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IN SHORT: zzzzzzzz. [Rated PG-13 for action violence and some sensuality. 101 minutes].
We cannot tell you how pumped we were at the prospect of Lara Croft, Tomb Raider. We have never played the game. The concept was simple and brilliant, and ignore the obvious comparison: a female Indiana Jones. Sharp. Sexy. Smart. Sexy. Able to bust you up as easily as she could pick your pocket or solve the mysteries of the universe. Sexy, and armed to the teeth. Forget Indiana Jones, think all the way back to Emma Peel -- the original Diana Rigg in the leather catsuit Emma Peel. Smart. Sexy. And so on and so on. Boys of all ages could drool over the fantasy and cheer the full-blooded, and sometimes bloody, action. Girls get a hero figure. Smart and sexy and secure. There has been nothing like that for years.
There still isn't. At least, on the big screen.
Let us be absolutely clear about this: if you have played the Tomb Raider game, Lara Croft, Tomb Raider is nothing less than, and perhaps a lot more than, an all out vidgame made real on the big screen. Angelina Jolie (click for CrankyCritic® StarTalk), as Lara Croft, is everything you could possibly want in a female superhero. Wet or dry she looks terrific, has all the moves down and knows everything about everything, even the stuff she couldn't possibly know.
Let us be absolutely clear about this, part 2: We don't compare to Source Material. From the beginning it has been our steadfast rule that you should be able to walk into any movie cold and have it provide you with all the background you need to get through the one or more stories and/or relationships that play out on screen. In Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, the three story writers, two screenplay writers and director Simon West, who did his own adaptation, have stripped out everything a non-game player would need to get a handle on any of the characters in the "story," instead substituting spectacular looking action sequences and/or fight scenes instead. Just like a video game. Get from point A to point B, destroying as much scenery in between as possible. All you need to know about the characters is on the back of the box.
Theater goers don't get a box. Maybe there is extra info on the popcorn bag.
Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie), soft British accent, hard muscled fighting machine body has a pair of guns that rarely run out of ammunition. When they do, she spins the guns, pops out the magazine and, in one smooth motion, pops in new ones from a stack of extras strapped to her thighs. Very cool. When first seen, she is hanging upside down from a rope in what appears to be an Egyptian tomb. From out of nowhere, she is attacked by a high tech robot -- we knew the Pharaohs worked wonders with scarabs but hot damn! Robots! -- which she gatlings with her pistols, kicks and punches, and then guts. Not a word is spoken. Oh wait, she was in the basement of her very large mansion. She's got a geek assistant named Bryce (Noah Taylor), a butler (Christopher Barrie) who tries to get her to wear dresses and a deceased dad (Jon Voight), whom she misses. We'd guess that she inherited oodles of cash from daddy, which is technically wrong but an adequate fill-in for a novice audience member. She sleeps with a knife under the pillow.
One night Lara hears noises in the mansion. In a secret room under the stairs she finds a clock! When Bryce can't figure out how this clock wound itself up after being hidden for at least fifteen years, Lara instinctively knows she should smash the clock to pieces! Gee whiz look! Another clock is hidden inside, and it's running backwards! The mystery deepens when hundreds of black suited commandos attack the mansion, machine guns blazing! Lara fights them off while conveniently hooked to a bungee cord -- she was exercising at the time of the attack -- high ceilings in Brit mansions make bungee ballet possible, lucky Brits. The bad guys still get the clock. Next day, Lara gets a delivery via UPS. A letter dad had written years before, which explains it all to her.
We in the audience know a little of what is in the letter. There's a group of (mostly) old white guys called the Illuminati who need the clock as a key to get some kind of triangle which can give them the power of god when all the planets of the solar system come into a once in 5000 years alignment. We're talking really, really old white guys. They've hired Manfred Powell (Iain Glen) to find the "key" and he's hired yet another tomb raider named Alex West (Daniel Craig) who seems to have had a thing with Ms. Croft at sometime before the movie timeframe. She obviously doesn't like him, but that doesn't mean she won't change her mind. We're grasping at straws here about the relationship, folks, there's no true development of any of these characters.
It sure sounds like there's a lot going on here, doesn't it? We're an hour into the film before the letter shows up -- only then do we have a clue what the hell is going on -- everything else has been flash and dazzle, fights and in jokes and Lara in the shower (big applause from our audience, but not as big as the applause when Alex was in his shower a little later on. Go figure). We haven't even gotten to the time travel aspect of this triangle thingie or Lara's deeply hidden desire to bring dad back from the dead.
Who needs character development when you can fly off to Cambodia, where Lara shows off her smarts? While Powell and West have hundreds of extras trying to break into the front of an abandoned stone temple, Lara simply drives around the other side and walks right in. Smart lady, that Lara Croft. Another fight scene. Stone idols come to life and try to smash bad guys with big swords! A trip to Venice and then its off to Russia. Don't ask us why Russia folks, we blinked and missed it. But there it is, the ruins of a 5000 year old city, looking like something out of the illustrations of a Jules Verne novel. More heavy duty visual effects and stunt daring do leading to a smash it all up ending fit for a James Bond flick.
And we didn't give a damn. The characters are barely one dimensional, the story has even less merit; we suspect the real back story of all the relationships is in one of the four games you could buy for your PlayStation. All the money is in the fighting and the visual effects, folks. We hate to even suggest this, but one good doobie before the show and you won't give a care about the lack of detail or logic to the story. You'll enjoy matching your rush to explosion after explosion.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, he would have paid . . .
Well, nothing, actually. If you've never played the game and don't smoke dope, Tomb Raider is a flat out, numbing $0.00. If you do play the game, or are in those wonderful "blow my mind with effects and visuals" years, then it's a dateflick
'cuz with nothing but action, you should be chomping on the gigantor-sized popcorn combo.
We, admittedly, are a sucker for special effects and do have a running habit of pointing out when bad films with great effects are more than likely date flicks for the teen demographic target. We can't fault the effects in this one. We can't fault Angelina Jolie's look, either. But killer visual effects, and almost nothing but, will bore the crap out of almost anyone else. The gamers and teens take the ride a couple of times the first weekend. Some of (us) overly enthusiastic non-gamers will be there, too, and the truth will win out. Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, dead to the robots in two weeks.
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