15 Reasons The Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider Movies Are Even Worse Than You Remember
By Reid McCarter on
Out with the old.
With a new Tomb Raider hitting theaters soon, there’s no better time to look back on the first attempt to translate Lara Croft’s adventures from games to movies. Released in the early 2000s, the Angelina Jolie-starring could have worked. And yet, both Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and follow-up The Cradle of Life are just as silly as most video game adaptations, full of bad CGI, terrible-looking costumes, and needlessly convoluted plots.
Just how bad were they? Well, let these 15 deeply goofy parts of the Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider movies serve as a warning--and a reminder to keep your hopes in check for the upcoming next try at making Lara work on the big screen.
1. Lara Fights A Giant Robot
The 2001 Lara Croft: Tomb Raider opens with an extended fight between a weightless-looking CGI robot and a smirking Angelina Jolie flipping around with wire-fu gymnastics to a limp drum and bass soundtrack. Its misplaced attempts at coolness are a good indicator of the early 2000s cheese to follow throughout the rest of the movie and its sequel.
2. The Bungie-Assisted Mansion Fight
The next big action scene finds Lara’s mansion ambushed by a squad of gunmen while our hero is inexplicably unwinding for the day by flipping around on a homemade bungie/trapeze setup in her pajamas. While a different director may have turned this set-up into something novel, the scene is over-choreographed and dull, composed of awkward camera angles and scored to the decidedly not-timeless sounds of a best forgotten Fatboy Slim track.
3. The Hacker Character And His Robot Toys
Lara’s sidekicks include her butler and a catch-all tech wizard named Bryce Turing (get it?) who stars in a lot of wonderfully dated scenes where he builds high-tech robots like the one fought during the opening scene and expertly navigates computers by mashing aimlessly at their keyboards. The goofiest part of his characterization is that he lives in a small trailer, just outside Croft Manor, where little robotics toys wander around the floor--because, you, see, he’s a hacker.
4. Daniel Craig’s “American Accent”
A pre-Bond Daniel Craig serves as Lara’s rival tomb raider and quasi love interest, Alex West. While Craig does a decent enough job playing his role in the film’s B-movie script, he sticks out for an accent that is notable mostly for being unlike anything heard in the real world. It’s tough to say exactly what he was going for with the voice, but the end result is like a discarded Dick Tracy villain was somehow teleported to the early ‘00s.
5. A Bunch Of Statues Come to Life
Following the CGI robot that gets the movie going, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider indulges in some more terribly dated action with a scene where a temple’s statue guardians come to life. Holographic looking and completely non-menacing, they're meant to impart a sense of danger as Angelina Jolie whirls around in front of a green screen, dodging whispy attacks and running from enemies that look so insubstantial they make it impossible to forget the actors are just jumping around a soundstage rather than fighting anything close to real.
6. The Evil Plan Lara Must Stop Is An Illuminati Plot To Control Time Itself
There are many small moments that don’t work in the first Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider movie, but the biggest problem is probably the plot itself, which sees Lara trying to stop the Illuminati from taking advantage of a “planetary eclipse” to gain control of time. It’s needlessly complex for what ends up being an excuse for a by-the-numbers adventure and never leans far enough into its inherent absurdity to take full advantage of the secret society’s inclusion.
7. Iain Glen’s Villain Gets The Last Laugh
Best known as Game of Thrones’ Jorah Mormont, Iain Glen stars as the movie’s main villain, an Illuminati member with the nearly Dickensian name of Manfred Powell. While his whole greasy-mulletted, sneering performance makes for some of the most unintentionally enjoyable parts of the movie, he sticks out most in a climactic scene in which, moments after his apparent death, he sputters back into action to tell Lara he killed her father. It should be a shock, but at that point, audiences have been expecting the reveal for at least half an hour.
8. Cambodian Monks Apparently Keep Magic Tea On Hand
After Lara’s narrow escape from the living statues, she recovers in a Buddhist temple in Cambodia. Without any explanation, one of the monks provides her with a cup of tea that magically heals her wounds. This is never addressed again, leaving viewers to assume that these monks are sitting on a medical miracle they just don’t feel like sharing with anyone but visiting Englishwomen.
9. Lara’s Jetski Moves
Lara enters 2003’s The Cradle of Life by showing up late to her appointment on a Mediterranean ocean excavation ship. The crew, wondering where she is, suddenly spot a jetski that speeds up alongside them, splashes them with a wave, and then zips up close to reveal it was Lara all along. Not content just to act like a jerk, she shows off to the drenched onlookers with a very sweet, extreme sports style flip before leaving the jetski behind and boarding the ship.
10. A Very Helpful Shark
Stuck in an underwater temple with no oxygen tank, Lara comes up with an ingenious plan. She cuts her arm and dives into the water, luring a CGI shark (which hisses like a giant reptile for some reason). It approaches, she punches it in the face, then, obviously recognizing that she’s tougher than one of the ocean’s top predators, it allows her to grab its fin and catch a ride to the surface.
11. The Big Villain’s Plan Is Completely Ridiculous
Rome and Game of Thrones actor Ciarán Hinds plays Jonathan Reiss, a scientist turned terrorist whose master plan revolves around selling a bio-weapon for a huge fortune and global power. He introduces his goal to a group of wealthy buyers by infecting one of them with the ebola virus, giving the rest of them the “cure” in handy gel capsules, and then explaining that every disease known to humanity has an antidote apparently kept in secret by Western governments. If that wasn’t silly enough, his plan to discover a new incurable plague involves finding and opening Pandora’s Box.
12. A Bike Race Across the Great Wall
Looking to avoid the notice of Chinese gangsters, Lara and her partner (played by Gerard Butler) sneak into the country on a high-tech jet provided by MI6. They then look for a quiet route to the nearest city, which of course means racing each other on motorcycles across the Great Wall of China.
13. A Backward Depiction of Africa
Worse than anything else in the movies is The Cradle of Life’s depiction of Tanzania. Toward the end of the movie, Lara travels to Kilimanjaro, which, for the film’s purpose, is located only in a generalized “Africa” and is guided to the titular “cradle of life” by a similarly undefined group of locals. Embodying the most tired tropes of colonial fiction, they possess secret, mystical knowledge and, when attacked by a group of soldiers, charge into gunfire with spear and shield.
14. The Attack of the Magical Troll Yetis
As Lara travels to the “cradle of life,” she and the villain’s armed guard are attacked by a collection of CGI monsters only half a step less goofy looking than the first movie’s living statues and murder robots: a species that resembles a cross between giant apes and toothy trolls capable of magically transporting themselves by disappearing and reappearing at the base of trees. Even more than the previous film’s supernatural creatures, these beasts hardly fit the rest of the story at all.
15. The Best Way To Beat The Bad Guy? A Pool Of Acid
Defeated by his desire to take Pandora’s Box--which resides in a pool of bubbling acid--for himself, arch villain Reiss naturally ends up being thrown into the corrosive liquid. While plunging into hot lava or acid is a time-honored action movie final act, The Cradle of Life botches even this staple with a last bit of terrible CGI. Despite having his skin boiled off, a badly digitized Reiss tries to grab the Box one last time, exposed muscles and bone rendered with the blurry quality of an early 3D videogame.