Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

If you don’t go into “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” with high expectations, your expectations will be met. Neither fair nor foul, “Tomb Raider” is a harmless diversion that should please its core audience. Others will appreciate the brassy performance of Angelina Jolie, who brings the computer game heroine Lara Croft to life.


tomb raiderWith her mock British accent, Jolie is a lot of fun as the adventurer-archaeologist who is equal parts Bruce Wayne and Indiana Jones, but with a much better body. Squeezed into short, skin tight outfits, Jolie kicks butt. Her character and performance are much more interesting than anything else in the film.

Taking its cue from the video game, the film’s screenplay is more of a puzzle than a plot. The script is a patchwork of ideas that plays like a Greatest Hits collection of other films. It deals with end of the world stuff, but it never feels apocalyptic. It’s controlled chaos, utterly lacking in surprise. The script jumps from one expected moment to the next, never apologizing for its lack of originality.

At least Jolie understands the limitations of the script. There’s enough conviction in her performance to make you want to believe in Lara Croft, the spunky heiress is who is equally at home in her spacious mansion or within the catacombs of a lost tomb. She’s guided by the spirit (both literally and figuratively) of her late adventurer father, Lord Croft (Jon Voight), and assisted by an archaeologist Alex West (Daniel Craig) and cyber-geek creator Bryce (Noah Taylor).

The film opens like “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” with Lara Croft deep inside one of those musty, dusty tombs. Instead of outrunning a giant boulder, Croft squares off against a mechanical monster, a robotic menace that seems to come out of nowhere. It doesn’t. We learn that it’s a creation of Bryce, used to keep Croft on her toes.

It also has the distinct look and feel of a video game sequence, obviously an assurance to fans of the game that the filmmakers plan to stay loyal to the film’s origins. That loyalty deprives the film of any true emotion. It’s flat, like one of those Old World maps. It’s pretty to look at and features exotic places, but then you roll it up and forget about it.

Except for Croft, most of the characters in the script by Patrick Massett and John Zinman (with credited and unaccredited help from a number of writers) are just as forgettable. They share much in common with their computer counterparts. They exist only to allow Croft to win the game, which in this case, means saving the world from a doomsday cult called Illuminati.

The cult plans to take advantage of a planetary alignment that occurs every 5,000 years, allowing them to activate an ancient clock that controls time. Croft holds the key to the puzzle, which puts her in jeopardy. Croft’s quest to beat the cult to the clock takes her and her cohorts around the globe, from sacred Cambodian temples to a hidden city inside a meteor crater.

The scenery is nice, but the trip feels like a waste of time. The villains are laughable, the action generic and totally lacking in suspense, and the soundtrack filled with music that further emphasizes the fact that this is a movie made for fourteen-year-old boys.

They won’t mind that they’ve seen all of this before. They’ll enjoy the video game violence and Jolie’s outfits, totally ignoring that none of this makes any sense. The filmmakers know this, and cater to it. They make sure Jolie shows just enough flesh to activate masturbation fantasies among it’s core audience, guaranteeing that they will be back for more.

Audiences looking for an adult relationship with these characters will be sorely disappointed. The writers could care less about motivation and logic. They treat the experience like game programmers, whose only concern is getting the player from one screen to the next. We never understand what makes these characters tick, or why they do what they do.

Director Simon West doesn’t help matters by shooting and cutting the film for people with the attention span of a goldfish. There’s very little time to warm up to the impressive production design of Kirk M. Petruccelli. West and his editors cut with the voraciousness of a crazed samurai, afraid that if they linger too long the audience will hit replay.

With “Con Air,” West proved he could create interesting characters and suspense, even when the script wasn’t up to the challenge. With “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” West seems trapped by convention. It’s like he’s afraid to color outside the lines, knowing that one mistake will ruin the illusion. Safe isn’t really a word I would want to associate with a film called “Tomb Raider.”

Nothing is left to chance. Everything is perfectly calculated to appeal to fans of the game. “Tomb Raider” isn’t as bad as most video game adaptations (too many to mention), but it’s not in the same league as “Raiders of the Lost Ark” either. It’s harmless fluff that should serve as a momentary distraction from the heat.

ACTION FIGURETomb Raider may be flat, but its star definitely isn’t

LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER

Angelina Jolie, Jon Voight, Iain Glen, Noah Taylor, Daniel Craig in a film directed by Simon West. Rated PG-13. 101 Minutes.

LARSEN RATING: $3.50



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