Tomb Raider (12)

Review by Jack Foley


THE first thing to stress about Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is that it is nowhere near as bad as it might have been.

Given that it is based on a computer game, as were the awful Super Mario Bros, Streetfighter and Mortal Kombat movies, it comes as a relief to be able to report that Simon West's lively offering does not fall into the same category.

That's not to say Tomb Raider is any good either; rather it is the type of film that is so bad it's actually quite entertaining in a braindead, computer game kind of way. And the main reason, or reasons, for this are/is Angelina Jolie.
Lara Croft, the computer game icon, has become something of a pin-up for cyber-geek addicts hopelessly devoted to helping the big-busted, female Indiana Jones kick some serious computer generated butt - so the casting of a human actress was bound to be a huge talking point.

And, I'm pleased to be able to report, Jolie measures up in more ways than one - displaying the necessary attributes for Lara devotees (the sale of Wonderbras will, no doubt, flourish), as well as the tough athleticism and no-nonsense attitude requisite for the performance.

The actress gleefully makes the role her own, commanding each scene that she appears in and building on Jolie's real life reputation for being more than a little strange. She's the kind of gal most guys would love to be with, even though most would also find her dangerous. Only trouble is, she's just not interested, preffering her two trusty handguns and a computer geek cohort to carrying out anything remotely lady-like.

It is little wonder that Tomb Raider enjoyed a $48 million opening weekend in America despite a critical mauling - this isn't so much about quality film-making, rather it's a movie about Lara.

Hence, plot takes a distant back seat to the on-screen mayhem; which is just as well because it's preposterous. For the record, our beloved Lara is the only person who can prevent an ancient triangular artefact from falling into the wrong hands at the time of a planetary alignment, thus giving its owner godlike powers.

To complicate matters, she must come to terms with the loss of her father (played by real-life dad, Jon Voight) and outwit a former lover, in between jetting from one exotic location to the next (Thailand, Egypt, Venice, etc, etc).

It sounds like pretty bog-standard adventurer stuff; but is just about saved from disaster by the gutsy Jolie and the energy with which West (of Con Air fame) directs proceedings. It may owe much of its inspiration to the likes of Spielberg and Woo, but there is still a certain kick (sorry!) to be had from watching Lara perform a front wheelie and use the back tyre to knock out a bad guy; or blow away a heavily armed, computer generated opponent with a knowing smirk.

Of the support players, only Christopher Barrie (Rimmer, of Red Dwarf fame, or Gordon Brittas of the Brittas Empire) stands out as Lara's stiff-upper lipped butler, who shows a deft touch with a shotgun. The remainder, including Voight and Iain Glen's sneering main villain, are a bland and stereotypical bunch who don't appear to be having much fun. Mind you, they only exist to present a challenge to Lara.

Which brings us back to Jolie. She is the reason for seeing the film and the reason why it will be such a huge success. Her performance alone should guarantee the makers a healthy movie franchise, should they wish to pursue it.