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Will Lara Croft break the video-game movie jinx?

Trying to translate a video game into a movie has virtually guaranteed "game over." Yet Tomb Raider is about to jump from the PlayStation to the multiplex on June 15, where it will either bomb big, true to form, or score big.

It's a risk after the recent wave of game-to-film disasters, from 1993's Super Mario Bros. to 1999's Wing Commander. "Hollywood needs to remember that if it's taking away the dynamic interactivity that's at the heart of any good video game, it needs to replace it with something that films can do better than games can," says Steven Poole, author of Trigger Happy: Video Games and the Future of Entertainment. "And that something should usually be an involving story, and a more human, emotive approach to the subject matter."

A flat Mario didn't have it, but Tomb Raider's Lara Croft seems dazzlingly dimensional, at least in the hype leading up to the release. The $100 million film promises to further develop a heroine inspired by other movies--James Bond meets Indiana Jones meets, well, star Angelina Jolie. "The studio did not try to just replicate the game on-screen, which is what all the other ones have done," says Sutton Trout, licensing director for the Tomb Raider video game.

Jolie's Tomb Raider will have a video game rivalry with the Final Fantasy movie, out July 13. The interactivity of the F.F. series of games--stilted fights of hero and villain taking turns--can be pretty boring; the computer-animated vignettes between the fights are the attraction. But the movie plays like two hours of the best vignette yet, with new heroine Aki saving 2065 Earth from alien soul suckers. Balanced with the gimmick of photo-realistic digital humans is a spiritual love story that, in an early screening, looked moving.

If Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy connect with audiences, movie versions of best-sellers Perfect Dark and Resident Evil could be coming soon. But if they don't, it's back to basing movies on books, history, and yes, real life.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:motion picture industry
Author:Tauber, Chris
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 14, 2001
Previous Article:Taming the `Jungle'.
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