Film: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (Simon West)

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Film:

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Director: Simon West
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Paramount

Like the video game series it’s based on, Tomb Raider is best enjoyed for its physical strategies, since even casual scrutiny of story details will induce a headache. It’s more concerned with puzzles than plot, populated with characters that don’t have personalities so much as attitudes. It’s silly and somber at the same time, but as a franchise vehicle for Angelina Jolie in the title role of relic hunter Lara Croft, this is packaged entertainment at its most agreeable, ambitious in scope and scale, and filled with the kind of globetrotting adventure that…

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Like the video game series it’s based on, Tomb Raider is best enjoyed for its physical strategies, since even casual scrutiny of story details will induce a headache. It’s more concerned with puzzles than plot, populated with characters that don’t have personalities so much as attitudes. It’s silly and somber at the same time, but as a franchise vehicle for Angelina Jolie in the title role of relic hunter Lara Croft, this is packaged entertainment at its most agreeable, ambitious in scope and scale, and filled with the kind of globetrotting adventure that could make Jolie the best thing that’s happened to action movies since Indiana Jones. Could being the operative word here, because Tomb Raider can’t match any of Steven Spielberg’s celebrated joyrides, but the ingredients are there for an exquisitely cinematic meal.

Perhaps to distance himself from Lara Croft’s video game origins, director Simon West takes things a bit too seriously; Tomb Raider handles its plot (involving a planetary alignment, the nefarious Illuminati, and coveted relics that hold the key to controlling the flow of time) with all the gravity of a championship chess match…minus the tension. If the movie had lightened up and been truly suspenseful (instead of being suffused with been-there, done-that familiarity), it would have been an instant popcorn classic. As it is, however, this is an elegantly mounted adventure featuring exotic locations (in Cambodia and Iceland) and an exotic star born for her role. Even without her padded bra, Jolie would be the living embodiment of Lara Croft, and that’s enough to bode well for inevitable sequels. —Jeff Shannon

Angelina Jolie is the first and best reason to watch Lara Croft Tomb Raider. She gives an extraordinarily committed, physically demanding performance, taking on the mantle of the video game heroine with real conviction and energy, and becoming the embodiment of every teenage boy’s wish-fulfilment fantasy female. She’s tough, sexy and tomboyish all at the same time, and even has a plummy English accent to give her a touch of class. It’s a shame that the movie doesn’t live up to Jolie’s high standards. A soulless juggernaut of computer-generated effects and one-dimensional characters, the film falls into the same trap that has ensnared every other video game adaptation before it. The convoluted plot—which is concerned with a mysterious planetary alignment, a quasi-Masonic secret society known as the Illuminati and a mcguffin called the Triangle of Light—takes itself far too seriously. Oddly for a film with such a pedigree, the only humour is to be found in the endless repetition by Jolie of the word “bugger”, which presumably is hilariously funny to American audiences. Director Simon West, an alumnus of the Brookheimer-Simpson school of filmmaking, choreographs the action sequences spectacularly enough, and their impact is boosted hugely by Jolie’s ability to perform almost all the stunt work herself. But the end result is an empty experience that leaves the viewer with the feeling that this much-loved character and this dedicated actress could have been better served. —Mark Walker

Barnes and Noble

A rollicking, action-packed adventure film in the tradition of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the recent Mummy movies, Tomb Raider belies its electronic origin by substituting shapely, sinewy, and sultry Angelina Jolie for the popular video game’s two-dimensional heroine. She’s well cast as Lara Croft, the aristocratic adventuress who’s equally at home in posh London tearooms and musty Egyptian tombs. An ancient memento left to Lara by her late father (played by Jolie’s real-life dad, Jon Voight) is the key to uncovering a long-lost talisman whose possession grants power over time itself. A centuries-old secret society, represented by suave villain Iain Glen and marginally scrupulous adventurer Daniel Craig, uses the opportunity of a rare planetary alignment to secure the talisman—and only Lara can prevent them from using its incomprehensible power for evil ends. Director Simon West (The General’s Daughter) clearly realizes that he’s not doing Shakespeare; he encourages the cast to approach their chores with tongues planted firmly in cheeks, and they oblige him in such a way as to make Tomb Raider an enjoyable and fast-paced (if wildly improbable) romp. Jolie’s histrionic ability isn’t taxed nearly as much as her athletic ability, but she tackles speeches and stunts alike with appropriate brio and is never less than utterly convincing in her action scenes. Tomb Raider, like its inspiration, is fast, loud, and strikingly visual—and, also like its inspiration, lots of fun. The DVD extras include a Simon West commentary, interviews with cast members, four deleted scenes, documentaries on the film’s visual effects and stunt sequences, an overview of the Tomb Raider phenomenon, an alternate title sequence, and a U2 music video, along with DVD-ROM content related to the video game.


Ed Hulse

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