Doug’s Cinematic Firsties is a recurring series wherein Douglas Laman (A.K.A. NerdInTheBasement) will review a well-known classic motion picture that he’s never seen before.
Today, Alicia Vikander’s new take on the character of Lara Croft debuts in theaters nationwide. I won’t be able to see that new Tomb Raider movie for a few days, but for now, I can offer my two cents on the very first time Lara Croft came to the big screen back in June 2001. To this day, this feature, entitled Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, is still the biggest video game movie of all-time domestically and it’s hard to say if anything in the near future will be able to usurp it for that title. Even in among the dismal pantheon of video game movies, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is a particularly tedious motion picture that manages to make Prince of Persia: Sands of Time look like some kind of masterpiece by comparison.
Normally with a big-budget dud like this one, I could pen my thoughts on various facets of the production I found subpar and dive in-depth into my complaints with such facets, but for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, there’s really nothing to talk about here. This is such a lifeless movie, one with barely any energy or anything memorable, for good or ill, to its name. It’s just going through the motions mimicking the style of fight scenes and visual aesthetics popular in the era in which it was made (I got heavy Brendan Fraser’s Mummy vibes from sets used to depict an ancient temple), perhaps the clearest sign of how director Simon West squanders all the possibilities offered up by the globe-trotting adventure subgenre.
Angelina Jolie, in easily her most high-profile lead role up to that point, is a talented actor who gets nothing to do as Lara Croft except grapple with some daddy issues that fade in and out of the story. There’s little personality given to Lara Croft in the screenplay penned by Patrick Massett and John Zinman aside from the sole entertaining piece of the production that she resides in a mansion capable of fulfilling all her desires when it comes to training. She’s got an entire training ground made to look like an old temple where she can fight robots while at night she just dangles from the ceiling of her grand hall like a gymnast. Why couldn’t we spend more time here? There’s no telling what nifty training methods Lara Croft will get into next!
Such training exercises make up an ever so slim part of the movie, with much of the project detailing a snooze-inducing hunt for a mystical object capable of controlling time that Croft’s dad was connected to and that the Illuminati now want possession of. Iain Glen plays our main foe that Croft must contend with and the fact that our antagonist is such a snore may be the biggest reason why Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is so severely underwhelming. For much of the second act, Glen’s character is just negotiating to get the object from Croft back, the two thinly sketched character have dull laidback back-and-forth exchanges about how to handle this priceless artifact that ensure that there’s little tension around in the story. If the heroes can’t be bothered to be worked up about the fate of the world being at stake, why should the viewer?
Daniel Craig, five years before he took up the mantle of James Bond, is also around as another monotonous character in the story, with his purpose being to serve as a potential love interest for our leading lady. The supporting cast is chock full of tedious white guys like Craig’s character, none of whom seem to be having fun with their roles. Even the lead part that belongs to a strong actor like Jolie is a bust, Jolie constantly seems like she’s struggling to inject any kind of personality into the proceedings. Angelina Jolie deserved better than getting saddled with an insipid feature like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Heck, even the largely disposable video game subgenre deserved better than this.