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3/21/13

LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER - REVIEW


Remember when that movie came out? How excited we were?

I know I was! A perfectly cast Angelina Jolie playing the one game character EVERY geek fantasized about in a full-blown action adventure flick? Finally?

I couldn't wait.

Then I watched it...

I hadn't been this disappointed in a video game movie since Street Fighter and at least that one was enjoyable in a so-bad-it's-good kind of way, it was entertaining at the very least! Not that this Tomb Raider outing is completely joyless: there is a sense that they were trying to make a fun movie complete with loads of action, playful one-liners and comic relief characters (both of which are awful here, by the way) but somehow it managed to completely miss the point. It's really quite simple: what Tomb Raider should be is nothing more than a modern Indiana Jones with a quietly badass female lead and cool, cartoonish villains. Yet this movie finds it necessary to spend no less than 40 minutes building exposition for a Last Crusade-lite plot that's just not that involving. Not only that, but these 40 minutes are mostly spent in Lara's mansion! Which, if you're comparing it to the game, is the equivalent of playing that training level for an hour or two. Of all the "action set-pieces" (all four of 'em) we get during the movie, two of those are set in that very mansion and have little to no relevance to the overall plot.

The film opens on Lara walking around in a temple of some sort where she uncovers a robot (not even kidding, wish I was) which she proceeds to destroy until we realize that this all takes place in her own house. Yes, Lara Croft, being rich and all, built not only a full-on temple replica in her own mansion but also a state-of-the-art robot killing machine only so she could have a big budget training session. It's like the X-Men's "Danger Room" but insane. Can you imagine if the X-Men got together and built a mini city with Sentinels and shit every time they wanted to spar?! Believe it or not, this scene is the only scene which has shots that kinda remind you of the game: until the robot reveal, this is the Lara Croft movie we all wanted to see. After that, not so much. Finally, we do get to travel (and drink magic tea with Lara) and along the way we do get our tomb raider actually tomb raiding and fighting monsters. Problem is, there's no sense of adventure during any of it and Lara is portrayed as more of a smart-mouthed spy who reacts on the spur of the moment than the intelligent, figures-things-out-little-by-little character she was in the games. As for the monsters, they're... weird. Random-looking CGI abominations that are strangely really easy to kill if you run around with two handguns long enough.

I seem to remember Lara Croft picking up various weapons in the games, including uzis! Why would you fight a four-armed stone demon with two handguns? Come on.

But the real crime of this movie isn't so much its inability to stay true to the game, although that's part of it, but rather the fact that it is intensely dull and forgettable. Which, if you're a fan of the games is really irritating. There was a sense of wonder, a unique, rich atmosphere to the games: those adventures took time to build-up and in the end the reward was always worth it. Where are the larger-than-life, detailed, iconic locations? Why are we spending 98% of our time in a sound stage? What's with the Alias-style spy score? Why don't I care what's going on when time-travel's involved? And how does that work, anyway? What kind of ending was that?!

I could go on but suffice it to say that not only does Lara Croft: Tomb Raider completely miss the mark in terms of what made the games so good and so unique but it wastes a potentially brilliant, ass-kicking franchise with one of the best female heroines around. There is some action here and there, Daniel Craig pops up with what I think was meant to be an American accent (they couldn't find an American actor? In Hollywood?!) and Jon Voight appears in a cameo but overall this is a dire effort and a great disappointment. If you make it past the 40 minute mark you'll be able to sit back and let the rest of the film happen easily but by the end you'll just feel like re-editing the entire thing.

Play the games and wait for the reboot.

Don't bother.

1 comment:

  1. I agree! I had not played a lot of the game, but a movie should be able to stand on its own. This one was dull and Jolie just had no charisma as Croft. A big reason the Indiana Jones movies are exciting is that we CARE what happens to Indy. In this one, not so much.

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