Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Time flies when you're having fun.

Watching "Tomb Raider" is a lot like watching someone else play a computer game - it's interesting, but you can't help tuning out after a while. Perhaps it's the lack of spontaneity in Simon West's script - every scene looks like it's been pulled directly out of a game designer's imagination, leaving you with a strange feeling of been-there-done-that.

The plot isn't hard to understand, especially if you've seen it before in a computer game: rich, gorgeous and very athletic English socialite Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) is a tomb raider, an archaeologist whose specialty is recovering exotic artifacts from dangerous, exotic locations. One day, when she finds a mysterious clock ticking backwards in her father's rambling mansion, she is intrigued by it, as also by the immense manpower and ammunition expended by rival tomb raider Manfred Powell (Iain Glen) to get his hands on it. As it turns out, Powell has been hired by a secret society, the Illuminati, to recover the clock and use it in turn to locate an ancient artifact that gives its owner the power to control time. Powell has nefarious designs in mind for the artifact…and Croft is determined to stop him.

As the two race each other to exotic locations in Cambodia and Iceland, "Tomb Raider" begins to resemble its computer game namesake more than a traditional film: solve the clues, find the key and run for your life. Both Jolie and Glen are very good, with Jolie in particular doing her best to extend her character's one-dimensional personality into new realms; it's fair to say that, given the constraints of the Tomb Raider franchise, she succeeds admirably. Simon West's direction is immaculate, with the numerous action sequences well-conceived and executed, and his attempt at merging the worlds of computer gaming and film is successful up to a point.

What's missing in "Tomb Raider", the movie, is precisely what made "Tomb Raider", the game, so successful - interactivity. Watching Croft swing on ropes and go hand-to-hand with beasties is more fun when you're the one pulling the strings; watching her do it from a theatre seat with popcorn in your hand, it just seems…stale.

This article was first published on 06 Sep 2001.