Angelina Jolie is the perfect person to portray video-game super-heroine Lara Croft because she, like Lara, has basically been created out of equal parts teenage hormones and media hype. Sure, there's a good actress hiding in there, but for all the freaky rumors and bizarre truths, she might as well be nothing more than a sexy digital creation running around a giant tabloid video game. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, on the other hand, have real lives but have just chosen to deliver lifeless performances.
Oddball lifestyle aside, Jolie has been able to carry the Tomb Raider series to at least nominal success. Rarely do video game adaptations work, though you'd think it would be an easy transition. Resident Evil wasn't bad, but mostly you get results akin to Super Mario Brothers - yech! In the films she plays the aforementioned Lara Croft, a wealthy British archaeologist who lives for danger. Sound familiar? It should. With a nearly fifteen year gap since the last Indiana Jones outing, the field was ripe for a smart, sexy adventurer to dig up the perils of the past. Though there are obvious similarities in the two series, Raider employs modern settings, weapons, and sensibilities. Lara depends much more on easy action and violence and less on wit and historical accuracy.
The latest Tomb Raider eschews the usual "2" after the title and goes with a subtitle, a classy touch if I say so myself. The Cradle of Life refers to the place from where all life is supposed to have sprung, millions of years ago. Contained in this place, for reasons never stated, is an ancient box containing a plague so deadly it could wipe out most of the people on earth. Known in ancient times as Pandora's Box, it has recently come to the attention of an evil bio-weapons designer who plans to use it for his own nefarious purposes. (Sound familiar? It's basically a reheated Raiders of the Lost Ark) It is, of course, up to Lara and her colorful band of miscreants, including a recently released criminal fortune hunter, a computer genius, and her butler, to find the box first and save the day. Along the way we get to experience gadgets of every size and description, gun battles to rival The Matrix, and a mishmash of historical fiction and mysticism, obviously intended to retain the attention of those over the age of thirteen. I enjoyed this film, but it's slick exterior leaves me a little cold. Luckily, when the next Indy finally hits the screens in 2005, a whole new generation will be able to see for themselves what a true tomb raider should look like. Grade: B-
Tomb Raider isn't a bad film by any means, but it's not special either. I can say this: it's relatively harmless action/adventure whose violence is mostly cartoon and won't be taken to heart. Bad Boys II, on the other hand, is mindless trash whose violent, angry demeanor will, unfortunately, be taken to heart by an endless supply of inner city kids who look up to these two "icons." I don't denigrate a film for being violent. Look at Desperado or Pulp Fiction, two of my favorites. Violence has it's place and can be highly effective when used properly. Bad Boys, however, dishes it up in such heavy doses that the viewer becomes overwhelmed. Smith and Lawrence reprise their roles as Miami PD Narcotics officers in this sequel to the 1995 original. The plot centers around a drug dealer and his grisly methods of transporting his ill-gotten monies. There's also a Will Smith love interest sub-plot and a Martin Lawrence in therapy sub-plot, and something about a "big shipment" coming in, but it's basically nothing but an excuse to shoot people and blow things up. It disturbs me to think of how far we have come in terms of what we expect people to swallow in terms of "heroes," First we had your basic good guy superheros, Superman and Robin Hood, etc. These guys did good things because it was the right thing to do. Then came your anti-heroes; Humphrey Bogart, Mad Max, Batman. These guys are pissed off and do the right thing motivated not by love of their fellow man, but by a need for payback and a sense of fatalism. Ok, we're there, we'll buy that. But now, heroes are being offered up to the public to swallow simply by virtue of their name above the marquee, not because of any deed or character development. These "bad boys" kill, maim, and destroy with wild abandon, all to the glee of the action loving audience, free from any semblance of responsibility because, after all, they are the heroes. At one point, the two run over a whole hearse full of dead bodies, one after another. I was sickened, not so much by the graphic nature of what I was watching, by the laughter coming from all around me.
Aside from be offensive, Bad Boys II is poorly written and acted, with wooden dialogue and a plot leaps frenetically from inscrutable action pieces to irritating buddy banter. I have a feeling there will be a lot of people disagreeing with me on this film, but after the fresh, fun action fest that was the original, Bad Boys II is just bad. Grade: D+
Bad Boys II is rated R for extensive violence and language. Tomb Raider is rated PG-13 for cartoon violence and sensuality.
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