|Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
After a spate of video game inspired films that failed to capture the
flair of the source material (Super Mario Bros., anyone?), another round
was set for release in summer 2001. While Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
waited in the wings, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider arrived in theaters.
For those few who may be unaware, Tomb Raider is a very popular
video game built around a heroine who has been called a cross between
Indiana Jones and James Bond. The sultry Lara Croft is the daughter of a
British lord who has opted to pass on her inheritance in order to travel the
world searching for ancient artifacts. In each adventure, she shoots, runs,
swims and generally kicks butt, often wearing short shorts and a tight
tee-shirt. In fact, she was clearly designed to appeal to both men and
women. For the guys, Lara is the ultimate fantasy figure (and she quickly
became the pin-up girl among the game-playing set). While for the gals,
she is perceived as a role model, a strong take-charge woman. Finding the
right actress to embody these qualities was not an easy task, but despite
reported competition from the likes of Catherine Zeta-Jones, Sandra Bullock
and Elizabeth Hurley, Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie landed the role. After
seeing the film, it's doubtful any other actress could have pulled it off;
Jolie simply IS Lara Croft.
Turning an action-packed adventure game into a motion picture,
though, was fraught with as many perils as confront the Tomb Raider
in a single game. The game designers were particularly concerned that
the film would remain true to the spirit of the original. That it took several
years, two directors and almost a dozen screenwriters to hammer out a
workable story says a lot. As it is, helmer Simon West (who also received
credit for his screenplay adaptation) and credited scripters Patrick Massett
and John Zinman (working from a story attributed to Sara B. Cooper,
Mike Werb and Michael Colleary) have done yeoman work to fashion
something that makes sense.
The fantastical plot has to do with a secret society called the Illuminati
who are out to retrieve two halves of a metal triangle that under the right
planetary configuration will bestow godlike capabilities on its possessor.
Somehow Lara's dead father (played in flashbacks by Jolie's real-life dad
Jon Voight) managed to obtain an important clue and its existence plunges
her into the quest to find the broken halves before the key villain Manfred
Powell (Iain Glen), a lawyer working for the Illuminati, does. He's aided by
a rival tomb raider (and perhaps one-time beau of Lara's) Alex West
(Daniel Craig). For her part, Lara relies on her trusted butler Hilary
(Chris Barrie) and her techno-savvy sidekick Bryce (Noah Taylor).
As the film progresses, it becomes a series of spectacular set pieces
filled with eye-popping special effects, although West does fall back on his
trademarked overuse of sound. (My ears are still ringing from Con Air.)
This unfortunately lazy approach to filmmaking dilutes the thin story,
although one may argue that it is merely remaining true to the tale's video
The tech credits are in line with this type of film (cinematographer
Peter Menzies should be singled out for his attractive lensing), but there
were a couple of times when West and company opt for slow motion effects
that seemingly have no purpose. As a popcorn action flick, Lara Croft:
Tomb Raider excels. Perhaps in the inevitable sequel, the screenwriters
will be able to build on the relationships established in this film and give
more dimension to Lara and her cohorts, just as Aliens improved upon
Alien. In the video game world, Lara Croft is missing and presumed dead,
so those seeking a fix for the feisty heroine should check out the movie
and enjoy the ride.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for action violence and
Running time: 100 mins.
|© 2007 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.