The film was released on June 15, 2001, and received generally negative reviews from critics for its stylized action and bland plot, although Angelina Jolie was praised for her performance. Tomb Raider was the highest-grossing film on its opening weekend. A sequel, titled Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life, was released in 2003.
The film opens with Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) in an Egyptian tomb, seeking a diamond at one end of a chamber. As she approaches she is attacked by a large robot. After an intense chase and battle, she disables it by ripping out its motivational circuits. She takes the diamond, which is revealed to be a plastic case with a memory card labeled "Lara's Party Mix", and inserts it into a laptop computer inside the robot, whereupon it plays music. Now it is revealed that the scene took place in a practice arena in her home, and that her assistant Bryce (Noah Taylor) programmed the robot, SIMON, to challenge her in combat.
It is the day of the first phase of a planetary alignment, culminating in a solar eclipse, which (in the film) happens once every 5,000 years. In Venice, the Illuminati search for a key to rejoin halves of "the triangle", which must be done by the final phase of the alignment. Mr. Powell (Iain Glen), an Illuminati member, makes assurances that they are almost ready, but in reality he has no idea where to find the key.
Lara's butler, James "Hilly" Hillary (Chris Barrie), tries to interest her in several projects, but she ignores them. May 15, as Hilly is aware, is the day that Lara's father disappeared many years earlier. She has not recovered from his loss.
Later that night, Lara has a dream reminding her what her father said about the alignment and an object linked to it called the Triangle of Light. Waking, she is aware of a clock ticking. Searching for it, she discovers a secret chamber under the staircase with a carriage clock that had spontaneously begun ticking. Bryce probes it and discovers a strange device hidden inside the clock.
Since the device resembles a clock, Lara consults a clock expert friend of her father's, Mr. Wilson (Leslie Phillips). She believes it is connected to the "Triangle of Light", but Wilson disavows knowledge of the clock or the Triangle. Lara encounters Alex West (Daniel Craig), a fellow tomb raider with unscrupulous methods. They are attracted to each other, but Croft cannot abide his for-profit attitude. That night, Lara is contacted by Wilson, who tells her that he gave her name to a man named Manfred Powell in regards of the clock. In reality, Wilson is also a member of the Illuminati.
The next day, Lara sees Powell in his home, and shows him photographs of the clock. Later, while discussing it with Bryce, she points out that Powell was lying about his knowledge. That night, as Lara does a bungee ballet, armed commandos invade the house and steal the clock despite her attempts to fend them off.
The next morning, Lara receives a letter from her father, arranged to arrive after the beginning of the alignment, where he explains that the clock is the key to retrieve two halves of the mystic Triangle of Light, which is revealed to be an object of phenomenal destructive power that granted its wielder power over time and space. He says that it was made from a metal found in a meteor crater made by a meteor that had fallen to earth during a previous alignment. Initially housed in a city built in the meteor crater by those who worshiped the object, misuse of the Triangle's power destroyed the city and so it was split into two halves; one was hidden in a tomb in Cambodia, the other half in the ruined city itself, in modern-day Siberia. Her father urges her to find and destroy both halves before the Illuminati can find it.
In Cambodia, West figures out part of the puzzle on how to retrieve the triangle half, but Lara manages to successfully grab the piece. Before everyone can leave, the liquid metal which came out with the piece brings the statues in the temple to life and attacks the team killing some members. Lara is left to fight off and destroy a huge six-armed guardian statue which is the last one to come to life. She successfully defeats it and leaves the temple by diving through a waterfall. She then travels to a Buddhist town where a young monk welcomes her. After a worship service, an aged monk who is the leader there gives Lara some tea and as they converse, he tells her that he knew her father before.
She and Powell arrange to meet in Venice, since each of them has what the other needs to finish the Triangle. Powell proposes a partnership to find the Triangle, and informs Lara that her father was a member of the Illuminati, which she vehemently denies. Though hesitant at first, she, along with Bryce, meets with Powell for the trip to Siberia. Inside the tomb, there is a giant model of the solar system, which activates as the alignment nears completion. Lara retrieves the last half of the Triangle, but when Powell tries to complete it, the halves will not fuse. He realizes that Lara knows the solution to the puzzle, and kills West in order to persuade her to complete the Triangle to save both West's life and her father's. Lara reluctantly complies, and they then struggle for control of the Triangle, with Lara prevailing.
