- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2001

"Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" is the aggressive, credentialed way of summarizing the heroine of a stupefying new adventure thriller, destined to make Angelina Jolie a laughingstock for the rest of the summer. Created for a video-game series and now transposed to the movies with all the judgment and finesse that have distinguished such crossovers from "Super Mario Bros." to the present, Lara is a knockoff of Indiana Jones and a revamp of Wonder Woman.
Wealthy and titled and English, Lady Lara trains for globe-trotting archaeological and treasure-hunting expeditions from a palatial estate outside London. The movies inability to establish her vaunted physical prowess in a persuasive way begins with the first strenuous sequence, in which Lara seems to be shooting and duking it out with a ferocious robot sentinel while attempting to raid one of her beloved tombs.
Unlike Indy when he is introduced in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," however, Lara is not really in the field, putting her life and know-how on the line. Its all a jolly fake-out of a workout, staged at home with a kind of pet robot to keep the mistress of the house in fighting trim. The impression that nothing is at stake in "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" takes hold immediately. Nothing the filmmakers stage later on is sufficient to transform Lara into a credible virtuoso of stealth and martial arts.
Quite a few illustrative details are notably bizarre or laughable. Like the way Miss Jolie has been encouraged to walk, run, swagger, discharge two gigantic sidearms holstered on her thighs, stand with her hands on her hips, sneer, grimace, clench her teeth, protrude her already swollen lips and flaunt the headlight silhouette suggested by her sizable bustline, a brazen throwback to vintage Jane Russell.
Attended by token males, notably Noah Taylor as a robotics nerd named Bryce and Chris Barrie as an armed-and-dangerous butler named Hillary, Lara frequently is ogled or threatened by male rivals in the rough-and-ready tomb-raiding trade. Iain Glen plays nemesis Manfred Powell, on a collision course with Lara while pursuing the far-flung fragments of a supernatural powder keg called the Triangle of Light, which yields nothing less than godlike power over the solar system. Lara toys with the thought of making an honest mercenary of Daniel Craigs Alex West, evidently a former boyfriend who has taken up with the bad guys, hired to do the dirty work of an elitist cabal called the Illuminati.
From the look of things, Lara has no time for female companionship and harbors an emotional attachment to only one guy, her late father, Lord Croft. He is portrayed in spectral form by Miss Jolies father, Jon Voight, speaking dialogue evidently filched from Marlon Brando as Supermans dad back in 1978. Before becoming a ghostly pontificator, Lord Croft left tricky clues around the house in case Lara should need to foil the Illuminati. The ultimate power grab by this secret society requires a brief alignment of the planets that occurs once every 5,000 years. Its this threat the heroine must counteract by back-to-back missions to Cambodia and Siberia. According to a slightly ungeographic legend, the two pieces of the Triangle are on opposite sides of the world. Cambodia and Siberia?
Nevertheless, the important thing is that Lara, who has the right of way in London when dressed like a phantom and racing her motorbike, also has rights of way in the Cambodian jungle, whether driving a Jeep or riding a battering ram in an ancient throne room or rowing a canoe, evidently left in just the right place for her to use it after jumping from a waterfall. In tundra country, where she arrives in hilarious furs, Lara gets dog-sled rights of way, to and beneath icy caverns that made me strangely nostalgic for Julia Ormond in "Smillas Sense of Snow." In the crunch cavern, Lara rides rotating domes, part of a massive orrery, a replica of the solar system. Mystic intervention also permits a reunion with Lord Croft, who explains why he had to play it so close to the vest with those Illuminati clues.
Shot in the current blurry and indiscriminate fashion, the action spectacle in the movie seems to be so much trailer fodder. The scenario makes more sense as a thinly veiled fashion shoot, with Miss Jolie taking her attitude and somewhat different wardrobes from London to the Far East to the frozen north. Overstylized and dehumanized to a perilous extent, Miss Jolie would be well-advised to duck superheroines for the rest of her career.
Hollywood deserves to gag on this entire genre, which seems to be leaving more gratuitous wreckage than usual this summer. Just as Miss Jolie would be better off scaling back to mere women with problems to face, the movie industry might find it salutary to swear off mindless spectacle in favor of mere human interest, perhaps with the dedication and sincerity that seem so gratifying in such imports as "The Circle" and "The Road Home." The adventure duds are extending a road to cinematic oblivion.

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