Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)

Having fired the fantasies of immeasurable groping, salivating teen fellas, it was only a matter of time before someone brought Lara Croft and her generous belongings to the big screen. The video game character could’ve made for a relatively interesting series of films, but in the hands of director Simon West the project winds up starting as a complicated, ridiculous, strikingly tiresome mess.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is incredibly passé from an effects standpoint and the movie’s many action sequences are careless and impossible to follow. There’s very little spatial bearing, for one thing, and characters bound around in all sorts of different directions in sequences that are bewildering and scrambled. It doesn’t help that West directs with a peculiar amalgam of zooms and flat-out obnoxious shots.

Angelina Jolie is wisely cast as Croft, a rich “tomb raider.” She is a treasure hunter, assisted by her housekeeper (Chris Barrie) and a gadget guy (Noah Taylor) as she ventures around the world getting into trouble and seeking out relics for the glory of it. Croft’s father (Jon Voight) is missing and Lara is haunted by his memory. She soon discovers that he’s left behind some clues to the Triangle of Light, a much-coveted relic.

Of course, the search for the Triangle of Light dumps Lara Croft in the middle of an absurd plot that involves a bunch of other treasure hunters trying to find the thing. This includes the Illuminati and Manfred Powell (Iain Glen), whose interest in the Triangle is sinister. There’s also fellow tomb raider Alex West (Daniel Craig), who’s in it for the money.

The good news is that Jolie makes a hell of a Lara Croft. She’s nice to look at, of course, but she also generates a good sense of fun with the character. There are the requisite shots of her phenomenal form, crammed into snug attire and taking unavoidably stimulating showers. She is well-costumed and in marvellous shape, which provides plenty of jaw-dropping images.

Unfortunately, Jolie doesn’t have much to work with. The plot is less than compelling, with the whole Illuminati villainy a really bland choice. Glen lacks intrigue and suspense as the bad guy, while Craig is lacklustre with his unwise American accent.

The movie looks like it was made on a series of flimsy sets, even the on-location material, and it never feels quite as grand as it should. The interior shots are insipid and West’s capturing of Cambodia and its temples, abandoned for hundreds of years, leaves a lot to be desired – even as it tries to serve as the movie’s spiritual core.

With the deliriously hard-to-follow action scenes and the fake-looking backdrops, matters get worse when it becomes apparent that West and Co. are taking Lara Croft: Tomb Raider far too seriously. The film’s sense of fun only appears on Jolie’s arresting lips, with the other characters and elements drawn down in a sea of sluggishness and stupidity (not the good kind). Despite the fact that there always appears to be something going on, most of this flick is surprisingly dull.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider made enough of a box office splash to spawn a sequel, but the series pretty much died off after that. The character is ripe with potential and Jolie is impeccably cast, but West’s designs are lethargic and deeply unsound. The action scenes are indistinguishable and the plot is a difficult mass of drivel. Beyond the exquisite eye candy, there aren’t many reasons to see this.

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