In the early '00s, films based on video games were considered profitable franchises. Films like Resident Evil starring Milla Jovovich in 2002, and Doom starring The Rock in 2005 were meant to capitalize on the fervor fans had for the action game properties. One of the biggest and most anticipated franchises inspired by this genre of film was Lara Croft Tomb Raider in 2001, followed by Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life in 2003, both starring then Hollywood renegade Angelina Jolie. To say these movies were ambitious in their filmmaking is an understatement.
They had huge budgets, which allowed them to have huge practical sets and beautiful international locations. Most importantly of all they had a huge star, who had just won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in Girl, Interrupted in 1999. Despite all the grand sets, the intricate special effects, and the presence of a big Hollywood name, the Tomb Raider movies may be the reason films based on video games never really took off. Convoluted plots, bad dialogue, and wooden acting, were just some of the worst things about them, but CBR has compiled an exhaustive laundry list. Hopefully, the new Tomb Raider reboot does justice to the legacy of Lara Croft!
20 DANIEL CRAIG’S HORRIBLE AMERICAN ACCENT
When Daniel Craig popped up in Lara Croft Tomb Raider, no one had really heard of him. It would be a full five years before Casino Royale and the rest of his Bond films, and three years before he starred in the critically acclaimed Layer Cake. Sure, he’d been acting since the mid-’90s, but his introduction to American audiences as as an American poseur named Alex West, Lara Croft’s incredibly buff but charismatically flaccid ex-lover.
For some reason, Brits that try an American accent (see also, Jonny Lee Miller in Hackers) always seem to go for a full nasal sound, which makes them all sound like whiny punks. Every line he utters sounds like a dying feral cat being slowly crushed under the weight of his poor choice in dialect coaches.
19 LACK OF CHEMISTRY WITH GERARD BUTLER
Before he was King Leonidas in 300, Gerard Butler was only known to American audiences as Dracula in Dracula 2000 which came out just a few years before. But with fangs, long hair, and makeup, he didn’t look anything like how he did when he popped up as Lara Croft’s sometimes partner, sometimes lover Terry Sheridan in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life.
The mercenary/treasure hunter for hire is rotting in an arctic prison when Lara bails him out of jail, the catch being of course, that he has to use his talents to help her find the Cradle of Life.
Despite lots of eye-flirting between the two of them, there’s no palpable chemistry. Even when he manages to steal a kiss from her when she’s wrapped in a towel, there’s no sense of lust at all. Will they end up together? No one cares.
18 NOT CASTING A BRIT TO PLAY LARA CROFT
Lara Croft is one of the most recognizable video game characters in the world. Beyond that, she’s one of the most iconic women of any fictional franchise. There are lots of quintessentially British things about her, from the fact that she lives in a giant Downton Abbey manor, to the fact that she owns several Aston Martins. Her personality is reserved, and a bit posh, which befits a woman with a title. Lady Lara Croft is a class act, and behaves the way she does because of her upbringing and her birthplace.
It’s the goal of most actresses to stretch their acting skills and take on roles unfamiliar to them, but an American didn’t need to get the part. There were plenty of great British actresses that understood the cultural minutiae that would have breathed life into Lara Croft, and been given a great breakout role.
17 ANGELINA JOLIE’S CONSTANT MUGGING FOR THE CAMERA
When you play the Tomb Raider games, they are almost always done with the gamer facing Lara’s rear, i.e., you stare at her butt while she runs, vaults, climbs, shoots, and solves puzzles. Cinematic cut-aways and your ability to rotate your viewpoint give you glimpses of Lara’s face.
So how do you portray a character whose famously perceived with their back to you? By constantly mugging for the camera every chance you get.
Sure, there are plenty of shots of Lara’s backside in both Lara Croft Tomb Raider and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, but for the most part there’s no shortage of Angelina Jolie contorting her face into simpering smirks, pouts, or looks of self-satisfaction at the expense of channeling real emotion.
