Review: Lara Croft Tomb Raider

tomb_raider_cov.jpgYear: 2001
Director: Simon West
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Iain Glen, Daniel Craig

Video game icon Lara Croft races against the evil Illuminati to find the Triangle of Light, an ancient artifact that grants its owner God-like powers.

Lara Croft Tomb Raider is a film that honestly left me puzzled at the end. Part of me felt it’s a solid addition to the action movie genre, and part of me felt as if it is a pile of poor acting and a crappy writing. At times I greatly enjoyed the movie, and at times I was looking for aspirin to kill the low-grade headache it was giving me. Sometimes I even felt these two things happening at the same time. In short, certain aspects of this movie are excellently done and others are amateurishly bad. Whether you like this movie or not depends on which end of the quality spectrum you focus on.

Here’s a perfect example of the extremes in the Tomb Raider. On the good side, tomb_raider_2.jpgAngelina Jolie is perfectly cast as Lara Croft. From body to looks to athleticism, she nails the look and movement of the video game heroine. I’m actually one of the fifteen men on the planet that doesn’t find her particularly attractive, but even I was impressed with her in this movie. On the bad side, however, Jolie puts such a selfish, arrogant, and moody spin on Lara’s personality that I found it hard to root for her. She is too distant and cold to be a genuinely likeable heroine.

The action in Tomb Raider shares these same contradictions. There are some fantastic scenes: a battle in a Cambodian temple against stone monkeys and a giant multi-armed Brahma; a night assault on the Croft mansion; an opening duel against a robot in an ancient temple. These scenes are engaging, fast-paced, and have some outstanding special effects, explosions, and stunts.

But in these same scenes there are elements that are edited terribly or are just plain premise shattering—even acknowledging that Lara is clearly a larger than life heroine who is capable of near super-human moves. For example, in the nighttime assault on the mansion, there is one scene where Lara battles enemies while hanging from a bungie cord in the mansion’s main hall. There are a couple of times where multiple enemies—who appear to be well trained commandos—can’t hit Lara with automatic weapons from less than twenty feet. Did the bullets go through her? I was watching this movie with my wife, who is usually silent during a movie, yet even she blurted out, “That’s ridiculous!” Later, Lara rides a motorcycle in her garage, but the scene is so poorly edited that the viewer has no idea how cars are blowing up and how tomb_raider_1.jpgLara is able to make a huge airborne jump in such a confined space. At these times, you just want to walk away from the movie and play the game.

Frequently, the bare bones plot blows past the bounds of believability. For example, Lara Croft is racing against time to find the two pieces of the Triangle of Light, and she’s mostly working from clues her dead father is giving her. At one point she receives an overnight letter that her father had arranged before his death to send to Lara on a certain day. Lara gets the letter, opens it, solves a riddle, and learns that she has to get to the other side of the world to retrieve the first piece of the triangle—and she only has 15 hours left to do this. Huh? What if she weren’t home to get the letter? Or what if the letter had gotten delayed by a day? And would her brilliant father risk the world’s safety by putting everything in riddles at a time like this? To make the most of this movie you need to think just enough to follow the plot, but not ask any questions.

tomb_raider_3.jpgThere are other sub-par elements as well. …The script moves the plot along but is unmemorable. …The acting on the whole lacks zip. Iain Glen plays Manfred Powell, the main villain; he is unremarkable in his role. On a positive note however, future James Bond Daniel Craig does a convincing job with his role as a tomb raider helping the main villain.

From a babe-viewing standpoint, this one will likely score higher for others than it does for me, given my bizarre inability to find Angelina Jolie attractive. From a hunks factor, Daniel Craig shows off his chiseled body enough to pull up the hunk factor to above average.

Lastly, I have to mention the music, which isn’t something I normally comment on. I have the musical sense of a rock, and more often than not I have no recollection of the musical score in a movie. Honest. I simply don’t process it unless it’s incredibly good or incredibly bad. I did, however, notice the music in Tomb Raider. It’s not so much that the music itself is awful, it’s more that the music fights against the movie for your attention instead of supplementing what’s happening on the screen. More than anything, this was the source of my low-grade headache.

All in all, for me, the film ends up firmly in the middle, with the plusses and minuses knocking each out in a near split decision. The music lands the final blow for the minus side however, and that puts things just a touch below average. I’d have given the film a 57 were it not for the fact that I’m writing this with a headache.

Pace: 55
Plot: 33
Action: 72
Consistent Premise: 50
Script/Quotes: 20
Characters: 58
Acting: 35
Villain: 40
Body Count: 53
Time to First Dead Body: Moderate
Babes: 62
Hunks: 55
Explosions: 58
Special Effects: 73
Stunts: 59
Ending: 61

Overall: 49 (Worth a look once)

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