Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) — Indiana Jane and the Temple of Time

“You’re the tomb raider, figure it out.”

Justin’s rating: Yet nobody comes out to see me when I’m in short shorts.

Justin’s review: First debuting on the O.G. PlayStation in 1996, Tomb Raider was the answer in the affirmative to the question, “Should we create an archaeologist who is far more headstrong and destructive than Indiana Jones while able to model for lingerie magazines on the side?” And so the world instantly fell in love with Lara Croft, her sizable polygons, and her twin pistols.

Second only to paleontologists, archaeologists pack the most firepower for any excavation, don’t you know.

The sheer popularity of this fetching wealthy British treasure hunter not only sold millions of games, but it eventually led to a fascinating film series that roped in Angelina Jolie to play Croft. Also, it got the guy who made Con Air to direct it, so you know you’re in the hands of a true craftsman. Yes, I know it’s a dumb action movie that a lot of people wrote off, but it’s one of those that’s a lot more fun than many of the joyless entries we get these days (including the 2018 reboot, but that’s a topic for another day). So let’s go back 20 years and give it a rewatch!

Our introduction to this iconic character comes as Ms. Croft fights a combat robot (!) in a temple replication that she built in her English manor. Then the robot puts on a party mix, Lara takes a gratuitous shower, and we have some inkling of what we’re in for with this movie.

So Lara’s long-lost father appears to her in a dream — as one does — and leads her to a hidden clock that’s essential to finding and assembling the Triangle of Light. Which, as one does, has the power to control time. Also hot on the heels of the triangle is Link and Zelda, because Gannon needs to be defeated once more. Oh, sure, “Link” may actually be “the Illuminati” here, but let me have my fun. Cue a bunch of globe-spanning crawls through ancient ruins, deadly traps, and a few crass betrayals. Also a pre-James Bond Daniel Craig appears as her competition.

My main complaint is that it takes a little too long for the movie to get to any actual tomb raiding. We’re talking treading water for over 40 minutes at Lara’s home (albeit with a few action set-pieces) before she even leaves her town. I’m sorry, but Indiana Jones was already outside of his zip code in the first minute of his adventure. I also think that the overuse of house music sadly dates this movie more than a generic action score would’ve otherwise.

Tomb Raider isn’t a case where everyone was trying to make a serious action blockbuster but made an unintentionally funny one instead. It’s not that sort of thing at all. Instead, here’s a movie where it knows from the get-go that the whole premise is kind of ridiculous — and decides to have a embrace an over-the-top tone to ride it all the way to the end credits.

And it works, as long as you can get into the spirit of this loud and crazy film. Angelina Jolie is a perfect fit for the intrepid adventurer, save for her inability to pull of a consistent English accent. I mean, anyone can pull off stunts and action poses, but to do all of that with a snark and swagger is what sets the women apart from the girls.

For a long time, the very short list of female movie action heroes was limited to Ellen Ripley, Princess Leia, and Sarah Connor, so it was great to see several heroines emerge in the late ’90s and early 2000s, including Fifth Element’s Leeloo, The Matrix’s Trinity, and Lara Croft. It’s just kind of a shame that time and a not-very-well-received sequel took Jolie’s Croft out of the public consciousness, because this is a dang great ride. It’s cheeky, well-edited, has a lot of high-octane action scenes, and is never lacking in eye candy.

Didja notice?

  • Oh hai, I’m just casually hanging upside down like a spider. Quite natural, really.
  • …And that’s when the killer robot attacked to the Matrix shoot-out lobby music.
  • Lara really likes spinning her pistols like a gunslinger
  • Pistols are useful to club robots?
  • Lara has a whole closet full of tank tops
  • Robot specialists have a lot of tiny pet robots in their bedroom
  • Lara has a huge mansion and yet seems to do everything in this one main room, including cooking microwave meals. Maybe she needs a small apartment loft?
  • Also she bungee dances in this space.
  • Lara is completely fine destroying her own house, especially by driving a motorcycle through it
  • This movie dares to show you the post-action clean-up!
  • Jon Voight narrates his own letter into the camera
  • Sorry, I have no ability to believe that Lara Croft was part of a special forces unit, as per a single photograph would have me believe
  • Title drop!
  • Yay, terrible early 2000s CGI
  • How does one make and program stone guardians in ancient Cambodia?
  • Temples often have a boss fight at the end
  • “It’s a Dead Zone,” as if saying that actually explains anything.
  • Lara’s fancy twirl as she gets knocked away cracked me up

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