Laura Croft -- Tomb Raider (Paramount, 2002)

Video games are not my gig. In doing some research before watching Tomb Raider, I had to do what every adult loathes: ask a kid. From popular opinion culled from kids and others who play these games, I learned there are three usual outcomes when video games are made into movies:

1. The plot is completely non-existent; it's just enough to give the characters an excuse to fight, as in Street Fighter.
2. The plot has so little resemblance to the game that the movie should not even be allowed to bear the same name, a la Mario Brothers.
3. The film reproduces the game pretty closely-which doesn't always necessarily translate into a great movie.

Lara Croft -- Tomb Raider, in my opinion, is an example of Number 3. The film makes a great effort to capture the look and feel of the video game, from the sets down to its spittin' image star, Angelina Jolie. Although the game Tomb Raider commands a huge cult following, I had never actually tried it until a couple of days before I saw the movie. In the game, Lara runs, jumps, swims, dives, and packs an artillery of weapons that would make any survivalist drool, as she guns down bad guys and monsters. Of course, since I rarely partake of the game scene, I didn't get very far playing. But I did get sucked into an hour or so--which, for me, is worth noting on a calendar. Through it all, though, I couldn't help wondering why on earth anyone would want to pay money to sit through two hours of the same shit. See Lara run. See Lara shoot. See the blood spurting out of the bad guys'.

Yes, the mortal problem seems to be that the plot of a video game doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense. There are usually hordes of bad guys swarming around the hero, with the hero trying to dodge, kill, and defeat them all single-handedly. But let's face it: the real plot of almost every video game is an excuse to blow shit up. The only thing that made me even agree to watch Tomb Raider is its star, Angelina Jolie. Angelina's fascinated me since I saw her in Gia, and if I was going to watch a girl-kicks-ass movie, it may as well be Jolie doing the kicking.

The plot of Tomb Raider is pretty thin. The occasion is a rare astrological event, where all nine planets align, and an evil society bent on world domination, the 'Illuminati', is seeking the two halves of the Triangle of Light, which is only effective during this astronomical phenomenon that happens once every 5,000 years. What the hell is the Triangle of Light? Well, for one thing, when it is put together into a whole, its possessor is able to control time and space. The task is for Lara to stop the Illuminati and save the world by destroying the Triangle of Light.

Lady Lara Croft is the orphaned daughter of Master Croft, played by real-life father, Jon Voight, who has trained her from girlhood to continue his own work of trying to find the Triangle of Light, and eventually disappears in the field. Lara lives in a castle-like mansion all alone, save for her butler and her gadget master--who have such miniscule parts that they aren't worth mentioning.

(The domestic set-up's reminiscent, in a way, of Batman's Bruce Wayne, and other super-heroes: solitary but filthy rich, with every hi-tech toy a hero could want. And a staff that doesn't ask a single question).

As a super-heroine, Lara is a bad-ass! When the Illuminati learns that she has possession of a key part to the Triangle, they come to her manse a-rootin' and a-tootin' like Ninja warriors. I especially liked this scene... Lara is doing ballet-like maneuvers with bungee cords suspended from the ceiling. When they make off with the mysterious clock, the chase begins. The two halves of the Triangle are hidden on opposite ends of the earth -- in Cambodia and in Siberia, as it turns out. It's predictable that, even though Lara agrees to form an alliance with the bad guys of the Illuminati to get to the Triangle, she overpowers them and destroys the artifact just in time. Oh yeah, along the way -- just before destroying the Triangle, she suspends time and has a moment with her long-dead daddy. He had neglected to tell her that he had also been mentor to the head of the Illuminati. Oops. Well, everybody is bound to screw up sometime -- even Lara's Pop.

The plot is just an excuse to bring the chase around the globe. It is impressive to note, however, that the locations are real, and are not simply shot on a cheesy Hollywood set built with plywood, Styrofoam, and plastic palm fronds. The temples in Cambodia are real and, although in the bonus footage at the end of the film it is admitted that the Siberian scenes are shot in Iceland, this shows a real effort toward some authenticity. The set design also shows some creative thoughtfulness.

And how about that Angie! Whooooo! She is Lara Croft in every sense of the character. Tough, cool, yet at times very feminine, this kick-ass girl has done her homework. The footage at the end of Tomb Raider also describes how Angelina did her own stunts, which is incredible, given the stunts she is called on to perform: swinging from dangerous machinery, pistol-battling a computerized robot, swan-diving from the top of a rushing waterfall'she is absolutely as fearless as she seems. But then, Jolie is a woman who signs her marriage contracts in blood.

If ya want action and aren't particular about the motivation or plot behind it, if ya wanna to see a beautiful babe blow lots of shit up, or ya just wanna escape reality for an hour and a half--by all means, see Tomb Raider. It's hip, it's action-packed, it's a definitive piece of today's urban fantasy, especially the kind dear to every American's heart and artillery belt. I think I'll be off to the hardware store now, for some bungee cords...

[Kimberlee Rettberg]