Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)

(In theaters, June 2001) Well, we action fans pay and shut up. And what we get in Tomb Raider is enough to satisfy our appetites, but not quite enough to send anyone in giddy action-nirvana. Oh, Angelina Jolie makes one of the best action heroines in recent memory, mixing sexiness with hard determination, but the film around her is too small for her greatness. Most of the blame goes to the scriptwriter (as usual), for a limp narrative which stores its best sequences for the middle of the film, and never ever allows us to be interested in anyone except Lara—which becomes a problem when she’s supposed to make sacrifices to save one of the cardboard characters. Unfortunately, the scriptwriter isn’t the only bad guy, here; director Simon West (who, surprise, also co-wrote the film) is on his worst behavior here, seldom allowing us to be impressed by a long shot truly showing off Croft’s skills. Oh, it’s always somewhat interesting, if only on the oh-shiny-objects level, but when considering the possibilities and the richness of the premise, well, it’s a shame to end up with a film as indifferent as this one.

(Second viewing, On DVD, July 2003) Some aspects of this film still hold up under scrutiny (many action sequences, some of the sets, a few wonderful shots of Angelina Jolie), but it’s hard to avoid a certain ennui regarding the unimaginative ways some core concepts have been developed. Director Simon West shows he can get some great action images, but fails to make them stick together in any kind of coherent flow. The special effects are pretty nice, but they service a story that couldn’t have been more ordinary if it had tried to. Character interactions are limited to sketches, making (among other problems) a late sacrifice seem pointless. Oh, Angelina Jolie makes a superb Lara Croft (I could replay her shower scene and her little “tilting head” moment for hours), but even her best butt-kicking abilities can’t save this film from a certain boredom. A film whose parts are superior to its whole, Tomb Raider shows, maybe better than most movies, the perils in hiring a director who can’t hold everything together. The DVD offers a lot of interesting documentary material, but repeats everything at least twice, lessening the impact. U2’s “Elevation” music video is surprisingly entertaining.

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