Shamedown #1: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Here we are again. Want to know more about the Shame thing? Please visit Cinema Shame. Last year’s Shamedowns can be found here. Onward…

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IMDb

Like I said in my Shame Statement, I’ve only ever wanted to see 2001’s Lara Croft because Chris Barrie’s in it. Other than that, Lara’s basically a female Indiana Jones, except with tighter clothes and a much more ample bust. Since the movie’s based on the video game, I was expecting lots of NPC-type characters popping out from behind pillars and so on, interspersed with Lara flying through the air while firing her guns. And…it was everything I expected. Pretty much. Only Indiana Jones didn’t use computers and advanced robotic technology. Or Nokia cell phones, for that matter.

In the first five minutes or so, the movie shows Lara (Angelina Jolie) training at home with a robot named Simon, built by her on site genius, Bryce (Noah Taylor). They both tear up simulated tomb scenery till Lara gets tired of it and uses Simon’s computer to switch on her party mix. She drags Simon over to Bryce, who surveys all of Simon’s fresh bullet holes with dismay.

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Lara goes upstairs to take a shower, suggestively throwing her wet hair back. Her butler, Hillary (Chris Barrie) brings her a white dress and matching pumps. He wants Lara to be feminine for once, at which Lara drops her towel and walks to her closet. “A lady should be modest,” Hillary reminds her. Lara agrees with him, looking saucily over her bare shoulder.

Hillary wants Lara to take on a new archaeological project, and he’s got several potential winners. However, she’s not interested because it’s the anniversary of her dad’s death. Lara is haunted by memories of her dad, and just wants to be alone to grieve. And maybe do acrobatics while hanging from her ceiling.

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The Illuminati never takes a break, though. At a secret meeting in Venice, Italy, they discuss a super-special interplanetary alignment that only happens every five thousand years, and it enables an object called the Triangle of Light to be found. Their quest to find a key that rejoins the pieces of the Triangle of Light is currently fruitless. The Triangle, of course, gives great power to whoever possesses it, as it allows the user to control time.

Lara dreams of her dad, played by Jon Voight, telling her about the planet aligning and the key that will be unlocked. What’s more, she’s destined to find it. Lara hears a clock ticking and hops out of bed, following the sound to a secret cubby under the stairs. She rouses Bryce out of bed at five AM and while he’s waiting for Hillary to bring him a latte, he sticks a camera inside the clock.

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It doesn’t take long for the Illuminati to notice Lara’s find. An old friend of her father’s gives her name to Manfred Powell (Iain Glen) , who says he doesn’t know anything about the clock or the key. Lara sees right away that he’s lying.

Naturally, the Illuminati send agents to Lara’s house one night to steal the clock, and they don’t get it without a fight, as Lara and Hillary give them quite a chase. The Illuminati gloat for a few minutes before they mount an expedition to Cambodia.

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What they don’t reckon on, of course, is that Lara Croft’s father prepared for this eventuality as well. He sends her a letter by proxy explaining what Lara has to do to keep the Illuminati from stealing the Triangle of Light. Each piece of the triangle is at opposite ends of the earth–one in Cambodia, and one in Siberia. Just so there’s no pressure, Lara only has fifteen hours to complete the Cambodia part of her quest.

When Lara arrives at the tomb in Cambodia, she finds Manfred Power, predictably enough, sitting on velvet cushions while his hired lackeys open the door of the tomb. Yeah, he’s that much of a diva. She also finds her old on-again, off-again nemesis, Alex West (Daniel Craig), a bounty hunter who pretends to be an archaeologist.

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As usual, there’s an easier way into the tomb, and Lara is waiting for the bad guys when they do get in. That they get the first part of the Triangle is no shocker. It’s also no shocker that there are statues that come to life and kill some people.

Lara’s got an ace up her sleeve. Manfred may still have the clock, but she has a piece of the Triangle. All she has to do is stick close to him to get the other half, and then all bets are off.

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In case it isn’t abundantly clear by now, Lara Croft is highly stylized, resembling the video game it’s based on. Everything from the backgrounds to the jumpscares to Lara’s cup size are carefully calculated to make male hearts flutter.

Naturally, it’s conscious of its Indiana Jones-y origins. Lara says when she’s reading the inscriptions in the Cambodia tomb, “Right, so…Pretty much touch anything, and you get your head chopped off.”

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The problem with movies like this seems to be that every male has to be stupid or incompetent on some level in order to let the female protagonist shine. Fortunately, Lara Croft doesn’t fall into that trap; Hillary and Bryce are obviously friends with Lara while being her employees. When it came to the bad guys, they were clearly able to match wits with Lara, except that she had to be one step ahead of them at all times. There’s nothing for them to do but stand around, stone-faced, while she shows them up.

I did feel Chris Barrie was a little bit wasted in his role as Hillary because there’s so much more he can do. He’s a terrific actor and an amazing impressionist–Red Dwarf went downhill fast once his character, Rimmer was written off. Still, he does get to don a bullet-proof vest and blow some bad guys away, so that’s pretty cool.

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Lara Croft really grew on me. I liked that Angelina Jolie and Jon Voight were in the movie together, because it gives the relationship between their characters an authentic dynamic. Lara’s an interesting person, the movie is paced well, and I like that it’s got a light touch without being cutesy or trying too hard. It’s not over the top or especially groundbreaking–it’s pretty easy to tell where it’s going to go, which is fine. It’s just a straight-ahead action movie, and a fun one at that. I’m going to have to seek out the other films now, and maybe the video games. A little excitement (the right kind, anyway) is never a bad thing.

The So Bad It’s Good Blogathon is the day after tomorrow, guys–are you ready? Thanks for reading, all…


Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is available on Blu-ray from Amazon.

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