Tomb Raider

When I heard that Simon West was directing this adaptation of the hit video game, I figured it could go both ways, the way of his “Con Air”, one of the best mindless summer blockbusters of the last decade, or like his “General’s Daughter”, one of the most despicable ones. At worst, I figured it would be another dumb, messy popcorn movie with a few fun action scenes but little else. What I didn’t expect is a criminally dull and lifeless flick, most probably the worst I’ve seen all year. It’s not as offensive as “The General’s Daughter”, but it’s ten times dumber and nowhere near as enjoyable as “Con Air”. I guess the reason why I loved that one lies between producer Jerry Bruckheimer and star Nicolas Cage, cause with “Tomb Raider” Mr. West has proved himself one of the most untalented hacks in Hollywood. He’s made a movie with absolutely no redeeming qualities; even the action, which should be this kind of brainless summer movie’s saving grace, is spare and unexciting.

Even worse, West managed to make Angelina Jolie cold and charmless. Sure, we see a lot of her sensual lips and her big boobs are shot to maximum voluptuous effect, but there’s no heart, no drive, no true sexiness to her performance. Take Jolie’s first scene, in which she battles a big ass robot who won’t bulge no matter how much cartridges she empties in him. Jolie seems to look good, but you have to strain to acknowledge it, as she is badly shot and lit, and the scene has no grace nor rhythm. When it stops, it turns out that she was fighting Simon, a killing machine designed by her assistant for her training sessions. We also learn what little we’ll get to know about Jolie’s character, Lady Lara Croft. She’s sort of an archaeologist, a tomb raider most precisely, following the steps of the late Lord Croft (played by Jolie’s real-life daddy Jon Voight). Like her old man, she’s fascinated by everything ancient and mysterious, and she often leaves her posh London manor to take on various adventures.

This time around, though, adventure comes to her, starting with her finding a strange clock hidden under her staircase. It was planted there by her father before he passed away and it only started ticking now, during the first phase of alignment of all nine planets of the solar system, something which happens only once every 5000 years. The clock also serves as a key necessary to uncover the two halves of a magical triangle which, once brought back together during the solar eclipse which climaxes the planetary alignment, will give its owner the godly power to control time. Mmm. A lot of hooey, right, but say we buy it for suspension of disbelief’s sake. What really bothers me is this: why didn’t old man Croft just destroy the fragging thing to make sure it wouldn’t fall in the wrong hands? Wouldn’t make much a movie, but it would be more logical than having Lara showing it around then being robbed of it (of course) by shady lawyer Manfred Powell and his secret sect of the Illuminati. Dumber still is how Lara then proceeds to actually help the bad guys through the film in their evil quest.

I’m telling you, if you pay any attention to the plot, you’re gonna find this to be a frustratingly badly written piece of nonsense. It’s as if West and company just went on ripping off a bunch of elements from the Indiana Jones series like the father/mentor, the old partner turned mercenary for the villains, exotic locations, comic sidekicks, occult organizations, ancient temples in which little puzzles must be solved for a ray of light to hit some spot at some precise moment to reveal some artifact, with everything soon crumbling down… Unfortunately, the filmmakers didn’t bother to try and understand why this stuff worked in Spielberg’s movies. They just cram it all up together and weave an excuse for a story around it and hope it comes out okay. It doesn’t.

What we get is scene after scene falling excruciatingly flat. Boring pseudo-mythological details, lame dialogue, pathetic attempts at humor, stiff posing by the villain, corny flashbacks of Lara as a little girl… There are a few action scenes throughout, but they’re all badly directed, edited to sub-par techno music and never manage to thrill. There’s a shoot-out laced with bungee jumping which shows some promise, but West doesn’t seem to know what to make of it and it never ignites. Then there’s an attack by a bunch of solid rock monkeys, but instead of being threatening they’re just ridiculous looking bad CGI creations which fall apart after one lousy punch or kick. The final fight between Powell and Croft is appropriately video gamish, with lightning in the background and jumpy, unnatural movements, but that’s hardly a good thing. If you were controlling Lara, it could be fun, but only watching is uninteresting.

“Tomb Raider” is as misguided as movies get. It has no sense of grace, excitement nor plain dumb fun. It can’t even titillate us properly with Jolie’s boobs, as they’re lost somewhere under excessively padded bras. I can hardly remember a big budget movie being so incompetent. Shame on you, Simon West.