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Reviewed April 6th, 2002 by David Nusair


Tomb Raider is the latest big action movie - after The Mummy Returns and Swordfish - to eschew opening credits for immediate action. The problem is, with Tomb Raider, the action quotient is so low that fancy graphics might have livened up the proceedings a bit.

Angelina Jolie stars as Lara Croft, but really, she's just playing herself. If you've ever seen her in an interview, you'll immediately notice the similarities: A wry, sardonic sense of humour, a total disregard for the opinions of others, and very little respect for authority. Croft spends her days fighting robots created by her live-in scientist-type friend (his job description is never really explained). One day, though, she discovers a clock hidden by her long-dead father (played by Jolie's real-life dad, Jon Voight) and an impossibly complicated plot kicks into gear. It has something to do with an ancient civilization learning how to harness the planetary alignment for world domination, but then deciding that no human should ever have that much power. So what do they do? They break apart the key utensil responsible for achieving said world domination and BURY IT at opposite ends of the earth. Now, if they REALLY didn't want any future folks to get their hands on it, would it not have made more sense to actually destroy the artifact? Alas, such questions are not to be asked of Tomb Raider, a movie that required five people to pen the script.

For a movie based upon an action-packed video game, the level of action is shockingly low. And because it's rated PG-13, Lara's guns have apparently been filled with blanks, because she kills no one. She maims and wounds (and even severely incapacitates) but lays death upon not a soul. As played by Jolie, the entire persona of Lara boils down to a smirk and a glare. It's not a bad performance, really; it's just uninspired. But with a script like this, blame needs to placed at the hands of the many so-called “writers.”

Tomb Raider is directed by Simon West, who previously helmed Con Air and The General's Daughter. While those were dumb and proud of it, this one's just dumb. At least with something like Con Air, it was peppered with a variety of cool actors (Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi, John Malkovich, etc). Tomb Raider has Jolie and Voight (barely) and that's it. Every other actor is virtually unrecognizable (well, the guy that played David Helfgott in Shine is in it - no, not Geoffrey Rush; the other guy). But besides all that, there is far too much exposition in Tomb Raider. Let's face it, people going to see this movie expect two things: Lots of action and lots of slo-mo shots of Jolie running. There's plenty of the latter, but hardly any of the former. There are a whopping total of three action set-pieces and the rest is filler.

Tomb Raider is just lame, plain and simple.

Audio: Not surprisingly, this DD 5.1 soundtrack is darn impressive. There are a lot of big explosions and high-impact stunt sequences, and with the right amount of volume, you’ll probably feel as though you’re there. Right from the very start, you know that this is a track with a lot going on. But none of it would matter if the quieter moments weren’t effective – which they are.

Video: Ditto this anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 transfer. Smooth and clear, it’s about as good as live action tends to get. There is some mild grain, but I have to assume that’s the fault of the film stock and not the DVD. A lot of this movie takes place in dark quarters, and the disc handles them all with ease.

Extras: First up is a commentary track with director Simon West. He touches upon a lot of different topics – from the origins of the project to casting Jolie – and there are few quiet spots. An efficient, if not exceptional, track.

Next up are a whole bunch of featurettes, starting with Digging into Tomb Raider. This is around 29 minutes, and is basically a look behind-the-scenes at the production. There are interviews (of course) and some meaningless back-slapping, but this is otherwise an informative look at the movie. Next is something called Are You Game, which basically discusses the video game and the various sequels. This mostly features an executive at Eidos software talking, but it’s fairly interesting nonetheless. Next up is Creating Lara Croft, a five-minute look at Jolie’s transformation into Lara. We see her as she learns to fight, though we never do discover the origins of her questionable British accent. Up next is a short doc on the Stunts of Tomb Raider, which is pretty self-explanatory. Nothing astounding here, though it was surprising to discover how many of her own stunts Jolie did. Finally, there’s an eight-part look at some key special effects in Tomb Raider. Each part concerns a different effect (ie the Stone Monkeys) and each is quite interesting.

Next are four deleted scenes, presented anamorphically. As the movie itself was rather bad, these deleted sequences are worse. To be fair, though, the alternate opening included here is more impressive than the existing one (it’s just more computer animation, really).

Finally, you get a non-anamorphic video for U2s Elevation. This is probably the highlight of the entire disc.

Conclusion: Tomb Raider is action packed, but devoid of intelligence or even likable characters.


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