Though video games have developed more intricate backstories and characters since the days of “Pong” and “Pac-Man,” the fact remains that the game itself is nothing more than leading a hero through a series of obstacles. That’s perfect for a video game, but rotten for a movie, which should have some kind of variability or surprise to it.
In “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” the heroine learns her mission, sets out to accomplish it, and accomplishes it. There are no complications or surprises. If that happened in a video game, you’d be ecstatic, because you’d have won. But in a movie, it’s deathly boring. Heroes need to have setbacks, or even outright disasters, to keep an action movie interesting. It’s not a victory if there was never any danger of defeat.
Why anyone thought it was a good idea to make a film based on the popular computer game is beyond me, considering the messes that came from “Super Mario Bros.,” “Mortal Kombat” and “Street Fighter.” I’m guessing the chance to show a tough girl like Angelina Jolie jumping around in a tight T-shirt comprised one major reason. (Or would that be two reasons?)
Jolie plays Lara one-dimensionally, which means the video game version of Lara has Jolie beat by one full dimension. She’s wealthy and an orphan, and she misses her daddy (played in flashbacks by Jolie’s dad Jon Voight). She’s also a tomb raider, which apparently means she’s an archeologist, though mostly she hangs around the mansion play-fighting with a mechanical monster. (She’s evidently had some very irregular archeological digs if this is the sort of practice she needs.)
Somehow the movie brings up an impending once-every-five-millennia alignment of the planets during which, if the right things are done, tons of great fantasy hokey-pokey can occur. Something about controlling time and playing God, or whatever. Naturally, this can also rip apart the fabric of humanity, and also naturally, there are greedy Generic Euro Villains (led by Iain Glen) who want to use this power for evil.
Thanks to a note left by her father, Lara learns what she must do: Get the two halves of a broken triangle and destroy them. If the bad guys get them first and put them together, all hell will break loose.
The movie seems like all the movies you’d expect it to seem like (“Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Mummy,” for example). Director Simon West (“Con Air,” “The General’s Daughter”) makes everything paper-thin, moving from one robotic action sequence to another with the same logic and fluidity of, well, a video game. You defeat a monster, you walk into another room, and there’s another monster to defeat. Repeat until time is up.
Two screenwriters, both first-timers, are credited, though I can’t imagine they did much. I’m not even going to tell you their names. The dialogue just sits there, written without passion and delivered apathetically. The story is an excuse to show a cool motorcycle, or a cool car, or Angelina Jolie bathing, or someone leaping over a waterfall. It’s transparent and dull and far less fulfilling than 101 minutes with “Frogger.”
D+ (; )