‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ (2001) review: An archeologist’s side-job

Angelina Jolie brings game character to life

What would you do if you looked like Angelina Jolie, had a millionaire’s bank account and could slay magical-powered ancient statues? Probably be a sexy archaeologist with a less-than-happy background, too.

For those who haven’t played a video game in the last 20 years, you may have missed a staple of the platform-adventure genre, “Tomb Raider.” Its protagonist, a woman named Lara Croft, has a penchant for sidearms and finding treasure. Oh, and saving the world. Because there’s always an adversary trying to secure some mystic power or whatever so he can conquer the world. All in a day’s work for Lady Croft.

So it is with the first theatrical version of that game, 2001’s “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.”

As is typical for the titular star, we’re going to get straight to the point. “Lara Croft” is not good. Despite the overwhelming aura of its lead, a striking (and hyper-sexualized) Jolie, “Lara Croft” fails to appeal to anyone other than die-hard fans.

Now, let’s get to the caveats: I’m a die-hard fan. I’d had the most amazing, silly time time watching this movie. Yeah, when the plot started introducing strands of mysticism and time travel, I blinked. Who wouldn’t, right? It’s not as though I’m watching the movie version of “Uncharted.”

But as I progressed through the plot, which jumped from action to mystery to horror back to never-ending action sequences bathed in awkward sexual tension, I couldn’t help but be amused. I can’t assign my feelings to any particular scene or sequence. When it comes down to it, I just enjoy seeing Lara Croft beating the the smarts right out of her opponents. Call me a feminist.

As you may have figured with the diverging elements above, I’m totally at odds with how to think of this movie. The premise here is that Lara is going head-to-head with the movie’s villain, Manfred Powell (Iain Glen), in a globe-trotting adventure to discover a mystical clock capable of allowing its owner to travel through time. Quite the prize, right? Of course, it’s not as simple as a heroine and a bad guy dueling it out among ancient, brought-to-life guardian statues.

There’s character-building emotional undercurrents running throughout director Simon West’s movie. The first revolves around the death of Lara’s father, Lord Croft (Jon Voight). His death is still a mystery, which is eating away at Lara. Though some moments are evocative, little of this storyline is presented to us, which is a shame. (Especially considering Jolie and Voight’s real-life father-daughter drama.)

The other current is more traditional and involves a complicated love story. Lara’s former lover and rival, Alex West (Daniel Craig), has joined the fray, trying to solve the mysteries of the clock for Powell and a secret cult, the Illuminati. That tension serves little purpose, but it does have its comedic moments.

In the end, the story isn’t what’s important in “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.” It’s Jolie’s portrayal of a beloved video game hero. And it’s spot on. Sexy and smart, this Lara leaves us smiling and rooting for her as she jumps from towering heights and battles seemingly impossible odds. Still, it’s not enough to save this ridiculous story from its own sense of grandeur … or from time-altering forces of the universe. Whichever.

Two sidearm-attached stars out of five.

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3 responses to “‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ (2001) review: An archeologist’s side-job

  1. Pingback: #ThrowbackThursday review: ‘Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life’ (2003) | Silver Screening Reviews·

  2. Pingback: ‘Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life’ (2003) review: | Silver Screening Reviews·

  3. Pingback: ‘Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life’ (2003) review: Cradle of mediocrity | Silver Screening Reviews·

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