Buxom adventurer Lara Croft was an immediate hit when she first appeared in the 1996 video game Tomb Raider. That title and its four sequels have sold more than 21 million copies, inspiring action figures, T-shirts, candy bars and a monthly comic book. This cyber-siren is also the focus of more than 1,000 Internet fan sites. A blockbuster film was inevitable.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider follows orphaned heiress Croft on a quest to find pieces of an ancient triangle before its supernatural powers fall into the wrong hands. Flurries of slickly choreographed violence rule. Jolie smolders in the lead role, filling out form-fitting tanks and tees (there’s some breast nudity) while plundering tombs and offing bad guys. At its core, Tomb Raider is an Indiana Jones-style action franchise in the making. But it’s more about Croft than craft.
Director Simon West claims, “Lara is strong and extremely attractive, appealing to men and boys, but she is also an icon to women and girls. She is a perfect role model, totally inspirational.” She may be able to bungee to and fro, dodging tethered assassins, but she’s no inspiration. That takes a real woman—a Proverbs 31 adventurer. Until Lara Croft explores feeding a big family on a small budget, pulls an all-nighter with a sick child or battles Similac stains in a jammy sleeper, she will forever be outclassed by the world’s true heroines.
In the meantime, young moviegoers get a preening totem of 21st century femininity. Attitude. Independence. Raw firepower. “Virtue” lies in the ability to turn heads, then bust them. That skewed ideal—part bimbo, part Rambo—leaves Tomb Raider in ruins.