A Lukewarm Video Game Spin Off Sunk by a Stupid Story
The subject of pre-pubescent dreams and Puritanical controversy, Laura Croft wasn’t just an over-breasted videogame heroine. She was an icon.
With her first game in 1996, the pixilated diva became a sensation in the gaming world. Known for Indiana Jones style adventuring, duel wielding pistols and those god forsaken attacking dogs, Tomb Raider was an instant hit. As the Tomb Raider games lessened in popularity, Hollywood decided to release a movie cash in to spur flagging sales. The result was Laura Croft: Tomb Raider, a meandering and senseless Indy rip-off saved only by the sheer will of the perfectly cast lead actress.
The lucky gal playing the back-flipping archeologist is Billy Bob era Angelina Jolie. The casting in a word, is spot on perfect. Not only does Jolie look the part, she wraps herself in the campiness of being a flesh and blood video game chick. With some impressive wire assisted athleticism and a natural sexuality, Jolie elevates the weak directing and painful script to barely passable.
Unfortunately, this is a script better left deleted from the memory banks of film history. Ready for the story synopsis? Laura Croft is a world renowned adventurer who seems to have it all. A giant mansion, a doting butler, an in house computer geek who builds her robots to fight: all the pieces are in place for her to have a swell life. Only problem? She’s missing her long deceased daddy and life’s gotten boring. The wakeup call comes in the form of a globetrotting quest in search for a mystical time shifting thing-a-ma-jig. Also in the hunt for the magical MacGuffin is the nefarious artifact hunter Manfred Powell and the Illuminati. Yep. The Illuminati.
Normally, stay out of the way stories can work in the action/adventure genre, but the tale in Tomb Raider is overly complex and poorly structured. If you’re going to do an Indiana Jones ripoff, you need to create engaging characters we can go on the ride with. Jolie’s Lara aside, the cast goes through the motions, providing just enough to move the pointless story along. The winding script and surprisingly clunky direction by Simon West doesn’t help matters, leaving the action mushy and unfocused. It doesn’t help some of the set pieces are just plain stupid, the dumbest being a Cirque Du Soleil style wire fight where the wires are in plain view.
Known for being less than stellar, video game adaptations suffer from one major flaw. The fun of a game is your control over the action. Your personal skill determines success or failure and as a result, your investment into the experience. Movies are enjoyed passively and require more effort on elements like acting, cinematography and pacing to keep viewers hooked. While many games are closing the storytelling gap, Tomb Raider is perfectly suited for what it was the night I watched it: a free flick on Amazon Prime to while away a rainy evening. Not the worst video game adaptation ever made but that’s not saying much.
Score – 50%