Clearly I must be a churl. According to Pulitzer prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert I fit the profile, at least to a degree. To explain, I was flicking through channels today – I know for those of you that read my posts regularly it may sound like I do this a lot, I really don’t – and settled on watching a bit of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider for one simple reason, Angelina Jolie. There is literally no other reason to watch this film.
When it came out in 2001 Roger Ebert gave it three out of four stars saying ‘Lara Croft elevates goofiness to an art form. Here is a movie so monumentally silly, yet so wondrous to look at, that only a churl could find fault.’ This left me conflicted, am I a churl? I see many faults!
For those of you not in the know, a churl is defined as a surly, ill-bred person. Now I’m sure that’s not me, however I take the point, this film really is ridiculous. But if you cannot embrace its ridiculousness, I don’t think that makes you a churl. Similarly I don’t think it’s that wondrous to look at, Angelina excepted. I could forgive its ridiculous nature if other things didn’t bug me, let’s examine them.
Angelina excluded, who clearly was Lara Croft, the rest of the cast – including Daniel Craig – just didn’t cut it. Ok, Craig did ok, but the rest? Chris Barrie (still best known as Rimmer from Red Dwarf) was doing his best Alfred the butler impersonation. I suppose he was comic relief but his presence seemed jarring, especially when you stuck him next to Angelina. A perfect modern day alternative? Assuming Michael Caine is busy and you want some young blood, I’d go with Matt Smith, great comic timing and quirkyness. Then, to replace the tech IT nerd character that also assists Lara, I’d go with the excellent Ben Whishaw, soon to be seen as Q in the new Bond, Skyfall.
Played by an actor called Iain Glen (recently in season 1 of Game of Thrones), who actually has solid acting credentials. Aside from the fact he looks a little like a cut-price Steven Seagal, he just wasn’t compelling – or evil – enough to hold the screen against Angelina. You need an actor with a track record in big, brash evil villains, like Gary Oldman. Tom Berenger’s been having a bit of a revival lately, or Gary Busey. The latter filed for bankruptcy earlier this year so might bring a lot of evil frustration to the role – he could do with the money!
Some of the dialogue was pretty corny and wooden and the plot often felt contrived. There were whole scenes where they had to explain a lot of story points (John Voight’s letter from beyond the grave scene springs to mind), which is not the best way to let a plot unfold. A lot of this could have been smoothed over with more assured direction. Which brings us to…
Simon West is an English Director best known for his debut film, Con Air in 1997. He was originally set up to direct Black Hawk Down, but due to conflicts took up Tomb Raider instead. I feel he would have been supremely out of his depth with the former. However, his loss was our gain, as we got Ridley Scott on that one.
The easiest way to explain West’s style is if you think of him as a budget version Michael Bay – then you’ve got some idea of what he does to films. Just look at his latest offering Expendables 2. In terms of alternatives, I would love to see a remake of Tomb Raider with Guillermo del Toro at the helm. I know I suggest him for a lot of films, but with good reason. A mystical journey, tombs with monsters, a kick-ass heroine – imagine what he could do!
Ok, so that’s my lot, rant over, I hope you enjoyed my thoughts. Now I’m not saying if you’re flicking channels and this film comes on, to turn over. You have to enjoy it for what it is, relatively average action, slightly rescued by the fact we get to look at lovely Angelina. To paraphrase Roger Ebert, it’s ridiculous but you have to love it!