Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

The video-game movie adaptation is a peculiarly degraded subgenre, with a pedigree that includes Double Dragon, Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter, and two Mortal Kombat films. I haven’t seen any of the earlier ones, but it’s hard to believe they could’ve been worse than Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Even by video-game-movie standards, this is an arrogantly, almost smugly empty and incoherent mess. Couldn’t this have been a surprise? Couldn’t it have been smarter and more fun than we expected? Is this really what Hollywood thinks we want, or is it what they want us to want?

Angelina Jolie swings into action, both guns blazing, her prosthetic breasts refusing to budge (in some scenes they appear to be lopsided). She doesn’t make the mistake of taking Lara Croft seriously, but she doesn’t commit herself either — at times she comes perilously close to Uma Thurman’s arch, I’m-too-smart-for-this-shit performance in The Avengers. Jolie is too smart for it, and though physically she’s a good match for Lara, she just doesn’t have pulp heroism in her soul. The way she delivers some of her lines, if you didn’t know she was the hero, you might think Jolie was playing a femme fatale who’s about to pull a double-cross.

Can I, without sounding stupid, point out that the plot makes no sense? (Of course it makes no sense, comes the answer; that’s the point.) It has something to do with the Illuminati (I think I heard this pronounced two different ways in the film), who seek to control time itself by joining two pieces of a sacred triangle during the alignment of the planets. It’s up to Lara, with the posthumous help of her father (Jon Voight), to stop the Illuminati and — I just noticed my toe is itching. Sorry. You see how easily I can be distracted from the “story.” It was worse during the movie.

The director here is one Simon West. Lara’s training robot, programmed to attack Lara and keep her in fighting trim, is also named Simon; both Simons run roughshod over this movie, hardwired for destruction. West has previously given us Con Air, which treated the audience like idiots, and The General’s Daughter, which treated the audience like complete idiots. West has advanced even more — Tomb Raider treats the audience like complete and utter idiots. When a character says “Tempus fugit,” there’s a cut to Lara, who helpfully says “Time flies.” I love that. What if Simon West had directed Silence of the Lambs? When Lecter says “Quid pro quo,” would West have had Clarice say “Something for something”?

Rather heartwarmingly, West continues to prove that a director with no talent for action whatsoever can get work as an action-movie director. The many shootouts spit at us in split-second bites. A major sequence features an attack by stone monkeys, who disintegrate obligingly when shot or even nudged assertively. Watching Lara poof her way through these non-terrifying creatures, I wondered why West didn’t go all the way and have the monkeys made out of wet Kleenex. Really, if you were designing guardians for a tomb, wouldn’t you make them out of hardier stuff — iron, enchanted spackle, anything?

Objections to Tomb Raider are perfectly beside the point because Tomb Raider is perfectly beside the point. Even when Lara is reunited with her long-lost father briefly near the end, and even though we are watching a real-life father-daughter acting duo here, there’s no spark whatsoever. Jon Voight, once capable of Midnight Cowboy and Coming Home, is stuck in this summer crap with his daughter; he has to stand there and trade lines with her, avoiding the sight of her fake boobs. The movie, if nothing else, made me respect Jon Voight as a father. He must really love Angelina to agree to jump into this pool of stupidity with her, so that maybe she wouldn’t feel so alone among the stone monkeys and shootouts. Watching the scene between them, I didn’t hear what was actually said; what I heard was “Dad, did I sign up for a turkey here?” “Yes, honey, you did, but I still love you.”

Explore posts in the same categories: action/adventure, one of the year's worst, video game

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