In the oh-so-elegantly titled Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Angelina Jolie, as the swashbuckling archaelogist heroine, spins and whirls and kicks, fires two guns at once, and takes on a handful of baroque animated beasties, yet the movie never summons the slightest pretense that there is anything at stake for the audience. We’re watching powder-blast gymnastic overkill in a vacuum. A few of the special effects are nifty, such as the giant crumbling statue of a six-armed goddess that comes to life in the herky-jerky menacing style of one of Ray Harryhausen’s fabled ’60s creatures. And Jolie certainly looks game for action. But where’s the lightness, the humor, the play? Tomb Raider doesn’t really exploit Jolie’s sexual flamboyance — in her thigh holsters and tank tops and braid, she’s less Xena than Gapwoman — and though the film is based on a popular videogame series, it fails to deliver the enticing mindless eye tickle of living inside a videogame, the way that the Brendan Fraser Mummy films, with their trivial yet tactile CGI effects, do. This is just cut-rate, generic daughter-of-Indy Jones hokum.
Lara Croft, with her plummy British accent, is an aristo-daredevil struggling to live up to the dreams of her late father, a noble adventurer played, in flashback, by Jolie’s own father, Jon Voight. Voight may be a great actor, but this is still a movie that exploits gossip-page overlap to generate its few stray crumbs of drama. The gifted Noah Taylor, as Lara’s Q-like tech-nerd assistant, is hauled on screen for a lot of setup and no follow-through, and there is so much fruitless mystical blather about magic clocks and aligning planets and the ”triangle of light” that I actually had the thought of going out to rent StarGate in order to clear my head.