Game – Movie Review: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)

It’s easy to forget that ‘back in the day’ not all video-game movie adaptions were complete flops. Some didn’t just make a ton of money, they were also praised by (some) critics and (many) audiences, both from the casual and hardcore side of things.

One such movie was the 2001 and action-adventure adaption of Tomb Raider. That famous game franchise by Core Design staring the iconic Lara Croft. A game series that screamed adaption provided the right person could be found to play such an important character.

Enter Angelina Jolie who not only nails the ‘badass’ aspect of Lara Croft but also the sexiness such a character requires. If there is any reason to check out 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, it is for Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of Croft.

From a story by Sara B. Cooper, Mike Werb, Michael Colleary, and a screenplay by Patrick Massett and John Zinman, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was directed by Simon West. Alongside Jolie, the movie stars Iain Glen, Jon Voight, Daniel Craig, Noah Taylor, Chris Barrie and Julian Rhind-Tutt.

The story is so very Tomb Raider as it sees Lara Croft go up against the money and power of the Illuminati in a race against time. Literally, as the artifacts they both seek have the power to alter time. A power that no person should possess, yet Lara has her own, more personal reasons, to seek it.

Along the way, countries and cultures will be experienced, sexy British banter will be had, over the top and silly action scenes will happen. Also, the odd tomb is raided. It’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and it’s a better movie than you might expect. Though that’s not to suggest it’s faultless as it has many problems.

Starting with the positives, as video-game adaptions go, this is a solid attempt that has many moments that feel so very Tomb Raider. Choosing to drop us into this world with a Lara Croft that is fully formed was a good choice as we avoid unnecessary back-story. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some character development for the woman. Cleverly tying in her relationship with her father into the main narrative.

A lot of the love that can be felt towards the character comes from Jolie’s portrayal. She oozes confidence, sex appeal and toughness. She is a great Lara Croft even if much has been made of the cuts that removed so much more of the ‘sexy’ part of her character.

Though she’s not the only positive role in this movie as Iain Glenn portrays a James Bond-esque villain with some gusto. Future Bond himself, Daniel Craig is memorable and has some good chemistry with Jolie. Jon Voight is convincing as the elder Croft, Noah Taylor is a solid stand-in for a ‘Q’ style character and Chris Barrie does what he can with a limited amount of scenes as Lara’s put-upon butler. The cast is not exactly the problem. Nor is the story, which motors along at a decent pace and nor are most of the action scenes.

We say most because there are times when they get borderline silly (the assault of the Croft manor is a good example of this) and don’t seem to know when to end. That being said, the variety in locations does refresh things and credit can be given for some of the elaborate sets and use of practical effects with CGI. Even if the latter isn’t holding up too well.

Unfortunately, a lot of the goodwill the film builds up early on is undone by a sloppy final third that sees the story run out of steam. It’s also quite notable that the movie was shredded in post-production as there are far too many scenes that just end abruptly when it is clear there was supposed to be something more there.

What began as an interesting mystery, elements of Indiana Jones-style adventure and big action set-pieces turns into a rushed finale that underwhelms. Not only that, elements just fail to make sense and the big face-off between Lara and the villain lacks oomph. That everything wraps up so neatly is very much like a video-game but doesn’t make for a good movie conclusion. Especially when you have a finale scene that is so silly, it’s cringe-inducing.

The thing is, even with these criticisms, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is a worthwhile watch. Even more so as the Tomb Raider game series has changed completely and even had an adaption to marry up with that shift. This film, like the early games, are a product of the time and because of that, it’s always going to feel dated. Yet fans of the original game series will enjoy seeing such an accurate portrayal of the Croft character and the fantastical, yet grounded, stories that play out. As adaptions go, it’s part of a rare breed. Where the good outweighs the bad and it works both as a video-game adaption and as a standalone movie.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
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