Look at Those . . . Ow!
Patient: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Profile: Alleged action-adventure about acrobatic superhero who rips off antiquities but can't even rip off other movies. Stupid, uninteresting characters set in a confusing and illogical plot. Think Raiders of the Lost Ark gets a lobotomy and wanders aimlessly around Batman.
Symptoms: They make no pretense about what or who they're going for in this one. In the first five minutes, Lara Croft (in a breast-jutting tank top) battles a robot and then takes a shower. Action, sex. Problem is there's no discernable plot in which either can occur. The story has something to do with time and planets and monkeys—I don't know. I do know that without an understandable plot, the action is disembodied, just kind of happening whenever the requisite uniformed bad guys who can't shoot straight show up. There is no real villain to engage or scare us, just this guy who looks like what would happen if Steven Seagal and the dad from Malcolm in the Middlehad a baby and dressed it like Richard Chamberlain. As for sex, yes, Croft (played by Angelina Jolie) is sexy in a protruding, satellite-image-of-Asia-Minor kind of way (I wouldn't be surprised to find out the working title of this was Lara Croft: You're Going to Put Someone's Eye Out With Those), but the only sexual tension is between her and her dead dad. Ewww! In the end, the movie's climax has such a weak payoff that it reminded the good doctor of his dating days, when he was regularly forced to self-medicate himself about the groinals.
Diagnosis: Not only insults the intelligence of its target audience of 15-year-old males, but their boners as well.
Prescription: A real simple plot. The bad guys want something; the good guys don't want them to have it. Nothing drives a plot like that better than a really great villain. In the end, your action hero is only as good as the villain you set her against. In fact, the villain should be more interesting than the hero. We should be drawn and fascinated by them, believe them worthy of our—and the hero's—attention. Great stories feature great bad guys: Darth Vader, the Nazis, Eddie Haskell. Give us a great villain—funny, shaded, redeemable though choosing not to be—set in a clear plot. Give us a bad guy who is attractive to us and the hero. Perhaps he tempts her. Perhaps they have some history. Perhaps they did it once, and she put his eye out, and that's why he became bad . . . I'm just riffing here.
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