LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER
Review by Michael Jacobson
Angelina Jolie, Jon Voight, Iain Glen, Noah Taylor, Daniel Craig
Director: Simon West
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 100 Minutes
Release Date: November 13, 2001
to save the universe again?”
been a fan of the Tomb Raider games for years. They, in turn, have sapped many precious and irretrievable
minutes of my life away, which I gladly surrendered all for the sake of the
fleeting satisfaction of having beaten just one more level.
wasn’t surprised to hear that the game’s heroine, Lara Croft, would be
coming to the big screen, but I must confess, I wasn’t enthusiastic when I
first heard the part was going to Angelina Jolie…an actress I have nothing
against, but who seemed to me all wrong for the British adventurer.
movie debuted, and I cheerfully admit I was wrong. Not only was Ms. Jolie right for the role, she was perfect.
Her dedication to her pre-shoot training in acrobatics, weapons, and
fighting made her the absolute embodiment of the role…though I feel the need
to apologize to our friends in Great Britain for having taken both Lara Croft
and Bridget Jones away from them in one year.
liked the film, though many didn’t…expectations may have been to high for
some. I just wanted an action
packed adventure film with a little humor, a little fantasy, and a whole lot of
the Lara Croft I’d come to know and love over the years, and that’s exactly
what I got. And to be frank, I
liked the movie even better on second viewing.
a memorable opening training sequence with a rather ill-tempered robot (“Was
it programmed to stop before it took my head off?”) we learn a little about
Ms. Croft and her background (a lot different than what was originally penned
for the video game, but better). Her
father, Lord Croft (Jolie’s real life dad Voight) died when she was very
young, but his memory has stayed with her through his stories and journals.
turns out, he had left one final but major assignment for his now grown
daughter, and nothing short of the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
It involves a tale of a mystical triangle with the power to control space
and time. A long time ago, it was
separated into two pieces which were buried at opposite ends of the earth for
fear of its power falling into the wrong hands.
Now, with a once-in-5,000 year alignment of the planets happening very
soon (the event needed to re-activate the completed triangle), Lara finds
herself in a race against time to prevent a sect called the Illuminati, led by
(name, actor), from assembling the triangle first.
is the kind of plot that I think the game lovers immediately embraced, because
it went for fantasy and defied logic, and created an excuse for globetrotting
adventures and explorations for our heroine.
It may have also been what turned so many critics off.
Jolie, as mentioned, is quite perfect. She
brings Lara’s class, wit, and fierce independence to life on the screen, and
she can deliver a line as silly as “The all-seeing eye!” with as much
conviction as “Rosebud!”. She
also looks the part, too, thanks to some good costuming and Simon West’s
camera, which photographs her ample bosoms as lovingly as it would Spielberg’s
Devil’s Tower or Kubrick’s black monoliths.
action sequences are fast, furious and inventive…one of the most unforgettable
is referred to as the “bungee ballet”, which has to be seen to be believed.
Amazingly enough, according to the featurettes, there was no stunt double
for Ms. Jolie for the entire scene! Others
involve more elaborate settings, as a temple where stone creatures come to life
for a big fight scene, or the finale, which features an amazing giant moving
replica of our solar system, which Lara has to navigate to bring the events to
been far too long since we’ve had a movie of this caliber with a strong,
central female character. I can’t
really count Charlie’s Angels, which was played for camp and not
believability. Here, Lara uses her
wits, her strength, her physical abilities and her charm with equal prowess, and
no matter how fantastic her scenarios grow, we can still willingly buy into
that Ms. Croft has gotten her first taste of a big screen adventure, I kind of
hope it won’t be the last, as long as the filmmakers realize what a terrific
character she is. And Angelina
Jolie continues to portray her.
is an impressive anamorphic transfer from Paramount that looks even better on
disc than it did on the movie screen. Many
darker sequences, which I first found to be impossible to distinguish, are now
rendered with greater detail and integrity.
With lots of extreme lighting schemes and locales, this picture is a
visual wonder, and save for two very brief sequences where the images were so
dark they created a tiny bit of shimmer, this presentation works wonders.
Colors are good throughout, and shown in widely varying palates, and
image and detail level are quite sharp and crisp, even in wide angled deep focus
shots. All in all, a most
impressive effort for what must be considered difficult source material!
5.1 soundtrack has to be considered one of the year’s best offerings…it’s
busy from beginning to end, with effects ranging from the grand and sweeping to
the subtle and ambient. All
speakers are in on the action, with impressive dynamic range and smooth pans and
crossovers. The subwoofer adds
plenty of bottom end to the explosive action scenes, and even the quieter
moments where there might be bits of foreboding low rumblings.
In other words, this disc puts you right in the middle of the action and
holds you there for 100 minutes…reference quality all the way.
is a loaded Special Collector’s Edition disc from Paramount that starts with
some cool animated menus with sound (though the special features menu doesn’t
actually show all items at once…a bit of bad judgment).
There are several good featurettes, beginning with “Digging Into Tomb
Raider”, a half hour special with interviews and behind the scenes
footage. There are more specific
featurettes as well, including my favorite, “Crafting Lara Croft”, which
details the work and training Ms. Jolie endured to play the part.
There is also one on visual effects (8 scenes you can choose from),
stunts, and a piece on the Tomb Raider video game phenomenon.
is a good matter-of-fact style commentary track from director Simon West, who
fleshes out some of the featurette info in his talk…he discusses why he
eventually decided to do the film after initially turning it down, working with
the actors, the development of ideas for certain sequences…and of course, he
has nothing but praise for his leading lady and how far her physical abilities
came along in her training.
out the disc are four deleted scenes (roughly edited), an interesting and
well-done alternate title sequence (probably dropped because of its length), a
good U2 music video, plus some extras for your DVD ROM.
A superb package all around!