Lara Croft: Tomb Raider appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. First released in the early days of Blu-ray, the image showed its age.
Sharpness was bland most of the time. Occasional scenes showed adequate definition, but the majority of the movie looked mediocre at best; there was a frequent lack of delineation on display here. I saw no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, but some light edge haloes showed up at times. The film came with apparent artifacts that gave it a “digital look”, and I also saw a few small specks.
Raider went with a fairly restrained palette, so the disc had few opportunities to shine in that regard. Even within those limitations, the hues tended to be lackluster, as they seemed more brown and dull than I’d expect. Blacks were reasonably deep, and shadows showed acceptable clarity, but neither excelled. This was one of the less attractive Blu-rays I’ve seen.
To my surprise, Raider lacks any lossless options but it does provide both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. I flipped between them and discerned no notable differences; they seemed essentially the same to me.
The soundfield offered a consistently lively and engaging experience. From the forward speakers, I heard solid stereo separation for the music, and effects presented a vibrant and active presence. Different elements were neatly localized, and they moved across channels and blended together neatly and cleanly.
The surrounds also contributed a terrific amount of information as they created an encompassing environment. The rear speakers featured solid reinforcement of music throughout the film, and it included a wide variety of effects as well. Virtually every action sequence came across with a fine level of excitement and activity from all around the spectrum. Gunfire, vehicles, and various baddies all popped up from the different speakers, and these allowed the mix to really kick to life nicely.
Audio quality also appeared solid. Although much of the speech needed to be looped, dialogue always came across as natural and distinct, and I heard no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. Music seemed robust and vivid, as the songs and the score demonstrated good fidelity and range. Effects were the stars of the show, however, as they presented excellent clarity and accuracy and also packed a good punch. Bass response seemed deep and rich, and highs were crisp and bright. Ultimately, the soundtrack of Tomb Raider offered a consistently involving and vibrant piece – it only lost points due to its lossy nature.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original 2001 DVD? Audio was virtually identical, the Blu-ray added a DTS mix in addition to the original Dolby Digital track, but the absence of lossless material meant the sound remained the same to these ears.
Visuals showed little upgrade over the DVD as well. At times, the image offered some signs of Blu-ray’s positives, but for the most part, it remained surprisingly soft and bland. I won’t say the Blu-ray didn’t improve on the DVD – but I won’t say it did, either. Any improvements were minor at best.
The Blu-ray duplicates the DVD’s extras, and we open with an audio commentary from director Simon West, who offers a running, screen-specific piece. Overall, this track provides some good moments but it tends to be average. West mostly focuses on the technical aspects of making the movie, and he neatly covers many of those elements. He talks about a lot of the sets and the various effects, and a few decent anecdotes pop up along the way.
Although West goes over some of the cuts he made to the film, he doesn’t tell us much about the creative side of the equation. I’d love to know what challenges this sort of film offers, such as dealing with the pressures of a prospective franchise, and also coping with the limitations forced by adapting a videogame to the big screen. Unfortunately, he doesn’t talk about those areas.
The track also suffers from a few sizable empty spaces, though these aren’t too frequent, and they mark a significant improvement over West’s prior commentary for The General’s Daughter; that piece came with extremely long gaps. This becomes a reasonably decent commentary, though it’ll probably be of interest mainly to the movie’s biggest fans.
Crafting Lara Croft is a six-minute and 49-second featurette about Angelina Jolie’s physical training for the film. It includes shots of that work plus movie snippets and interviews with Jolie, director Simon West, producers Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin, stunt coordinator Simon Crane, producer Lloyd Levin, and actor Jon Voight. While the glimpses of her preparation were interesting, overall this felt like a piece that did little more than tell us what a badass Jolie is. It’s moderately interesting but insubstantial.
Four Deleted Scenes run a total of seven minutes, 18 seconds. They seemed fairly insignificant, though I did like “You Might Try to Kill Me”, if just because this extended sequence added some helpful exposition that made parts of the story clearer.
The Stunts of Tomb Raider gives us a nine-minute and 28-second look at that aspect of the production. It resembles the other featurettes on the disc as it combines movie snippets, behind the scenes material from the set, and interviews with director West, Jolie, stunt coordinator Crane, visual effects supervisor Corbould, and producers Gordon and Levin. Once again we hear more about how amazing Jolie is and how she did much of the work on her own. Some of the material from the set was good, but I started to tire of the “Angelina rules!” parade.
The longest program on the disc, Digging Into Tomb Raider gives us an overall look at the film. The 25-minute and 27-second documentary provides remarks from actors Angelina Jolie, Jon Voight, Noah Taylor, Iain Glen, Chris Barrie, Daniel Craig, Julian Rhind-Tutt, operations director at CORE Design Adrian Smith, head of global development for Eidos Interactive Jeremy Heath-Smith, producers Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin, director Simon West, costume designer Lindy Hemming, stunt coordinator Simon Crane, Nick Rey of Lonely Planet publications, location manager Chris Brock, production designer Kirk Petruccelli, and special effects supervisor Chris Corbould.
As a whole, this program offered a moderately interesting look at a variety of elements, but I found it suffered from the “how great” syndrome. We heard how great Jolie was, how great the sets and costumes were, how great the props and stunts were, and so on. A reasonable amount of useful information cropped up along the way, and it always remained acceptably breezy and entertaining, but I felt like these occasionally became buried underneath the superlatives.
The Visual Effects of Tomb Raider looks at eight different aspects of the film. These clips provide a total of 20 minutes and 19 seconds of footage. Visual effects supervisor Steven Begg, Sue Rowe, Jon Neil, Steve Street and Simon Haslett of Cinesite, special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, David Philips, Richard Roberts, Steve Murgatroid, Karl Mooney and Laurent Huguenlot of Mill Film. These segments were actually pretty good. They offered reasonably solid examinations of the various effects challenges, and the participants went through them with good clarity. Most compelling of the bunch was “Time Storm - Powell”, because it discussed a deleted scene.
Are You Game? takes a short look at the Tomb Raider videogame phenomenon. With a mix of game shots and interviews with Jolie, operations director at CORE Design Adrian Smith, head of global development for Eidos Interactive Jeremy Heath-Smith, and Eidos CEO Mike McGarvey, this eight-minute piece tells us a little about the project’s origins and its future (as of 2001, that is). The brief snippets about the early days are the most interesting, especially through the glimpses of the original male protagonist for the game. It’s still a superficial and hyperbolic piece, but it seems breezy and entertaining enough.
Next comes a fun music video for “Elevation” by U2. It uses the standard mix of shots from the film and clips of the band as they lip-synch, but it takes technological advancements and plops the members of U2 into some of the flick’s situations.
In addition, we get the fine “Tomb Raider” mix of “Elevation”, a version superior to the one on the album. Unfortunately, the disc doesn’t toss in some behind-the-scenes footage found on a Region 2 “Elevation” DVD single, but I was still happy to see the video itself.
The Alternate Main Title sequence lasts for two minutes, six seconds. Essentially this would have added a little at the start of the film, and it would have given the opening more of a videogame feel. I don’t know why they didn’t use it, but here it is! From there the disc finishes with teaser and theatrical trailers.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider may be the most successful movie based on a videogame ever made, but it doesn’t take much for that crown, and Raider only fitfully entertains. The flick has some good segments, and Angelina Jolie neatly embodies the cartoony lead, but the film seems poorly paced and jumpy. The Blu-ray offers very good audio and a positive array of bonus materials but the visuals seem bland and fuzzy. A product of Blu-ray’s first months, this one needs to be redone; as it stands, it’s barely an upgrade over the DVD.
To rate this film visit the DVD review of LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER