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HD DVD Review: Lara Croft – Tomb Raider

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Slick, agile, and of course sexy, Lara Croft became a video game icon. Her appearance was one of the few to break the mold set by cartoonish characters aimed directly at an adolescent audience. With the character's popularity booming, Paramount let $80 million loose for the film adaptation, and succeeded amazingly well from a financial standpoint.

The film does drag in spots and a few edits wouldn't have hurt. It's by no means an intelligent effort either, relying entirely on its looks rather than logic or brains. That's exactly what this is a meant to be though, a rousing summer blockbuster. You can't take a lot away from Tomb Raider when you're in that mindset.

For details on the film itself, read my full review of the movie in its original DVD release.

Following in the footsteps of its SD cousin, this HD DVD is flat, lacking color, and carries a severely muted look. Black levels are left in a dull gray, colors have no pop, and the entire transfer is flat. There is little in the way of sharpness or detail, and long shots are particularly troublesome. It’s hard to see any improvement here.

Oddly enough, the audio suffers from the same DVD carry-over problem. With both DTS and 5.1 Plus options, the disc pushes some incredibly vibrant surround work. Action scenes are filled with gunfire from all channels. The problem here is the lack of bass. There is no punch coming from the LFE channel, and you’ll need to double check to make sure your subwoofer is even on. The actions comes off flat without it, and it’s inexcusable.

Extras are wonderfully put together though a copy of the DVD, including a nice look at the video game and the phenomenon it became. There are some rare early looks at the original concepts for the character in Are You Game?, which wasn't even female. A few more minutes spent here would have been appreciated. Eight minutes is hardly enough to get the full story.

A solo commentary by the director sounds empty. Anyone from the crew could have helped this along, and possibly added more detail from a different perspective. Crafting Lara is a better choice than the commentary, focusing on what Jolie needed to do in order to get in shape for the role.

Four deleted scenes would have only added to some of the rough downtime the movie suffers from and were wise cuts. Stunts of Tomb Raider is self-explanatory. Eight sequences are profiled in Visual Effects of Tomb Raider, mostly dealing with CGI.

An alternate title sequence was an interesting idea, and the title reveal was a huge success. However, it does feel overdone. A U2 music video also included on the disc features some of the footage from that unused opening. Finally, Digging into Tomb Raider is the main documentary covering all aspects of the film and the video games. Some of the content can be found in other portions of the disc though, shortening the running time from 18 to around 15 minutes total. New HD trailers mark the only differing content from the SD DVD.

If you ever hear someone say they don’t see a different between HD DVD and SD, don’t outright blame them. There’s a good chance they ended up with a disc like this, and worse yet, Tomb Raider was a long-standing entrant in the five free movies offer from Toshiba when you bought a player. This is a shameful release from Paramount.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
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