Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Lara Croft lives in a mansion that has 83 bedrooms. (That is an exact number, by the way.) Her payroll includes standard rich people stuff like a butler, but it also makes room for a full time tech guy who works on her robots. (Also: her budget includes room for a bunch of robots.) Her bathroom is the size of your average public park gazebo. (I know this because there's an unnecessary bathing scene; at first I thought she was in a jacuzzi until I saw that her breasts were covered up by soapy bubbles, at which point I had to switch my guess to "jacuzzi sized bathtub.") So yes, Lara Craft is very rich.

However, she also has a day job: she spends most of her time traveling the world, breaking into ruins, reading ancient Sumerian hieroglyphs and then using her newfound knowledge to defeat the Illuminati. (Yes, despite her background of privilege, she's actively anti-Illuminati. I think that's supposed to make her seem like a good person because it's assumed that the audience will automatically root against the hidden puppetmasters - but if you ask me she's shooting herself in the foot. I bet the Illuminati throw kick-ass parties and if she's only refusing to go out of stubbornness then she's being an idiot.)

In other words, Lara Croft is basically Kim Kardashian's evil twin: she's a gorgeous debutante that rebelled against doing rich kid stuff like creating a line of designer handbags and decided to try to out-macho the toughest dudes in the world. But here's the problem: everyone understands how Kim Kardashian turned into a shallow narcissist - but how in the hell does a Lara Croft come to be?

There is a lot about Tomb Raider that is undeniably goofy. The plot concerns a quest for a magic rune that might allow it's possessor to travel through time, which is not the sort of premise you see in a lot of cinema verite films. Many of the stunts Croft pulls aren't even trying to look plausible. (Nobody bungee jumps in their own foyer, no matter how big their foyer is.) Furthermore, as many video game critics are fond of pointing out, Croft isn't an ideal ass-kicker, given that she always wears short shorts and never wears any sort of body armor.

But none of that really bothers me; it's all standard issue action movie stuff. Sometimes the ridiculous touches are even pretty enjoyable - many of the action scenes have a nice tongue in cheek tone that I enjoyed. However, the idea that Lara Croft would have been born with a silver spoon in her mouth and then grew up to be a solo bad ass - well, that kind of chafed me.

My problem is not so much the set up as it is the execution. After all, Batman is a similarly ridiculous character, but he's a little bit easier to buy into because a) he's fighting people that are crazier than he is, so he looks normal by comparison, and b) he's still considered fairly crazy in his own comics, because the non-hero people in his life often ask him if he really has to put on a cape to enact his agenda. Neither of those two justifications are on display in Tomb Raider. Croft is definitely crazier than the Illuminati guys she's fighting - they show up to every fight with a well trained militia at their heels and well defined goals, while she shows up alone and hopes to wing it. Even worse, the movie is so assured that all of it's in-your-face setpieces are cool that it doesn't ever stop and have a character seriously inform her "you know, you're crazy for doing this all by yourself." It's just a given that Croft is a bad-ass for getting all of this done through her own pluck and toughness - but honestly, if she's only interested in looking like a bad-ass, maybe she should have gone into snowboarding instead of archaeology?

There's another big difference between Lara Croft and Bruce Wayne: she would have been raised as part of Generation X, while he was part of the Greatest Generation. And yes, I know that Batman's birth regularly gets retconned so that he's always in his thirties, but his origin has always retained a view of wealth that is (quite frankly) old fashioned now, and we unconsciously accept it because we're dimly aware that he's a character from a different era, one where the rich might still have believed in noblesse oblige and giving back to the public instead of Greed is Good. In contrast, Croft is very much a modern character - she lives her life like it was a nonstop Mountain Dew commercial - so her old fashioned ideas about hopping around the globe in search of treasure seem a little strange. Are we really supposed to believe this adrenaline junkie sat still in school long enough to memorize the written language of ancient Sumeria?

I'm not suggesting that she should act like a rich person of her generation and film a reality TV show instead of going on adventures - that would make for a much worse movie. But why doesn't she have a team of people she employs that go with her? Why does she never delegate any of the danger or the risk to anyone else, and why did she spend all the time it would take to learn the unpleasant nitty-gritty of archaeology herself when all she cared about was the fun part of raiding tombs? That's what rich people do - they use their money to hire people to do their dirty work for them, and they limit their involvement to the parts that they enjoy.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider focuses on her to such an exclusive degree that it doesn't make sense - it posits her as the only person who is fighting a gigantic global conspiracy, but if she believes that the Illuminati pose a legitimate threat then her decision to take them on single handedly is foolish and egotistical, especially since she could easily hire some henchmen of her own. This film isn't smart enough to correctly update the antiquated template it's based on, nor is it smart enough to create a more modern template out of whole cloth - it just takes an established adventure format and drops EXTREME!!! touches on top and hopes that the everyone will be so distracted by all the stunts that they won't notice the poorly welded seams.

However, I have to admit: I was often distracted enough by all the stunts that I stopped rolling my eyes at the film's many unbelievable aspects. Sure, this movie doesn't make much sense, and it feels very dated, and it's half assed in all the ways that you would expect a movie based on a video game to be half-assed, but sometimes half an ass is enough of an ass to get the job done. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider's fight scenes are kinetic and mostly well staged - they lean into their goofiness instead of denying how silly they look, which is a smart decision. Since action scenes are ultimately the only scenes that matter in a movie like this, I have to give this movie a pass. A grudging, class conscious pass - but a pass nonetheless.

Although I want to go on the record right now: if anyone ever makes Kim Kardashian: Tomb Raider you can go ahead and count me out.

Winner: Me

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider on IMDB