Lara Croft Can't Save This Flick
Movies featuring women as heroes usually perk me up considerably, even when the story includes dark themes or tragic moments. Whether it’s Sigourney Weaver battling the space monster in Alien, Ingrid Bergman inspiring her troops as Joan of Arc, Drew Barrymore taking charge of her life as Cinderella in Ever After, or a young Chinese girl named Mulan defeating the invading Huns, I cheer them on. That’s one of the reasons I looked forward to seeing Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.
Jolie (Girl, Interrupted) is among the first stars I interviewed after becoming a film critic, so that’s another reason. Charming and out-going, she’s my only interviewee who insisted the photographer take a photo of the two of us together. Although I view having photos taken with celebrities as unprofessional, I’m glad it happened. Imagine the thrill that picture gives my grandchildren today!
Expecting Lara Croft to make my list of admired film heroines, I came away from Tomb Raider feeling sadly disappointed. Yes, Jolie looks gorgeous in her archeologist mini-pants, and her stiff-upper-lip British accent sounds perfect to me. She also shares a couple of provocative moments with her own father, Jon Voight (Pearl Harbor), who plays Lara’s dad, a famous archeologist gone missing in the field. (Actually, "provocative" might be too strong a word here, but I couldn’t help wondering if Voight got the job strictly because of his relationship to Jolie.) Regrettably, Jolie’s Lara lacks the human vulnerability of those great female characters I mentioned above, even the animated Mulan.
Because we know Lara Croft is a video-game icon --- one that can’t be destroyed --- nothing suspenseful results from her Indiana Jones-like quest to find both pieces of an ancient triangle with the power to reverse time. While watching the young archeologist overcome various obstacles during her tomb-raiding adventures, no matter how many grotesque statues came to life and tried to stop her, I couldn’t believe she was in any real danger.
Another weak spot in Tomb Raider concerns its lack of a respectable villain. I found Iain Glen’s (Beautiful Creatures) attempts to appear sinister and evil about as convincing as John Travolta’s laughable portrayal of the Psychlo thug in Battlefield Earth. Glen reminded me of someone who should be introducing Masterpiece Theatre, not plotting to become the ruler of the universe. Call me perverse, but I simply must have a vicious villain I can hate adequately in these action flicks. Give me someone like Gary Oldman as Mr. Zorg in The Fifth Element, Tim Roth as Archibald Cunningham in Rob Roy , or even Alan Cumming as the dastardly emperor in Titus, and I’m happy.
Just like in The Mummy Returns, incredible special effects overwhelm almost everything else in Tomb Raider. Lara fights giant machine creatures! Lara zaps a regiment of soldiers invading her high-tech English mansion! Lara jumps on a granite juggernaut and rides it like a bucking bronco! Lara saves the world in a blaze of explosions! Perhaps some other amazing stuff happened, but I dozed off a few times, so I’m not sure. Please accept my apologies. After all, unlike Lara Croft, I’m only human.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated "PG-13" for action violence and some sensuality.)