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Script Review: TOMB RAIDER
Written by: Mike Werb and Michael Colleary (FACE/OFF), with previous revisions by Patrick Massett and John Zinman.
Reviewed by Darwin Mayflower



NOTE: The screenplays we review are often in development and may experience many rewrites, some could end up being completely different than what is reviewed here. It is our hope that our reviews generate more interest in the film. Thank you.

Ive read some odd screenplays lately: scripts based on famous bestsellers (THE BOURNE IDENTITY), scripts parading quack-happy, childish religious beliefs (STEINBECKS POINT OF VIEW), and a script based on a cartoon (SCOOBY-DOO). So isnt it fitting Id now read a script based on a video game?

The video game were talking about is TOMB RAIDER. Known to boys young and old as the globe-trotting adventures of the ravishing beauty Lara Croft.

From my past reviews you might think Id have little regard for this project (and Id have a right: anyone see scripter Steven E. de Souzas last video-game movie STREET FIGHTER?). But tis not so, friends. I think TOMB RAIDER sounds like a fabulous escape-from-the-heat summer potboiler. No one can deny the youthful high of the INDY JONES films. And this is Indys shenanigans -- with cleavage, tiny khaki shorts and twin .45s blazing John Woo-style! Its INDY with sex appeal. And whats wrong with that?

As you probably already know, TOMB RAIDER was directed by Simon West (CON AIR, THE GENERALS DAUGHTER) and stars Angelina Jolie (Oscar winner for GIRL, INTERRUPTED). I actually fell in love with Jolie a long time ago. Before she was a celebrity more famous for her wild life (knives, tattoos and Billy Bob) than her work. It wasnt so much her movies, but more so her: her personality, easy charm, intelligence and smoldering sexuality. Her best interviews, Id venture, appeared on the TOM SYNDER SHOW. This was all pre-Billy and pre-Oscar. So it was more along the lines of: "And tonight...Jon Voights daughter -- whos also an actress." This was Jolie before the spectacle. TOMB RAIDER, bizarrely enough, seems to me the most likely film on her slate that will get Jolie back into fighting shape. Back to the work she showed in the bland-but-for-her HBO movie GIA. Not because RAIDER will be great art. But because Jolie can go crazy. Kick ass. Kill someone. Jump around and flex her muscles. I was happy when I heard Jolie say she wanted to date Croft; she said the same thing about Gia. Its a good sign.

TOMB RAIDER went into production about a year too early. Had Jolie passed on it and West waited a bit, it most surely would have been sent to the stunning, raven-haired human-feline hybrid from DARK ANGEL, Jessica Alba. Whose swollen lips, lithe form and intense stare (which could melt a tundra) have made a prominent, name-above-the-title appearance in every mans dreams. Alba is only nineteen, with the body of a woman, the acting chops of a Streep, and has such a scary fusion of vulnerability and toughness I can almost see her becoming the next Audrey Hepburn (in the MATRIX-obsessed new millennium).

Alba would have probably turned the role down. But I have to say this draft, which it took five writers to pen, seems almost written for her.

Gather round, children, because here is the story.

The script opens in Macedonia. 632 B.C. Alexander the Great is mad with power: he has an ancient, supernatural breastplate, the Shield of Achilles, that makes him invulnerable. Alexander has begun to kill his own people, to feed the demon-dog Cerebrus, and two of his men, Priam and Sophius, decide enough is enough and plot to take him down. They eventually do, with the help of one of Alexanders consorts, and break the breastplate into three pieces and bury them at the furthest reaches of the earth.

In the present day, Lara Croft, our hero, is a freelance writer who also happens to, Robin Hood-esque, return stolen artifacts to their rightful owners.

The Shield of Achilles is her latest project: her frail Uncle Charles Powell hooks her up with Dr. Alexis Toulin, who works for the Greek Ministry of Antiquities. Alexanders tomb has been found and Alexis fears that the three sections of breastplate, one of which Lara unknowingly found, might end up in the wrong hands (anyone who possesses it is invulnerable, remember). Needless to say, the always-game Lara takes off with the bookish, non-adventurous doctor. Their first stop is Morocco, where they weasel their way into a party thats being held over the cave where the second piece of breastplate is.

Ill leave the details there. If I dont stop the left side of my head is going to freeze. Alexis winds up being a criminal. Her Uncle is in on it, too (hes dying and wants the breastplate so he can go on living). Lara gets together with the good-guy-she-thought-to-be-bad Rooker. And together -- alone, since hes been kicked out of his military position for pursuing the breastplate -- they track down the Shield of Achilles and try to stop Alexis and his dangerous wife.

