It has been said that no motion picture based on a video game can be any good, because to watch a movie with live-action characters and surroundings isn't even remotely the same, or as satisfying, as directly interacting with their digital counterparts. With 1995's "Mortal Kombat" being the only feature film I can think of to break the video-game-to-movie curse, "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," drearily directed by Simon West (1997's "Con Air"), has no such luck.
This latest potential summer blockbuster has a lot riding on it; not only could the movie catapult Academy Award Winner Angelina Jolie (1999's "Girl, Interrupted") to superstar status, but it could be the first in a potential big-screen series. Never having played the video game, but with a brother who is a fan, he couldn't have summed it up better as we left the theater: "Aside from a few of the action scenes, the rest of the movie is sleep-inducing." Rarely has such a big-budget action movie been as utterly boring as "Tomb Raider" is.
Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) is a tomb raider (whatever that is) who lives in an 85-bedroom mansion, complete with a servant, an assistant (Noah Taylor), and a pet robot, passed down to her from her deceased father, Lord Croft (Jolie's real-life dad Jon Voight). Just as all nine planets are about to align (an occurrence, we learn, that only happens every 5,000 years), Lara stumbles upon a clock her beloved father hid in the house that holds half of the key to taking control of time. The other part--a Triangle of Light broken into two pieces--has been hidden on opposite sides of the earth, something that the evil Manfred Powell (Iain Glen) has set out to locate in time for the eclipse. With not much time remaining, Lara ventures off after Powell and his henchmen, determined to do her dear dad proud.
The convoluted plotting of "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but that wouldn't matter if the movie was at least absorbing and exciting. It isn't, however, so what we get is a slow-moving snoozer that features so much dull exposition it hardly has time for what the viewer has come for--action. At 98 minutes, the film feels as if it is well over two hours, with little of interest occurring at any point. In their attempt to explain who Lara Croft is for the uninitiated, screenwriters Patrick Massett and John Zinman spend far too much time setting things up, and even then, we still don't get a true idea of what makes Lara tick.
Angelina Jolie is physically perfect for the coveted role of Lara Croft, but as a person, she is nothing more than a blank slate. Jolie has been a terrific actress in the past, and even has an Oscar to prove it, but she isn't able to give us an idea of who her character is, or why we should even like or care about her. Aside from the fact that her father died and she is crafty with weapons and fighting, Lara is an uninteresting, underdeveloped presence, and the part gets no help from Jolie. Though no fault of the actress, one other problem with Lara is, funnily enough, her breasts. At almost no point throughout do they ever look remotely real, and for Jolie's body frame, they are humorously too large and stand directly out, rather than naturally slope downward. I mention this minor criticism because Jolie's fake breasts serve no purpose for either her character or the movie; they're merely exploitive.
"Tomb Raider" has two good scenes amidst the creative dead zone that surrounds them. One involves stone statues coming to life in a tomb, which Lara has to fight off, and the other is the climactic action sequence set in a snowy cave, which is appropriately taut and well-shot. They not only hint at the thrilling movie this could have been, but expose the other lifeless 75 minutes for what they truly are: a waste of time.
©2001 by Dustin Putman