By Bernie and Sand Pilarski
Bernie: We went to see Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (hereafter referred to as Tomb Raider 2 because that's just too damn long of a name to have to type each time I refer to the movie) primarily because our editor, who is the newly appointed humor columnist for The Manteca Bulletin, named best newspaper in California with a circulation of less than 10,000, and who, as we all know, is a brutal and unforgiving taskmaster as editor of The Piker Press, was demanding something from us this week & or else!
And the movie turned out to be a bit like that first paragraph -- one long, poorly punctuated, mildly entertaining, run-on sentence.
This movie stars Angelina Jolie and some other people, but face it, I can't think of another reason to go to this movie except Angelina Jolie, and nobody's performance changed my mind about that. Angelina Jolie is Lara Croft. (I could probably watch Angelina Jolie swat flies and be entertained.) If you've seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, you already know the story. Substitute Pandora's Box for the Ark of the Covenant, substitute evil bio-terrorist for evil Nazi dictator, and substitute macho female archeologist for macho male archeologist. So far so good; you still may have a blockbuster on your hands. However, two more substitutions really hurt the cause. First, substitute a stupid ending for a dramatic one. In Raiders you have the "force of good" slaying bad guys by the dozens and melting the flesh off the really despicable SS-type goons in a wonderfully terrifying display of lightning, wind, swirling clouds and supernatural CGI. In Tomb Raider 2, by the time Lara gets to Pandora's Box, all the bad guys are dead, and she simply decides to do nothing with it. "Some things are not meant to be found," she says. Well sure they're not, but I've just waited nearly two hours for this particular one, and I would have appreciated somebody doing something with it. But even this I could live with, if it were not for the last, fatal substitution: substitute Jan De Bont for Steven Spielberg as director.
The problem with this movie is that it just sits there, and perhaps a person with a better knowledge of movie making than I have could pin the blame elsewhere, but when something doesn't work, I blame the boss. Despite all the things that get blown up and shot, this film moves like an old, fat dog. An old, fat, lost dog. Oh for a bit of Lassie on a mission to save little Timmy.
Unless you really need an Angelina Jolie fix (and I would understand that), save your money guys and get this one at Blockbuster in the fall.Sand: I hate playing video games, because I always lose, humiliatingly quickly. Therefore, the closest I've ever come to a Tomb Raider game is through advertising. At first I was put off by the character Lara Croft, endowed as she is with gravity defying and rather painful-looking large breasts, but eventually I began to admire the weaponry that animated woman was always carrying. Yes, the automatic weapons could certainly come in handy at times.
The first Tomb Raider movie I agreed to see only because Angelina Jolie had been chosen to play Lara Croft. Frankly, I can't see anyone else in that role. Jolie brings to the screen the action and sexiness that Lara Croft must have, and that little essential streak of meanness that you can see in Lara's eyes and her smile.
This time I went to see Lara Croft kick butt, pure and simple. But only because Angelina Jolie reprised the role.
As summer movies go, this one was okay. The villain (Ciaran Hinds as sicko plague purveyor Jonathan Reiss) really, really needed to have someone rid the world of him. My only regret about the villain's role was that he didn't get enough of a beating before the end. The stealing back and forth of information and artifacts was charming, and the gunfire was just what one needed after a week of temperatures above 100 degrees.
However, I basically went to see the big screen version of a computer game. That, to me, means that after each challenge is met, a greater one looms, requiring more skill, and then more, and then more, and if Lara does what Lara does best, the last level is reached and conquered and we all celebrate. Cradle of Life just didn't build well, indeed, took a LOT of time just laying groundwork for the story, which was a race to find Pandora's Box, containing all the death needed to wipe out most of the world. Altogether too much time was taken up by scenery of Hong Kong and Shanghai, and a rather pointless flirtation between Lara Croft and ex-boyfriend Terry Sheridan, played by a repulsively unshaven Gerard Butler, who wasn't even good-looking enough to redeem himself.
Hollywood tried to make Lara Croft into a female version of Hollywood's James Bond, and I believe that's a mistake. If you give Lara Croft the support she needs, she'll win the day. She doesn't need the gadgets and hangers-on. She doesn't need cute-as-a-puppy sidekicks.
I enjoyed the movie more than some I've seen this summer, but if it hadn't been so hot this past week, I'd just as soon have waited to rent the DVD.