I read Steven de Souzas draft of TOMB RAIDER before I started working for It appears that little remains from his script. And thank God. I got to page thirty and fell asleep. I mean I literally fell asleep. The once mighty action writer -- DIE HARD, 48 HRS. -- has lost it. This draft was penned by Mike Werb and Michael Colleary (FACE/OFF). With previous revisions by Patrick Massett and John Zinman.

The Lara Croft in this script is a wonderful contradiction: shes beautiful but alone; she can speak six languages and knows her mythology like an average person knows his days of the week, but confuses "here" and "hear"; shes ready to take on any challenge, but wont accept a man in her life.

Laras parents died in a plane crash. Their bodies were never discovered and their empty mausoleum is like a self-torturing device to remind Lara her life with her parents never had a conclusion. Her butler dramatically tells her she helps find things for people because shes really looking for her parents.

Okay. So Shakespeares not jealous. But give it to the writers for at least appearing to create some sort of personality. What happens, though, as with most action films, is that its all setup. Laras problems arent dealt with. And she just becomes another piece in the plot-puzzle. The lost-parents rap is also a little stupid: sure, it sucks to never find your parents bodies, but she has accepted they are dead and grieving over finding the mangled corpses of your loved ones isnt the best activity for a buxom heroine. Lara later runs into -- wow! totally by accident! -- those dead parents. And its once again not a stroke of paint in Laras personality, but another plot point.

Youre not asking much with a TOMB RAIDER movie. You want to sit down and see Angelina kill bad guys, just make it under a gate as its closing, and spout some cool one-liners. That the authors couldnt give us at least that much is both disappointing and baffling. Werb and Collearly have been rewriting every action script in Hollywood (including a pure-fun read called BLADES). Why their draft is so dry and stagnant is a mystery. Theres just not much going on. And when it does -- its Lara in some hackneyed action scene weve watched twenty years ago and were just as bored then as we are now.

Early in the script it looks like the authors are going to give the guys what they want (and make no mistake: this is a guys movie) -- sex. Lara in different skimpy outfits. Lara working out with an energy that is sexual. Lara almost kissing Alexis.

But then -- ho-hum -- its off to the salt mines. Or, Im sorry, the creepy, creepy caves. At the opening of the script Lara is in an ancient-ruins-themed casino. Brilliant! Take Lara out of the cliche and make us forget about the cramped POV of the game she was created in. The writers dont keep it up, and were instead stuck in INDY JONES territory: looking for long-lost treasures while dodging booby-trap spikes. Besides one scene of Bondian slow-torture, where Lara is tied to a post and centipedes crawl up her legs (only to be crushed by Laras cleavage), the writers never have the fun this material needs to survive. In my opinion, if youre making a movie, based on a video game, that is a rip-off of INDY JONES (only with breasts), you might as well go all-out and have a good time.

The plot is serviceable (sort of like INDY meets HUDSON HAWK) and could have been a fine time-filler as Lara did her thing. As it is, though, the writers just dont give us enough -- inventive action scenes or a heroine who we get to know -- and by the end the proceedings really start to rot. I wanted desperately to enjoy this script, but it succumbs too readily to the worst of the action-movie genre.

What will the coming TOMB RAIDER movie bring? Hard to say, having read this script. I dont put much faith in West: CON AIR was a horror-show both in its script and direction. And he ruined a perfectly good mystery script from William Goldman with THE GENERALS DAUGHTER.

Oh, but come on! Close your eyes and think: Jolie, twin .45s in her hands, does a back flip and comes down (hard, breasts twitching in their encasements) behind the bad guy and -- blam, blam, blam. She pivots -- camera cuts -- camera zooms -- bad guy II is dead. Jolie scales a cave wall. Grabs the treasure. It sets off an alarm. The booby-traps spring. While anonymous bad guys are decapitated and maimed, Jolie, looking great in her skin-tight clothes, races for the exit -- dodging spears and arrows and boulders -- and just makes it out under a rapidly-closing door. Once outside the door, bad-guy screams dying, Jolie smiles wide -- her toothy grin magnificent -- and delivers a witty line of dialogue.

That has to be worth something. Like, say, a summers afternoon.

Its just too bad the writers couldnt live up to the fantasies of all us little boys.

-- Darwin Mayflower.

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