Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Directed by Simon West
Lara Croft has finally made the leap from video games to the big screen and, happily, she's done so in her traditional butt-kicking style. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, the movie, has plenty to offer her fans and those of us who have never played the game.
Indiana Jane and the Clock of Ages
For her cinematic debut, Lara (Angelina Jolie, Girl Interrupted) goes on a quest that takes her around the globe. She's in a race against time as the evil Illuminati, a group of nondescript bad guys, seek out the mystical Triangle of Light that was split in two and banished to opposite ends of the earth in order to dispel its power. Now, with an empowering eclipse that takes place only once every 5,000 years on the horizon, the Illuminati want to find the triangle, put it back together, and be the recipients of its evil magic.
Yes, it's comic book fare, but expectations of Croft doing Tolstoy were never reasonable.
There is something refreshing about the approach director Simon West (Con Air) has taken with Lara's travels. Rather than rehashing old ground (see The Mummy Returns for an overblown display of tales told better elsewhere), Tomb Raider sets its own pace and makes its own rules. That logic follows right on through to the music. Instead of relying on a grandiose score, a collection of progressive rock tunes add an appropriate attitude and tone to the movie.
Surprisingly, a considerable amount of history is given to the character of Lara Croft. She's the daughter of Lord Richard Croft (Jolie's real-life father, Jon Voight, Mission Impossible), who was killed on May 15, 1985. Borrowing some of Bruce Wayne's mystique, Lady Lara Croft has her moments of brooding when mulling over her father's fate and what should have been. She lives in a mansion somewhere near London with her trusty butler, Hilary (Christopher Barrie, Spitting Image) and a tech-savvy weirdo, Bryce (Noah Taylor, Almost Famous), who prefers to live in a mobile home parked outside stately Croft Manor.
At one point, while being presented with files of potential adventures, Lara quips, "Egypt again? There's nothing but pyramids and sand." Instead of hitting the traditional Egyptian turf made so familiar by the likes of Dr. Jones and Rick O'Connell, Lara's quest takes her from her posh London digs to Cambodia and Siberia.
Bond. Jane Bond.
Lara Croft is a wealthy photojournalist/archaeologist/globetrotter/linguist/athlete with an impeccable fashion sense. She knows how to drive a motorcycle and blast a machine gun – at the same time. All the while, she looks simply fabulous, even when she's sweating (oops, I mean "glowing").
In Lady Croft's world, James Bond is unworthy and Indiana Jones is a mere couch potato.
Unfortunately, it would seem the team of six writers (including Michael Colleary and Mike Werb, co-writers of Face/Off) have a limited use for most of England's culture. While Lara is a Lady (in multiple ways), the writers' attempt at creating a British feel is limited to characters repeatedly saying "oh bugger" or "bloody hell." But they do manage some sly humor along the way.
To the movie's detriment, there are some story developments that are cause for head-scratching. One in particular involves a former love interest/traitor/friend that comes off as rather sloppy storytelling. One must keep in mind, however, this isn't Shakespeare, and the movie succeeds where it needs to most: in creating a world of adventure.
Topping it all off, Jolie is perfectly cast as the legendary cyberbabe. The character has taken on a life of her own in the world of pop culture; she even made it onto the pages of U2's 1997 PopMart tour program. Not just any actress could fill the combat boots of a woman who has become a bit of an icon and Jolie handles the role with aplomb.
Tomb Raider isn't the greatest adventure movie ever made. But, while it lacks the pacing and overall wonder of the Indy Jones classics, it does hold some of the magic this summer's Atlantis never found and the genuine sense of adventure The Mummy Returns wished it had.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.