Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

2001, PG-13, 96 min. Directed by Simon West. Starring Angelina Jolie, Daniel Craig, Iain Glen, Chris Barrie, Mark Collie, Leslie Phillips, Noah Taylor, Jon Voight.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 15, 2001

I knew things were bad when I felt my inner child go out to the lobby to monopolize the Ms. Pac Man game until the Tomb Raider screening was over. What I didn't know was how bad, but, lucky you, I'll fill you in so you can instead stay home and monopolize Eidos Interactive's vastly superior and addictive home video game – the source for director Simon West's yawn-inspiring film. For those out of the loop, Tomb Raider follows the adventures of Lara Croft, a British-born, gun-toting heroine in the Indiana Jones-meets-James Bond mold. The Croft character has risen to unparalleled prominence as the gaming industry's first virtual sex symbol, playing as it does to pre- and post-adolescent male sexuality with a punishing combination of big guns and a bigger bosom, skin-tight black shorts, long legs, a snaky, snarky ponytail, and a whiplash smile. In short, Lara Croft is the feminine ideal circa age 14. In the self-enclosed world of her games, she's forever raiding reliquaries, bull-whipping bad guys, and searching for that ever elusive booty. (As in pirate booty, you.) The game is great fun – the movie ought to be taken out back and shot. Two in the head, one in the heart, and make sure that sucker stays down, because right now my greatest fear in life are the words Tomb Raider 2. Angelina Jolie, an actress who until now could make sparks fly in a vacuum, is credibly cast as the attitudinal raiderette in question, but the whole of her performance appears encased in some bizarre form of filmic resin; try as she might, her bustin'-out-all-over talents and whippoorwills-on-whiskey coo can't save what is essentially one long, jarring Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode waiting to happen. The whole film is wrapped up in an incomprehensible storyline revolving around Lara's unresolved Electra complex and the dreaded Illuminati, that mythological one-world-government cabal that these days can't even seem to keep the Bush progeny in line. There's also a clock that can stop time, a mysterious Cambodian phantom child, a sage Tibetan monk, and plenty of CG critters, but nowhere could I find any evidence of a genuine movie. Rumor has it that the original script was a thing of beauty, well-crafted, literate, and beholden to the mythos already in place. Somewhere along the way, however, a changeling script was inserted into the proceedings, and the resultant film is nothing short of awful. Little if any of the proceedings make even the most rudimentary of sense, and the film's internal logic – a necessity for action-fantasy movies of this sort – is compromised so many times that you need a blind gypsy seer to descramble all the hokum onscreen. Characters, main, supporting, and otherwise, are given zero backstory, which results in a “who are these people and why should I care?” feel to the proceedings. Soon, of course, you don't care for anything except beating a hasty exit. Jolie`s real-life father Jon Voight is on hand as Lara's long-lost archeologist father, but all he can offer are wit-free and hoary platitudes on the nature of time and loss. (I suppose if you need a crash course in lost time, this would be the place to get it.) Stunning in the breadth and scope of its failure, Tomb Raider accomplishes the unthinkable: It makes Pearl Harbor seem like a sudden summer classic.

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Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Simon West, Angelina Jolie, Daniel Craig, Iain Glen, Chris Barrie, Mark Collie, Leslie Phillips, Noah Taylor, Jon Voight

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