Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Some films are from original screenplays, others are adapted from books, now films are coming from the world of video games. This is nothing new for Hollywood. In the past the Mario Brothers, Mortal Combat and Street Fighter have all been made into films. Now, the very popular Lara Croft: Tomb Raider has been added to the mix. The story line, like its predecessors, is rather thin. Lady Lara Croft is an archeologist and adventurer. She is incredibly wealthy, beautiful and well versed in every imaginable form of combat and weapons. During the first stage of a nine-planet alignment a ticking awakens her and she finds a strange device, a clock of sorts that is counting down towards something. It turns out that a secret society, the Illuminati. Are searching for this timepiece, which is a key, needed to reunite two halves of a triangle. If this triangle of stone (made from a meteor) is reunited at the fullness of the alignment, the one you holds it will control time itself. Really, this is the plot. While it has many flaws in logic and continuity it does manage to do what it was constructed for, provide something to drive elaborate action and special effects scenes. Just when you start to feel the story getting tedious there will be a state of the art action scene to divert your attention. After all, you arent going to buy this disc for the story. Really, do you go on a roller coaster and expect Hamlet? After reviewing a number of serious dramas and watching the recent events that have been taking place here in New York I for one was ready for some good old fashion escapism. While not up to the quality of the Indiana Jones films this film delivers what it promises, ACTION. There are even a number of nice little comic moments thrown in for good measure.
The rising young actress, Angelina Jolie brings Lara to life. It really looked as if she had a lot of fun making this film. After getting an Oscar for her dramatic role is Girl, Interrupted, Jolie appears to have wanted a new direction for her career. While she will inevitably also get the heavy hitting roles she needs to further her career, she is also at the point in her life where she can make a detour into this genre. It took three months of intensive training to prepare for this role. She didnt want to look like Croft, she wanted to be as much like her as possible. To her credit Jolie took on many of the action scenes herself. She learned to fight, use weapons and ride like a pro. Note to her husband Billy Bob Thornton, dont mess with your wife, shell kick your butt. In a great piece of casting the role of Lord Richard Croft went to Joies really life father, Jon Voight. In the scene that he has with her you can see that this is a proud father. I have seen many interviews of Voight promoting his own films and he never fails to mention his now famous daughter. Taking on this role Joile presented some unusual challenges for the crew. First, although Jolie is well built, Croft was a few bust sizes larger. They split the difference. Next, Joile has 23 tattoos on her body. With every outfit a body makeup artist had the lamentable task of covering them. She is also left-handed. This required the props department and training people to acquire special weapons. This film is basically a one-woman showcase. Still, there are notable performances by the supporting cast. The cast overall provides action, comic relief and an excellent sense of timing.
Director Simon West is no strange to Hollywood or for that fact, action oriented flicks. Among his more notable past efforts are Con Air and The Generals Daughter. This production was an intense effort for all, especially the director. The location shots took cast and crew to some of the most remote and exotic places on earth. Certainly this was a major incentive for Joiles participation. The performances West required also required many months of pre-production efforts for cast and crew alike. It also needed some of the largest sets deigned. The style used by West nicely mimics a video game played in the real world. Cameras were set at every conceivable angle to provide a fast paced film. Speaking of pacing the typical draw back for this type of this film is trying to provide too much expository material. West knows that people are not watching for the story and leaves those scenes in the background, just long enough to explain a little and then he moves on to the action.
The disc exceeds contemporary standards. First, the video is a crisp anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer. In the many scenes that rapidly cut from dark to light there is not a trace of artifact. The color balance is geared a bit towards the blue range but is overall well balanced. The audio is Dolby 5.1 and will give the entire set of speakers a well workout. The sub woofer pumps in almost every scene. The rear speakers create a rich, full sound field. They are used not only for ambient sounds but find full use in the sound track. The surround sounds follow the action nicely. The disc is packed to the brim with extras. There is a featurette of the physical training required to get Jolie into shape for the role. Then there are interviews with the cast and director. Other featurettes include eight action scenes, a look at the video game that gave rise to the film, four deleted scenes, a featurette on the stunt work, an alternate title sequence and a U2 music video. Add to this a pretty standard directors commentary and you have an enjoyable DVD. The DVD ROM features are better than most. There are three levels of a Tomb Raider video game to help you compare the film to the game. I found one hidden feature, go to the extras menu and just below the Main Menu selection are three wavy lines, the symbol for water. Click on it and youll see a nice little featurette about the real life father and daughter working together. Dont look for a heavy weight film here but do consider this one if you are looking to escape for a little while.