It took a long time for me to grasp the fact that the CPU of the computer wasn't responsible for doing all those millions of calculations ... that there was a whole second computer embedded on a graphics card, chugging along, turning flat texture data and big arrays of points into a smooth 3D landscape pixel by pixel on my screen. The enormity of the cost in processing power just boggled my mind.
Remembering that feeling, I can understand why Tomb Raider was such a popular series of games. It occupied and even personified the 3D action game genre the same way "Myst" personified the big "multimedia CDROM" genre that had imploded just a few years before. Everybody remembers Myst, and everybody remembers Tomb Raider. Even if they haven't played it.
Even so, I heartily admit that the Tomb Raider franchise was pretty silly. (For a good grasp of just how silly it was, try googling into the archives of Tomb Raider 'fan art' that still clutter the dusty corners of the internet.) Definitely silly. But you had to give 'em credit for striking the right chord at the right time.
Years passed. And then American entertainment just had to do what it does best: Take the stupidest elements of something, and add a whole new layer of stupid on top of them, and then pour money on top of that, and set it on fire, and blow it up, and then put it in a movie theatre.
And Tomb Raider the Movie came out, and it was a vile pastiche of crap dialogue, stolen ideas, and outsourced chop-shop visual effects grafted poorly together. I don't know why I bothered to see it in the theatre. I know it wasn't worth it; I must have known that going in. I probably theatre-hopped and saw it along with something equally repellent like the last James Bond film. Thankfully I can't recall anything about it - not even one tiny image remains - except I remember that a Delerium track was used somewhere in the soundtrack. Bully for Bill and Rhys.
But that wasn't enough, oh no, Hollywood still had one additional layer of stupid to apply, like oily housepaint poured on top of a rotten doghouse, for that finishing touch. It's that little magic key, opening up the door to a whole new universe of punch-drunk crap: The digit. Tack a "2" onto the name and do it all over again. And this time, stupider.
And so, some executives preened over some fizzy cocktails, hired back that overblown celebrity who hasn't had a real role since "Girl Interrupted", wrote some fat checks to two dozen FX houses, and grimaced and strained, and a few years later, Tomb Raider 2 was excreted into my local box office with a loud, wet plop.
But this time I was smart, like the third little pig, and I ignored it. It graciously went away after just a few months. Besides, 2003 was a busy year for me.
Unfortunately my intelligence has since faltered! I got bored enough, and just a bit too curious for my own good, and felt like seeing Chris Barrie again, so I downloaded Tomb Raider 2 illegally off the Internets and pressed "play".
Here's my breakdown of the film:
04:00 - Oh crap, the heroine just showed up. I was really hoping we'd get through a good half of the movie at least before she appeared. Let the stupid begin.
05:40 - And let the horribly mangled history references begin. Tweed-coated archeology professors probably stood up and walked out of the theatre at this point, laughing or crying all the way.
07:35 - That's the first great white shark I've ever seen that SCREAMS like a friggin' BANSHEE as it swims past people. Hooray for sound designers! Use that unlabeled crap in your SFX archive willy-nilly! You poor interns gotta have fun somehow.
08:20 - Great. Emerging from the Mediterranean Sea, and the water steams like an indoor swimming pool. Because it's actually an indoor swimming pool. Am I supposed to be suspending my disbelief here? Because I have to make a conscious effort now to figure out what they want me to believe, amid all the crossed signals.
09:04 - Oh crap. I give up. It's an underwater temple. Yeah, because the frickin' Greeks built all their temples to be air-tight. And oh yeah, when the baddies shoot the columns, little chunky bits explode off of them, because everybody knows that the Greeks made columns out of CEMENT. No, they were carved out of solid marble you jackasses, but seriously, I give up, because WHO CARES? I am having serious trouble watching this movie.
15:21 - Argh, another device that flashes and beeps needlessley. Wouldn't that homing beacon drive you insane after just a few minutes, let alone three days? Actually, how about this, Lara: Drown. Just drown, and maybe the credits will roll, and we'll all get off easy 'cause the movie's only 15 minutes long after all.
16:30 - No such luck. But hey! It's Chris Barrie! Finally some reason to keep watching.
22:49 - Blah blah blah, Lara's at home shooting crap while riding a horse. Hey, a helecopter's landing! So she rides back to the mansion ... and passes close to the helecopter. She's pretty tall on that horse. I was hopeful for a split second, thinking: There's a chance! She could ride right by the helecopter and there's a chance that the whirling blade could just slice her head clean off! It would land in the grass with a thump, and her body would topple slowly off the horse and collide with the wall, and the camera would freeze right there, totally confounded ... and then ... the credits would roll! 22 minutes and the movie's over, who saw it coming! That would be a relief. But no.
29:02 - Boring exposition, crappity crap, ahh now we're in a big ol' prison compound up in the snow. It's the Gulag, essentially. Why would Britain be keeping a man here? Why would that man be "THE ONE MAN" who knows how to infiltrate a secretive gang in China? Ooops, I'm asking questions. Brain's working. Shut off, brain, you're not needed here.
34:00 - Okay so now they're in China. Yeah. Lara and this "ONE GUY" who's all mysterious and macho. Now they're dueling on motorbikes and talking about their "PAST" together as lovers. You know what I just realized? I don't like either of these people. They're the primary characters, and yet, I wish they would just die. Both of them. They're rude, snarky prats and their bond is about as meaningful and ill-advised as a one-night stand between housemates in a freshman dorm. Just die. Get lost and starve to death, and quit defacing the Great Wall of China by riding your frickin' motorbikes around on it.
40:00 - Oh man, the stupid is getting really thick now. It's hard to even see the screen. I'm having trouble breathing. Stupid tastes like ... hmmm ... it tastes like wet dog. Yes. Bite down on the scruff of a wet bulldog and chew for a while. Find a spot he's been worrying at, so you get the taste of dog slobber mingled in. That's the taste of Tomb Raider 2 after 40 minutes. I don't know how much more of this movie I can stand. I got it free, and illegally, and even with that little thrill that comes from sticking it to "the man", this film may be too stupid to tolerate.
44:44 - I don't think I'm gonna make it through. The gangsta bad guy spent 30 seconds explaining how priceless and amazing his recently unearthed room of terra-cotta warriors is. Now he's casually smashing them all apart in order to stab Lara with a wooden pike. And don't ask me how a wooden pike, leaning against a wall for at least two THOUSAND years, can smash a statue. Figuring that out might just cause my brain to seize up.
47:39 - Oh crap. They're supposed to be sliding down ropes and the ropes are CLEARLY moving with them. The ropes are supposed to be slipping through their hands, and yet, there are the ropes, big and fat and right in the middle of the frame, grasped tightly in their hands and NOT MOVING. Not moving at all. What were you stunt people thinking? The rope is right in my face. Do you think I am FUCKING BLIND? Am I a blind man watching your movie; is this a movie for blind people only? THERE IS THE ROPE! That's not artistic license. That is a brazen insult. That is a slap right across my face. You might as well intercut this scene with a placard that reads "WE HERE AT PARAMOUNT PICTURES THINK YOU ARE A FUCKING MORON" just to make your point absolutely clear ... My brain ... Hurr ...
50:56 - They're having more "romantic" dialogue. I may require medical attention at this point.
56:15 - Saved by a stupid action sequence in the nick of time. But the movie's only half over. And I just can't take it anymore. My tolerance for stupid has been tested, and found lacking. Maybe I'll finish this movie tomorrow.