16 THE LACK OF MOTIVATION OF THE ILLUMINATI
So the Big Bad in the first Tomb Raider film is The Illuminati, a secret society that has been behind “every major world event” since time began. They want to get their hands on both halves of the Sacred Triangle so that they can...continue to control life as we know it on Earth? The Illuminati is mostly a bunch of old white guys who seem like they’ve just been playing a several thousand year-old game of musical chairs with the seats on the Illuminati High Council. Their motivation for anything in the movie is simply wanting “the power to control time”.
Here’s the thing; if Lara gets to the Sacred Triangle first ahead of the Illuminati, won’t they just continue to move us all around like chess pieces from the shadows? She doesn’t end up “exposing” them to the world, so the stakes don’t really seem that high.
15 LARA’S “AMAZING” HEARING
While there’s a lot that happens in Lara Croft Tomb Raider that doesn’t make sense, there is perhaps nothing as ridiculous as Lara waking abruptly from a sound sleep to the sound of a clock ticking. This ticking doesn’t come from a clock by her bed stand, but from a clock embedded in the wall of her home. It doesn’t seem to wake up her butler, who sleeps on the premises (unlike her hacker/gadget expert Bryce).
No, only Lara can hear the clock, which prompts her to race down stairs, tear open the wall, and expose it.
The clock itself only started ticking to signal the alignment of the planets, a time when time itself will be able to be controlled by means of a Sacred Triangle whose halves have been separated precisely to prevent this. The All-Seeing Eye imbedded in the clock is the key to finding the halves.
14 THE PLOTS MAKE NO SENSE
In both Tomb Raider movies, there’s a lot going on. In Lara Croft Tomb Raider, she needs to find the Sacred Triangle artifact before the Illuminati, but first she must locate the All-Seeing Eye hidden in a clock in her manor, which needs to be used at the exact moment of planetary alignment that only happens every 5,000 years, in the ruins of an ancient city that rose from a meteor crater, as long as she isn’t killed by a giant stone monkeys first.
In Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, she’s racing to find Pandora’s Box, which she can only find by translating the sounds emitted from a glowing orb she found in Alexander’s underwater temple, which tells her the location of the Cradle of Life, where she has to lob the orb into a giant ant hill before an evil madman can beat her to it.
13 ANGELINA STRUGGLING TO HOLD TWO DESERT EAGLES
Angelina Jolie has always been known for being a svelte woman, to the point where the media sometimes worries about her. Magazines in grocery store checkout stands made the general public well aware of how much training she had to do to make a believable Lara Croft. First and foremost, she had to gain at least 15 pounds of muscle, adhere to a strict protein rich diet, and train for several hours every day.
Still, despite all her valiant efforts, her arms look spindly trying to keep control of Lara’s famous desert eagles.
Granted, even if the prop guns weren’t as heavy as the hero guns for close up shots, desert eagles are heavy guns and have a reasonable amount of kickback, which she never managed to look like she could handle.
12 DEFYING GRAVITY
Two of the biggest things Lara Croft was known for in the original games are about a foot beneath her chin and known to defy gravity. In the game, they tended not to move no matter how many crazy summersaults, backflips, sprinting, rope swinging, or death-defying swan dives she was doing. This was of course because they were nothing but rendered polygons, and the game designers weren’t much interested in how boobs that big actually behaved in reality.
In the film, it’s pretty much the same drill. From the opening scene where Angelina Jolie battles a giant robot, to her sprinting through the temples of Angor Watt, her chest doesn’t budge. So, she’s either got the world’s most competent sports bra, or once again, the film makers weren’t interested in reality (which is odd, because jiggling equates to eye candy, which is what Lara is often reduced to).
11 LARA WEARING INAPPROPRIATE GEAR IN SUB ZERO TEMPS
In the Tomb Raider games, Lara had all sorts of outfits for all sorts of climates and environments. If she was in the jungle, she wore either some “jungle camouflage” or her OG ensemble of tan booty shorts and a turquoise tank top. If she was committing espionage, it was a black catsuit. If it was a tropical environment she wore...well something even more micro than her OG ensemble. The point being that she paid attention to where she was traveling to and packed according to her destination.
Movie Lara apparently didn’t get the memo that the arctic tundra requires gear designed for sub zero temperatures.
Everyone else (including the crusty old Illuminati guys trying to beat her to the lost artifact) is dressed for the weather, while she’s on a dog sled in a long designer trenchcoat where only the hood is lined with fur.
10 THE VILLAINS ARE TWO DIMENSIONAL
In both of the Tomb Raider films, the villains are mustache-twirling embodiments of evil. In the first film, there’s Manfred Powell (aka Sir Jorah from Games of Thrones), who is a member of the sinister and secretive Illuminati, a shadowy organization that’s after the halves of the Sacred Triangle which, when united, will grant them the ability to “control time”. He wants to sit on the head of the High Council and wield that power “as a God”. How original!
In the second film, there’s Dr. Jonathan Reiss, who is a specialist in a field that’s never specified, and delights in demonstrating to world leaders the effects his pocket pills of concentrated ebola have on people that disagree with him. He wants to open Pandora’s Box, unleash hell on Earth, and thinks he’ll still be alive to repopulate it with the “best and brightest”.
9 LARA HAVING NO DISCERNABLE PERSONALITY
The Lara Croft of the video games isn’t exactly bursting with relatable traits, considering she’s independently wealthy, gets to raid tombs with little legal consequence, and has access to the best tech/gear/personnel money can buy. However, every once in a while she gets to display a sense of humor, most notably when interacting with other characters.
Angelina Jolie plays Lara as a humorless fish, with no discernable personality, except that she’s decidedly not taking anyone’s crap.
She doesn’t have time for feelings, or making friends, or having lovers, or anything other than succeeding in her mission. It’s a shame, because Angelina Jolie is quite charismatic when she wants to be, as can be seen in her other films prior to starring in the Tomb Raider franchise.
8 THE SOUNDS OF LARA CROFT
If you’ve ever played a Tomb Raider game, you know that Lara makes some pretty suggestive sounds. With every bit of bodily exertion she grunts, groans, and sighs like she’s doing the nasty. While it might be fun for the player, it’s super distracting in the movie. After battling a giant robot in the opening sequence of Lara Croft Tomb Raider, she breathes a satisfied sigh like she could really use a cigarette and a cuddle.
Whether she’s in the temple in Cambodia looking for the first half of the Sacred Triangle, or she’s clambering around the orarium in the arctic caves where the second half of the Sacred Triangle is located, it’s nothing but grunts, groans, and suggestive facial expressions. After a while, too much is too much.
7 WHEN LARA STOPS A KNIFE IN MID AIR
Near the end of Lara Croft Tomb Raider, after Lara has traversed an arctic tundra in barely more than a cotton duster, she faces down the members of the Illuminati as they gather in a series of ice caves to unite the two halves of the Sacred Triangle artifact. She is accompanied by her former lover Alex West (Daniel Craig) who gets a knife hurled at him by Manfred Powell, the film’s main villain.
Since the Sacred Triangle has the ability to control time, when it’s in Lara’s possession she uses it to freeze time just as Powell throws the knife.
So we have a knife hanging in the air, but still going at an immense velocity forward. It’s trying to slice through time itself. Lara walks towards it, grabs it, and with all the teeth-clenching strength she can muster rotates it towards Powell, blood pouring from her hands.
6 WEAK SUPPORTING CAST
While the writers of the two Tomb Raider films were busy trying to give Lara a personality, they completely neglected the supporting cast. Now, many times the lead/hero/heroine of the story isn’t exactly the most complex individual, which leaves the supporting cast of typically character actors their chance to shine. In the first film, her geeky gadget creator Bryce is reduced to comic relief, along with her butler Hillary, who could have been a deft Alfred-esque ally for her. Daniel Craig mostly wanders around saying things in a terrible Boston accent and we have no idea what he is or does (except “tomb raiding”).
