Angelina Jolie's calculated image as a sexy, knife-loving wild
woman perfectly suits the role of Lara Croft, the thrill-seeking
heroine of yet another big budget action assault, "Lara Croft:
Tomb Raider." She's a dead ringer for the woman who millions
of computer nerds have come to know and love, and she throws herself
into action scenes with charismatic abandon.
But Hollywood likes to conveniently forget that looks aren't
everything. Legitimate story momentum suffers the most when everyone
is so wrapped up in the special effects.
Based on the hugely popular computer game of the same name, "Tomb
Raider" relies on the inherent coolness of its lead character
to keep you interested. As Croft, Jolie gets to swing on ropes,
fire two pistols simultaneously, turn back-flips, sled across
ice flows, dive off of cliffs, battle assorted CGI baddies, and
dangle from a variety of ungainly mechanical contraptions. She
even manages to slap a guy in the face with the rear tire of her
But Jolie isn't allowed to communicate anything beyond nerves
of steel and a nonexistent pain threshold. Knowing looks and arched
eyebrows are as expressive as Jolie gets; three consecutive sentences
count as a soliloquy. If you don't view Lara's willingness to
kick people in the face as a window to her soul, you'll be very
Though the obvious point of reference is Indiana Jones, Lara
is very much a female variation on Tim Burton's half-interested
updating of the Batman character: She's rich, graceful, athletic,
supposedly obsessed with a dead parent, and, in her downtime,
close to somnambulant. But that's about all we know. Character
shadings take a back seat to confusing exposition and feeble mysticism.
Waiting for action
Lara is the daughter of the late, lamented Lord Croft (Jon Voight,
Jolie's real-life dad). She lives in a cavernous mansion surrounded
by high-tech weapons, various bungee cords, and relics she's stolen
from tombs around the world. Her barely there sidekick, Bryce
(Noah Taylor), designs and builds the mechanisms required to keep
her running and jumping and twisting and turning and stabbing
and shooting. When she's done testing them, she takes a slow-motion
"Tomb Raider" opens with a bang. The opening sequence
is a flashy, exciting battle with a spider-like robot. But then
director Simon West shifts the rhythm into low while you wait
for another action sequence.
And wait. And wait.
This wouldn't be so bad if it felt like important details were
accumulating, if there was some sense that Lara is being pulled
deeper into a dangerous situation. But the story revolves around
the search for two halves of an ancient artifact that's been buried
in different parts of the world. We're supposed to be horrified
that whoever nabs them first will be able to control time. Though
the bad guy (an empty shell played by Iain Craig) is certainly
up to no good, the details of his gang's evil plans are kept on
the back burner.
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