Exploding onto consoles in 1996, Lara Croft made gamers sit up and take notice as she raided said tombs with her trademark duel weapons (I meant her PISTOLS, what’s WRONG with you?) and buckets of sass. Even the most jaded moviegoers who had been force fed a diet of weapons grade shit such as Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter and Double Dragon felt a stirring of hope that an inevitable movie adaptation could literally be a game changer for the hugely despised genre. After all, short shorts and a torso vacuum packed in a tight t-shirt aside, Croft could potentially have been a much needed addition to the ranks of the female action star and, if handled correctly, her acrobatic gun slinging fused with some good old action adventure could have combined the very best of John Woo and Indiana Jones. With the announcement of Angelina Jolie’s near perfect casting of the aristocratic adventurer and Con Air director Simon West calling the shots it legitimately seemed like the curse of the video game movie was about to get smashed. The end result, however, didn’t exactly allow the genre to transcend to the next stage…
Lara Croft has unfettered wealth, a mansion and a ravenous hunger for adventure that can only be sated by Tomb Raiding which, unsurprisingly, requires the raid of tombs. After her father’s disappearance when she was a child, she’s carried on the family name when it comes to exploring various dangerous, cobwebby temples and trap filled tunnels but one night, after being visited by her father (checks notes) in a dream (rolls eyes), she discovers a mysterious artifact hidden away inside a clock. This artifact is invaluable to retrieving (checks notes again) The Triangle Of Light (rolls eyes again), a macguffin that’s been split in two as it’s ability to (checks notes a third time) manipulate time (throws notes away in disgust) is too dangerous to be controlled by anyone but Lara brings it to the obviously evil Malcolm Powell on the recommendation of fellow raider Alex West who’s totes untrustworthy but Lara fancies him a little so that’s all right. It turns out Malcolm works for a secret society dubbed the Illuminati – because it’s the 2000’s and all writers blamed the Illuminati for EVERYTHING – and he leads an all out assault on Lara in her home to retrieve the thingamajig that does the whatchamacallit.
Thus a kind of race breaks out to locate the two pieces of the Triangle; although I say “kind of” but both camps sort of follow each other to places at the same time and reluctantly share tons of information at half-hearted gunpoint.
As Lara does all of the hard work (figuring out traps while nearly getting shot and fighting off re-animated stone soldiers without even a thank you) and Malcolm, West and their goons play catch up, the location of the Triangle is located and the fate of the entire world is in the hands of a woman who unironically listens to techno. Can she save the world? Can she trust the supremely dodgy Alex? And will anyone in the audience have a clue what or why anything happens in the hyperactive climax?
Any film that dares to creep into the same sandbox as Indiana Jones better had configured their swash and buckle to it’s maximum efficiency as countless cash-in’s and rip off’s have failed to even so much as graze it’s legacy. Many films in it’s wake have smothered themselves to death on overdosing on fancy, mythical macguffins and shadowy secret societies only for all of it to stop the story dead in it’s tracks. Unfortunately, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is no better, a flashy blockbuster with all the substance of a ghost’s fart which drains any fun the film might have had by choking it to death with boring mythology and obnoxious techno. It lays out it’s intent right from the start; immediately following up a Lara Vs. Robot training bout with a gratuitous shower scene and some from behind PG-13 nudity to appease the sweaty, basement dwelling faithful. From there it ricochets from set piece to set piece and it really makes you question if “Tomb Raiding” (an actual job in this world) is a stable line of work to dedicate your life too, I mean, how many secret temples that contain various powerful, supernatural, earth threatening artifacts can there possibly be?
Thankfully not sporting the razor sharp, polygon boobs she had in her Playstation debut, Jolie proves to be bang on casting as she throws herself into the role by doing a fair amount of her own stunts (the bungie chord gunfight is a rare moment where the film actually shows some vision) and relishes hurling one liners in an cut glass British accent. It’s just a shame she’s not in a better movie as the movie requires her to be SO nonchalant about whupping the hiney of anyone stupid enough to stand against her it destroys any sense of tension the film may have had. As it stands we watch her wade through countless enemies (both human and mythical) like we’re watching the original game played on the easiest setting and while it may be game accurate to have Lara simply repeatedly shoot her larger, more inhuman foes until they just eventually fall over, it isn’t particularly gripping.
Surrounding Jolie as she swings, kicks, shoots and smolders her way through the movie is a suprisingly flashy cast of actors who have since gone on to far more iconic things; like a VERY trim looking, pre-Bond Daniel Craig who distractingly looks like he hasn’t slept for months (surely the wrong meaning of the term “go to bed eyes”) and brutally mangles his American accent like it owes him money although in a suprising act of fair play, he gets to have a gratuitous shower scene of his own although it’s interesting that Jolie plays British and Craig plays American… well, technically. On villain duties is Game Of Thrones’ Iain Glen who, with his obsidian hair colour and sinister clothes, might as well wear a t-shirt reading “I’m With Evil” as he adds another video game nasty to his filmography for his sins (he popped up as the big bag in at least two Resident Evil movies). Jon Voight (Jolie’s actual father) shows up in dreams and flashbacks only to be used as a relentless exposition machine, earnestly spouting layers of plot connecting bullshit and Red Dwarf’s Chris Barrie shows up as Lara’s stuffy butler who isn’t at all like Alfred from Batman… hey, sarcasm is fun!
By the time we get to the muddled and irritating climax which noisily includes unnecessary one on one fights to the death, interdimensional steeple chases and the film really not understanding how disruptions in time work (no Lara, you can’t make a time frozen throwing knife go back to where it came from just by turning it around in mid-air, velocity and physics say so) we’ve all but given up caring and and the depressing waste of a promising licence has us vainly looking for a control pad so we can frantically un-save our game…