Retro Review: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Angelina Jolie embraces the role of Lara Croft, which is one of the most successful video game characters in history. But with the franchise quickly fading will the movie save this marketing gem?

Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) lives in a spacious English mansion outside of London. Aiding Lara nnected to her missing or deceased father (Jon Voight). Through more secret messages left by her father Lara begins to uncover there is a secret within the clock that could unlock time itself. Unbeknownst to Lara, a secret society called the Illuminata has also decided to unlock the power of the clock. Who will win the race to unlock time itself?

Like a lot of video game translations, “Tomb Raider” has a poor script and a lot of flash. The dialogue is fuzzy at best as it thumps along trying to find a way to meld with the confusing story. There is a lot of whisking to the Jolie’s face for a reaction and often a really cheesy line. When you don’t have the dialogue you have flashes that will penetrate your head and give you a migraine. There are a lot of flashes and I wasn’t sure what to make of some of it.

This is a pure example of badly using a gem of a character. In the original videogames of Lara, the story masters laid out a long mythos of the character and told a really good interactive story. These ideas and magic filtered into the two videogame sequels. This magic and unique storytelling is no where to be found in the loud and confusing Hollywood version. Hollywood’s biggest failure in bringing a videogame to the screen is that the people involved don’t embrace the stories locked into the games. All Hollywood seems to see is the action and conflict. Dwelling inside a lot of games of today is a very interesting story that never seems to surface on celluloid. I believe that Hollywood believes that videogamers are nut-jobs who lack very little intelligence. This lack of understanding has been blatantly obvious in such films as “Dungeons & Dragons”, “Batman & Robin” and “Super Mario Bros”.

I was hoping Tomb Raider was going to be the first serious and interesting videogame translation since it has such a rich and lush story. These hopes ignited into flames 15 minutes into this film. I was utterly astonished to see how far from our reality this film travels as Lara fights robots and giant stone creatures. What happened to the intelligence of the game where there are ancient traps, vicious wolves, and blood-thirsty natives? I mean if we are supposed to believe in the myth of the “time-stopping” clock we need some sort of reality to be centered in. As Indiana Jones’ father would say, “This isn’t archeology!!”

If I had made this film, I would have brought the film out like “Superman: The Movie” where you tell the character’s origin and then get to what makes Lara tick. Then unveil her thirst for knowledge and eventually deal with the father scenario. The only comic book and videogame films that have worked are the ones that deal with the central character’s origin. This film needed to be more spaced out and the action spread out.

Since there is no origin it doesn’t allow people who have no idea who, what or why Lara Croft does and acts they way she does. Why does she bolt through the streets of London and burst into a very classy auction house dressed like a biker chick?

I have read that this film needed massive editing and tweaks due to a negative early screening. I also heard the version was 20 minutes longer and people complained of it being to long. I am very curious to see this version since the editing in this cut often reminded me of the badly edited “Avengers” film. This rush job is highly evident throughout.

I was a little disappointed at the casting of Jolie in the beginning and was always pulling for Liz Hurley to get the role. But through the mess of this picture I found myself relating to Jolie and her charisma. She does a wonderful job and I finally see what the casting people saw in their choice. Jolie is the best part of this film, by far. I also loved seeing Chris Barrie as Jolie’s butler. He is hilarious and I am sure that Brits will love seeing old “Rimmer” on screen again. For people outside the UK, Rimmer is the character Barrie played on the inventive and hilarious sci-fi series “Red Dwarf”. He was always a riot.

There are limited and isolated scenes that are littered through out the film that I liked but none of those moments lasted very long before the film would cave in on itself. I am screaming mad that they destroyed such an interesting character. I would have loved to have seen an intelligent female-centered Indiana Jones-type series but alas I doubt that’s going to happen with this incarnation.

(2 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

Written: July 17, 2001

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