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Paramount Studios presents
"I woke up this morning and hated everything."
DVD ReviewTo be honest, most films adapted from popular video games simply stink. From Super Mario Brothers to Mortal Kombat, the largest fault of these films has always been that their 3-dimensional characters often come off as one-dimensional in film form, thanks to poorly written scripts. With the release of the blockbuster Tomb Raider, the genre gets a boost of energy, due in large part to the performance of Angelina Jolie as the gun-toting Lara Croft.
Though the problems that plagued the previously mentioned films are not wholly absent from Tomb Raider, the kernel of a good movie remains. Aside from a preposterous third act and a bad guy written so laughably that scenes involving the twirling of his mustache must be hiding somewhere in Paramount's film vaults. Still, Tomb Raider is successful at doing what it should. It is largely a successful B-grade action movie that succeeds in delivering the goods in terms of adventure.
As the only child of a deceased adventurer (Voight), Lara Croft divides her time between training in a large mansion and globe-hopping in search of ancient artifacts. But when a renowned artifact, known as the Triangle of Light comes into her life, Lara must do battle with the Illuminati, a secret society bent on world domination (how original). When an ancient clock is discovered in the Croft mansion, Lara finds that she is in possession of a key piece needed to make the Triangle of Light control time. As has happened every five thousand years, the planets are about to align and the Triangle of Light becomes the object of desire by the Illuminati, and their hired man, Manfred Powell (Glen) is after Lara and the relic to please his employers. As things are never one-hundred-percent perfect, Lara must travel from Cambodia to the Arctic in search of the final pieces to the puzzle before Powell does. While the Illuminati have Powell and a group of hundreds, Lara has only the advice of her deceased father to help her beat the bad guys and save the world.
The plot of Tomb Raider has such a silliness about it and even though the absurd the script is laughable at best, I would expect no less from a movie that has its roots planted in adventure and escapism. Think about it: in a movie like this, it would be out of line if there wasn't an evil panel of aristocrats or that the fate of the world rests with a single person. The story seems as though it would be at home in the best serial adventure novels or even a Saturday matinee, and in a film based on a franchise that has sold more than 26 million video games, it fits like a glove.
The look of the film is (thankfully) more inspired than the screenplay. From the scenes set in caves in Cambodia to the climactic battle in Siberia, the production design by Kirk Petruccelli is nothing short of terrific. As Lara moves quickly throughout the Cambodian jungle and into an ancient ruin, the scenes are pure eye candy and for once, it isn't Jolie providing the enjoyment.
Director Simon West seems to be of the same train of thought as other young directors in Hollywood: the idea that slick visuals and quick editing that would make Michael Bay jealous is the only way to make an exciting action film. To his credit, West does provide such a glossy finish on Tomb Raider that the style is attractive, though a bit headache-inducing. The opening scenes with Lara training against a giant robot are so quickly cut together it is hard to get a sense of what is happening.
For all the terrific production design or the overdone direction, Tomb Raider would be nowhere without Angelina Jolie. She seems to be the perfect fit for Lara Croft; tough at times and ladylike at others. It is a compliment to say that though the movie is less than perfect, it is because she appears in nearly every scene that the film works so well. From a perfectly rendered British accent to the body language evident in the slightest tilt of her head or movement of her body, Jolie is simply the best female action hero since Sigourney Weaver fought in the Alien saga. For me, the sole purpose of playing video games is to escape the restraints of real life while battling objects and villains not found outside the screen. Video games are stress relievers and a way to lose yourself for hours without thinking of anything else. The film version of Tomb Raider is successful in that right; it is pure entertainment that doesn't expect you to think, just to have a good time.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: As has come to be expected, the anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer from Paramount for Tomb Raider is nearly perfect. Small flaws keep the image from being reference quality, though it is as close as you can get. Though the flaws are at a minimum, they include slight grain in the darker scenes at the start of the film as well as in chapter ten and eleven. Though aside from those problems the transfer is nothing but a pleasure to look at. Colors are vibrant in the few scenes when the palette is vibrant as opposed to the numerous drab scenes. Sharpness and detail are each excellent giving the film incredible depth and a film like look.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: As one would expect the Dolby Digital 5.1 for Tomb Raider mix is as good as it gets. From the opening scenes of Lara doing battle with S.I.M.O.N to the more ambient sounds of the Cambodian jungle, this is a highly active surround mix. Check out the Bungee Ballet sequence in chapter 4 for a demo-worthy sequence where you will here guns coming from all directions while dialogue and the score by Graeme Revell come across perfectly clear amidst the action.
English and French Dolby 2 channel mixes are also provided.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Simon West
The Stunts of Tomb Raider is what you would expect from the title, a look at the many stunts done in the large action scenes throughout the film. Jolie herself may be giving Jackie Chan a run for his money as she takes a beating doing many of her own stuntwork. Finally there is Visual Effects of Tomb Raider, an eight-part look at the key special effects work on the film and the process of creating them for the final cut. A sample of scenes involved include the stone monkeys, S.I.M.O.N., and the sword-wielding, walking, Brahman.
Four deleted scenes are presented in anamorphic widescreen, though the video quality is less than stellar. What is interesting is that several of the scenes involve dialogue between Croft and Powell that was present in the trailer (a trailer that is missing from this DVD, by the way) but not in the final cut. An alternate opening sequence is also provided that I feel is better than the one used in the finished film. Finally, and perhaps most noteworthy, is the music video for the terrific U2 song, Elevation. I love this song and the video is certainly worth a look as it is amazingly well made.
Anyone who has heard director Simon West's commentary for the John Travolta thriller, The General's Daughter, knows of his seemingly boring manner of speaking during a commentary. While his track for the previously mentioned film seemed as though he were reading from a book, West's track for Tomb Raider is thankfully more lively. West speaks of both his admiration for cast and crew as well as the hardships of bringing the video game concept to life, and how he devised several action sequences. It isn't the most entertaining commentary I have ever heard, but much better in comparison.
The disc also houses a wealth of DVD-ROM supplements that I would love to see, but my computer is temperamental and would rather me not.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsAs the best video game turned film in release (remember Street Fighter? Didn't think so), Tomb Raider is an immensely enjoyable romp through far away countries and caves. I enjoyed it greatly and think it is worth a look for those interested, and at the least everyone should see it just for the performance by Angelina Jolie and the production design. The DVD from paramount is also a cut above other releases from the studio and worth a look. Recommended.
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