant to watch. She also gets shot at, sucked down some roaring rapids and buried under the rubble of an explosion. Eventually she outwits, outplays, and outlasts them all, but the road there is brutal. There’s a lot of other potentially scary stuff for younger viewers, including dark and foreboding tombs, deadly booby traps and – ultimately – a cursed corpse. Through it all, Lara is brave and resourceful but also feels like a real human being with the fear she understandably conveys in a variety of situations. Vikander is such a good actress, she brings this larger-than-life character to life, and Tomb Raider is actually a more interesting and a better movie before Lara heads off on her adventure. I’d say this is suitable for viewers around 12 or 13 and older.
Tomb Raider might be too grown up for your kids. If so, here are some other movies featuring female action heroes that you’ll enjoy sharing with your family:
Rating: PG, for some scary action and rude humor.
Pixar’s first film with a strong, young woman at its center is beautiful, thrilling, and long overdue. And while it may not be as novel from a narrative perspective as such an unprecedented story deserves, Brave has connected with a lot of little girls who look up its heroine for her fearlessness and pluck. Kelly Macdonald provides the voice of Merida, a feisty and free-spirited Scottish princess who makes a huge mistake and must use her bravery and archery skills to undo a curse and restore peace to her kingdom. Like many teenagers, Merida thinks for herself always, defying her mother’s wishes to be ladylike and prepare for marriage and beating the boys at an archery contest. Its positive messages are all more than worthwhile for young girls – and boys – but I wish the story as a whole didn’t rely so heavily on hackneyed fairy-tale tropes. There’s some vaguely unsettling stuff here for the littlest viewers involving animal transformations and some sorta-scary growling. But for the most part, this is a fine choice for viewers around 6 and older.
Rating: PG-13, for sequences of violence and action and some suggestive content.
You probably saw it last year – Wonder Woman has made nearly $822 million worldwide since its release last summer – but any opportunity to revisit Patty Jenkins’ beautifully crafted superhero origin story will do. Gal Gadot radiates charisma, bravery, and feminine power as the title character: an Amazon princess who comes into her own and learns how to use her formidable physical abilities for the good of humanity. Wonder Woman features a crucial, fundamental message about the importance of balancing empathy and strength. But it’s also rather intense — a big, violent superhero movie with long, graphic action sequences. Several characters die (albeit with little blood) and countless others are in peril during World War I battles. I’d say this is fine for viewers around 8 or 9. But the film’s driving themes of idealism and intelligence make it valuable for viewers of all ages.
Rating: PG-13, for martial arts violence and some sexuality.
Ang Lee’s martial-arts masterpiece was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and it won four, including ones for best foreign language film and for Peter Pau’s exquisite cinematography. Lee reinvented the genre here, turning punishing hits and kicks into a dreamy, gravity-defying ballet. Crouching Tiger features not one but two powerful women at the center of its ancient yet thrillingly modern tale: the gorgeous and commanding Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi as women of different generations united by their shared desire for freedom. Both figure prominently in many of the film’s dazzling fight scenes, staged by the great Hong Kong action choreographer Yuen Woo-ping. So yes, there is a ton of action here, and a couple of characters die, but there’s very little blood. Crouching Tiger is also swooningly romantic and it’s suggested that a couple of characters have sex, although we never see any nudity. If your kids are into action movies and want to see something truly groundbreaking – and they don’t mind reading subtitles for two hours – this is an excellent choice for tweens and older.