The now titled Lara Croft: Tomb Raider had been in development at Paramount since 1998, and was eventually released on June 15th, 2001 to mostly mixed reviews. The New York Times called it “as much fun as watching someone else play a video game” while The Hollywood Reporter slyly noted that there was “more tension in Jolie’s t-shirt than in dramatic action.” Although, famed critic Roger Ebert scored the movie 3/4 saying, “Did I enjoy the movie? Yes. Is it up there with the Indiana Jones pictures? No, although its art direction and set design are.” The film opened to number one at the box office with $47.7 million, the biggest opening for a video game adaptation since Mortal Kombat in 1995 and the biggest opening for a movie with a female lead. It would be knocked off the top spot the following week by The Fast and the Furious and comedy sequel Dr. Dolittle 2, but Lara Croft: Tomb Raider would eventually gross $274 million worldwide.
De Souza: I thought it was a train-wreck, and so did the studio.
West: If you can find good stuff, you can find good stuff. And there’s no bigger critic than myself. So it doesn’t matter if people think it’s good or it’s great, I’ll always be finding faults with it. And if they think it’s bad, then they should have seen how hard it was to make.
Collery: Angelina Jolie is incredible, you can’t take your eyes off her whenever she’s on screen. But I thought the movie was bad, I thought it didn’t add up to anything. And it was what Simon West told us he was going to do. He told us that he doesn’t like surprises in movies and that kind of storytelling is not his type of thing. And if you watch the movie, there are no surprises
Charno: I liked my script better.
Friedman: I didn’t even understand the plot. It was totally baffling and confounding and it just felt like a load of sound and fury signifying nothing.
Collery: In my view, it became just dressing [Angelina Jolie] up in funny outfits and fairly generic action scenes. And I don’t get the bit with the robot. And I don’t think it was the film that the people that Mike and I met with wanted to make.
Friedman: I can’t argue that the film came out and did well at the box office, but in terms of it being the movie I wanted to make, I had no interest in putting my name on it because it was completely epithetical to what my version was. So it would be totally hypocritical of me to say, ‘hey put my name on that so I can make a bunch of money’.
West: I never really watch my films straight away. You go through so much with the film and editing it, so you end up seeing it 100 times before its even released. So I usually wait six or so years before I watch it. But I do remember seeing it a few years back and I actually felt proud of it. I think it’s a beautifully shot film, and I don’t think you’d expect that from a video game turned into a movie. They’re usually quite cartoony.
Collery: Lara Croft can be Indiana Jones and she can be James Bond. James Bond can’t be Indiana Jones and Indiana Jones can’t be James Bond. But Lara Croft can be both. And that’s what that franchise should have been.
My thanks to Brent Friedman, Sara B. Charno, Steven E. de Souza, Michael Collery and Simon West for taking the time to speak with me. Quotes taken from my book Lights, Camera, GAME OVER!: How Video Game Movies Get Made, which is available now for pre-order from Amazon UK and Amazon US.
Luke Owen is the former Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth, a presenter for WrestleTalk, and the author of Lights, Camera, GAME OVER!: How Video Game Movies Get Made. You can follow him on Twitter @ThisisLukeOwen.