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Paramount Home Video presents
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider HD-DVD (2001)

"I woke up this morning and hated everything."
- Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: July 24, 2006

Stars: Angelina Jolie
Other Stars: Jon Voight, Iain Glen, Noah Taylor, Daniel Craig
Director: Simon West

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for action violence and some sensuality
Run Time: 01h:40m:27s
Release Date: July 25, 2006
UPC: 097360703948
Genre: adventure


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ C+B-A B+

DVD Review

The DVD review and Extras review are by Kevin Clemons.



To 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 three-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. Never mind the 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 and gunfire.

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 for the Illuminati. 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.

Even though the plot is absurd and 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

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The presentation of this film is rather uneven; medium to long shots are often quite soft and lacking in definition, to the point that they're hardly distinguishable from standard DVD picture. But closeups have tons of detail and look very nice indeed. Color, when present, is extremely vivid, such as on the spectacularly green glowing urn. The opening videogame style sequence is quite attractive, with plenty of dust and shafts of light, which makes for a very difficult atmosphere to render. Nonetheless, it comes across fine and sets the mood of the picture well. The closeups of the Triangle of Light look quite 3-D. Edge enhancement crops up in some odd places, such as a semi-silhouetted conversation at about 18m in. Jolie's skin also sometimes displays an odd contouring that's rather distracting and seems to be an artifact of some kind. Strangely, it doesn't affect anyone else in the film.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
+
English, French, Spanishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The soundtrack is high impact, with plenty of booming bass, raucous music and surround effects that are highly immersive. As befits a recent film, it's also quite clean and there are no significant issues. The original DVD earned high marks for its audio transfer, and the HD-DVD follows in its footsteps as an exemplary aural experience. Dolby Digital Plus versions in English, French, and Spanish are provided, as well as a standard DTS 5.1 track.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
11 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Simon West
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. "Elevation" music video by U2
  2. Alternate opening title sequence
Extras Review: The HD-DVD includes all of the supplements on the standard DVD except for the DVD-ROM material, for obvious reasons. In their place, Paramount adds as a welcome bonus the theatrical trailer and teaser trailer, both in high definition. Otherwise, the extra material is all in 480p standard definition.

Over an hour's worth of featurettes assemble the bulk of the supplements. First up is Digging Into Tomb Raider, running nearly half an hour in length. The documentary features interviews with cast and crew as well as behind-the-scenes looks at the larger action sequences. It is promotional in nature and is essentially no different than any HBO First Look. Next up are a series of shorts that each run nearly ten minutes in length. First is Crafting Lara Croft, a short that deals with the transformation of Angelina Jolie from Oscar®-winner to butt-kicking superhero. Are You Game sheds light on the phenomenon that is Lara Croft and her large fan base.

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 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.

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.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

As 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.

 


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