starring Angelina Jolie, Daniel Craig, Leslie Phillips, Mark Collie
screenplay by Simon West and Patrick Massett & John Zinman
directed by Simon West
by Walter Chaw To say that Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is completely incomprehensible is not entirely accurate, for the basic plot appears to be pretty straightforward. The British Lara Croft (played by the American Angelina Jolie) is a sort of jet-setting archaeologist in the Indiana Jones mold who is extremely well outfitted by a gadget man in the James Bond mold, and who boasts of a loyal, shotgun-packing butler in the Batman mold. Her task is to discover two pieces of a triangular artifact before the Illuminati do on the day that a rare syzygy coincides with a solar eclipse, allowing the triangle-bearer to control time.
More accurate to say that Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is mostly incomprehensible but theoretically enjoyable for a teenaged boy, like a visit to Hooters might be enjoyable...for a teenaged boy. Knowing that this is probably the most someone could ask for from a film based on a computer game that has a cheat code allowing you to view the gravity-defying (I'm not talking about her leaping ability), pixellated hero completely naked as she wanders around shooting things with John Woo guns, grunting and pulling levers occasionally, I smuggled a dozen hot wings and a nice, cold domestic brewski into the theater with me, drawing a hopscotch board with chalk in the aisle next to my seat.
Deadly and badly-edited exposition sequences alternate with deadly and badly-edited action sequences, making Lara Croft: Tomb Raider a textbook on how not to film dialogue and how not to film action. The non-action bits are haphazardly put together, lugubriously paced, and packed with mumbo jumbo, superfluous flashbacks, and tangential fragments, while the action scenes suffer from such a surplus of over-production and hyper-editing that it is impossible to tell what's happening to whom and when. Luckily, you're so gaffed by the decibels and flashing lights that you've either long since fled into your "happy place" or are too busy having a grande mal seizure to give much of a damn.
Jolie is the best thing about the movie, but better is her grotesquely padded bosom, stealing every scene like mammoth twin mammary scoops of underwire bliss, making me wish, more than once, that I had changed a twenty into one dollar bills so I'd have something to throw at the screen. A good friend asked me rhetorically if it was wrong to pay five dollars to watch Angelina Jolie run. I don't know from "wrong," but this crick in my neck didn't make itself, so, at the least, it's not particularly good for you.
There are five action sequences: one involving a CGI robot; one involving a bunch of CGI monkey statues; one that was ripped off from the motorcycle sequence in Hard-Boiled; one that's completely inexplicable but has to do with an ergonomic sculpture and a bubbling pool; and one based on the bungee cord competition from "American Gladiators". None of them are particularly effective, although they are enjoyable because you can't jiggle if you're arching your eyebrows while delivering ridiculous lines in a stupid English accent. Jon Voight, Oscar-winner Jolie's Oscar-winning dad, appears as Lara Croft's dad, and the flyblown corpse of Contact is exhumed from its shallow grave in a conclusion that is actually too pathetic and sad to discuss in more detail.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider isn't uniquely terrible as pieces of crap go, but it's so poorly written, schizophrenically cut, and ineptly directed that it functions as a kind of esoteric deconstructionalist koan like "what is the sound of one hand clapping," or, more to the point, "what is a movie when it is not a movie?" Though koans technically have no answer, I'd hazard that "a movie is not a movie" when it is a nonsensical montage of unrelated and loud images in the church of boom-boom jiggle chic James Bond travel pornography. When it is, in other words, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
I perked up a little when the film quotes the chorus from William Blake's "Auguries of Innocence" about an hour in--false alarm. The real MacGuffin/artifact of the film is a metal pyramid engraved with an all-seeing eye--the symbol of the Illuminati, I understand, but as the same image appears on the back of U.S. currency, I read it as a refreshingly honest summer movie mission statement: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is very simply about the pursuit of hole-in-pocket-burning American dollars. Remember to bring a few to toss at the screen. Originally published: June 15, 2001.
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