In the second film, any charm Gerard Butler has is largely wasted in a one-note “rogue” role, and international stars like Til Schweiger (King Arthur) and Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of the Galaxy) add intensity to the screen but are not in it nearly enough.
5 LARA CROFT'S SUPERHUMAN STRENGTH
In Lara Croft Tomb Raider, after a strange dream with her archaeologist father, Lara Croft gets instructed to go to Cambodia, where there is a temple covered in the jasmine flower she liked as a child. Once inside, a bunch of giant stone monkey warriors will come alive and try to attack her as she looks for the Sacred Triangle.
She fights them like their hits do no damage, and even wields one of their giant stone swords like it weighs nothing.
Earlier, when a bunch of bad guy commandos had raided her manor, she was able to punch one of them in the face (he was wearing a helmet and night vision goggles) without so much as breaking open a knuckle. All 110 pounds of her beat on 15 highly trained men in full gear, and she threw them around like sacks of potatoes.
4 INANE DIALOGUE
“Are you ready to save the universe?” Lara’s gearhead sidekick asks. “Absolutely.” she stoically replies. This is the sort of popcorn dialogue that peppers both of the Tomb Raider films, intended for no plot-worthy purpose other than to be cheeky. Guardians of the Galaxy level of banter this is not. The villains get simpering interjections like “My ignorance amuses me.”, and her lovers get to say such gems like “Do we always have to fight like this?” when literally no conflict has occurred.
Add in lots of heavy mythological exposition about powerful relics bestowing their possessors with god-like influence over the laws of nature, physics, and humankind and you end up wishing Lawrence Kasdan of Raiders of the Lost Ark (and The Empire Strikes Back) could have been wooed into penning the script.
3 SLEDDING WITHOUT A SLED
As the giant ice caves begin to crumble around them, all parties involved in the quest for the Sacred Triangle are forced to flee. Villains and heroes alike need to get the hell out because a heretofore structurally sound cave is now collapsing and flooding. While that’s going on, Lara has come to find that her dog sled is sled-less, but the hounds are ready and willing.
So she grabs the reins, and proceeds to let them drag her through the ice labyrinth of tunnels.
Keep in mind that she has made no makeshift sled, has no skis, and is just being dragged by her boots. Shockingly, she isn’t falling over, but able to balance perfectly upright as the dogs race to get her clear of the caves’ collapse.
2 THE SHARK SCENE
After an elaborate sequence spelunking in Alexander the Great’s underwater cave in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, Lara emerges from the murky depths to find a shark circling at the mouth of the cave. Her diving tank is out of oxygen and she’s still way below the ocean surface, so she concludes her best bet is to cut herself and wait for the shark to smell her blood. When this happens, she punches it square in the snout and then after it’s stunned, rides it to the surface.
Contrary to popular belief, punching a shark in the nose isn’t your best defense when face to face with one of these underwater predators. Expert opinions entail going for the eyes or gills because nose punching just pisses them off, so maybe don't do it.
1 A TOP SECRET LAB IN A RETAIL MALL
After a harrowing escape from the clutches of a Chinese mountain gang, Lara Croft and Terry Sheridan track Dr. Jonathan Reiss and his gang of henchmen to Hong Kong, and into a fancy retail mall. The dulcet tones of Sinead O’Connor waft over the drifting patrons as they shop, and there is an odd feeling of calm.
Amidst the Sanrio stores and Boba Tea shops, Reiss has hidden his top secret Research and Development Lab where he has a few pretty nasty biological weapons he’s concocting.
Is this move really a case of hiding in plain sight? Is the presence of so many random citizens really a good call for testing highly concentrated strains of ebola? When the lab gets shot up in the firefight between Lara and his henchmen, at least there were no innocent casualties, though it may be how the T-Virus gets released in Resident Evil 6.