This is my entry in Nathaniel's Action Heroine Blog-a-Thon. Being the massive Jolie fangirl that I am, I jumped at the chance to write about what makes her so damn watchable as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, despite the fact that the film itself is awful. (I'm not even going to touch the sequel; it was even worse than the original, if you can believe that.)
And yet, whenever Tomb Raider appeared on cable in the early '00s, I'd watch it. What drew me in? It wasn't the clever plot. It wasn't the razor-sharp dialogue. It wasn't the breathless sense of excitement or tension. It wasn't the special effects. No, it was something more dazzling than all of the above put together.
Angelina Jolie's smile.
It takes a little bit to get to that smile. In fact, the film seems determined to focus on Lara Croft as "hott killing mo-sheen" at first. (Which is part of my problem with the whole game series. I have never played a Tomb Raider game because of their Lara-leering obsession, and during the games' heyday of popularity, I referred to them as "Magic Titty Adventure" to the annoyance of my gamer pals.) We open with...
Then the camera rotates 270 degrees and we see that...
And soon she's...
Lara whales away on a homicidal robot until she yanks out its main processor and disarms the beast. Now would be the time for a cynical one-liner. Oh, but look!
Throughout the movie, Jolie does amazing feats of action-heroics, and she has her game face on while accomplishing them. But afterward, she usually breaks into her trademark wildcat grin, as if to say, "Holy goddamn. Look what I just did. Isn't that cool?!" It's like she's ... having fun!
I get a real sense of Lara's (and Jolie's) enjoyment of her physical prowess watching this clip, where she bungee-bounces in her jammies in the great hall of her manor house. I think it combines the grace and the daredevil aspects of the character beautifully.
Of course, life isn't all fun and games for Lara. She's still mourning the loss of her father, long disappeared and presumed dead.
Plus, she has to shower sometimes, which means lots of hair-flips with those extensions, and you know they've got to weigh a ton when they're wet.
Then there are the fanboys who feverishly scan the video in slo-mo for a shot of side-boob instead of just renting Gia like everybody else.
There. Side-boob. You happy now?
Anyway. I can't decide how to take the utter lameness of the movie's villain. On the one hand, Lara's biggest enemy seems to be her own sorrow and regret. On the other hand, damn, couldn't we get somebody a little bit scary for Lara to face off against?
I could kick this guy's ass, for crap's sake.
Check that. My cats could kick this guy's ass. (And they'd probably bat him around a bit first.)
At least Lara is given something of a worthy love interest, although they barely touch and there's some reference to a past there and... damn, can't a butt-whompin' woman get a little action from Daniel Craig?
Apparently not. In a nice bit of turnaround, though, Craig gets his own shower scene, and in a tense discussion over where his character's loyalties lie, he's the one without a towel.
What? Oh, come on! You've had your side-boob shot!
Clearly, Lara is supposed to be made more flawed (hence believable, hence real) by the difficulties with men in her life, be they absent, distant, missing-presumed-dead, or...
... just kinda doofy. (Noah Taylor does the best he can with the sidekick role, but he's given so little to work with.) And, of course, there are no other female characters in the movie, with a couple of exceptions:
"Stay right here and I'll go find some adoption paperwork!"
"You wouldn't happen to be an orphan by any chance, would you?" (Last adoption joke, I promise.)
"You know, I don't think we've got a Siberian member of the family yet..." (I lied!)
Anyway, after the bad guy has been foiled, dead-dad closure has been attained, the deadly explosion has been outrun, Lara returns home, and her training for the next mission begins. The movie closes with this shot...
...but I think it's missing the point. I'd prefer to think of the film ending as Lara dogsleds (without the sled) through a cave after the deadly explosion, laughing like crazy and loving the hell out of her life.
That's why I watch Tomb Raider.