Lara then finds herself in a strange alternate existence facing her father Lord Richard Croft (Jon Voight). He explains that it is a "crossing" of time and space, and urges her to destroy the Triangle instead of using it to save his life. She leaves her father and returns to the chamber, where time is slowly running backwards from the point where Powell killed West. Croft takes the knife he threw into West's chest and reverses it, then destroys the Triangle, which returns time to its normal flow and directs the knife into Powell's shoulder. The chamber begins to self-destruct. As everyone turns to leave, Powell tells Croft that he killed her father and retrieved his pocket watch with a picture of Lara's mother inside. Lara and Powell engage in a hand-to-hand fight. Lara kills him, retrieves the pocket watch, and escapes as the chamber crumbles.
At the mansion, Hilly and Bryce are shocked to see Lara wearing a dress. She goes into the garden to her father's memorial, then returns inside, where Bryce has a reprogrammed SIMON, ready to challenge Lara once again. Hillary reveals a silver tray holding Lara's pistols, which she takes with a smile.Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft
Rachel Appleton as Young Lara
Jon Voight as Lord Richard Croft
Daniel Craig as Alex West
Iain Glen as Manfred Powell
Noah Taylor as Bryce
Richard Johnson as Distinguished Gentleman
Chris Barrie as Hillary
Julian Rhind-Tutt as Mr. Pimms
Leslie Phillips as Wilson
Robert Philips as Julius, assault team leader
Mark Collie as Larson
Tomb Raider went through many drafts and several writers, which resulted in production delays. In 1998, writer Brent V. Friedman, who had co-written Mortal Kombat: Annihilation the year before, penned an unproduced Tomb Raider script. Producer and screenwriter Steven E. de Souza, who wrote and directed the 1994 video game film Street Fighter, penned an early draft of the Tomb Raider script in 1999, but it was rejected by Paramount. The final draft of the script was attributed to five writers, including director Simon West.
Lara Croft was financed through Tele München Gruppe (TMG), a German tax shelter. The tax law of Germany allowed investors to take an instant tax deduction even on non-German productions and even if the film has not gone into production. By selling them the copyright for $94 million and then buying it back for $83.8 million, Paramount Pictures made $10.2 million. The copyright was then sold again to Lombard Bank, a British investment group and a further $12 million was made. However, to qualify for Section 48 tax relief, the production must include some UK filming and British actors, which was acceptable for a film partially set in the United Kingdom. Presales to distributors in Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain made a further $65 million. Showtime paid $6.8 million for premium cable TV rights. In total, $94 million was put together.
The deal between Eidos, Tomb Raider's publisher, and Paramount Pictures was structured so Eidos received a single fee, but no royalties.
The casting of Jolie was controversial among many fans of the Tomb Raider series, who felt she was physically inappropriate to play the large-breasted heroine; others complained about an American actress being hired to play a British character. Prior to Jolie's being cast in the role, numerous other actresses (and non-actresses) were rumored to be in consideration, most notably Demi Moore. UK nude model Linsey Dawn McKenzie was also rumored by some media to be in the running for the part.
The film marked the feature film debut of television actor Christopher Barrie, known for his role of Arnold Rimmer in the BBC science fiction comedy series Red Dwarf. Iain Glen, a Scot, adopted an English accent as Powell, while English actor Daniel Craig adopts an American accent for the role of Alex West. Jolie, being American herself, takes on an English accent. Jon Voight, Angelina Jolie's father, plays Richard Croft, Lara's father in the film.
Filming took place from July to November 2000. Portions of the film were shot on location at Ta Prohm temple and Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Tourists visiting Siem Reap are shown the Ta Prohm temple as "the Tomb Raider" temple.
The artifact in the film, the "Triangle of Light", is part of the Illuminati legend, but in appearance only. The triangle with the "All-Seeing Eye" appears numerous times in the Illuminati history, but only as a symbol or an indication of membership. It can also be found in reference to the Freemasons. The symbol can also be found on the face of the American Dollar, in the form of one of the pyramids at Giza with the eye suspended above it. Some believers would even argue that the image of George Washington is actually that of the founder of the Illuminati, Adam Weishaupt, though that is only speculation and not founded in any supportable evidence. The Illuminati is well connected with Freemasonry. In addition, the temple at Angkor, Cambodia, is a historical site, but it does not possess any magical properties. It was built as a Hindu temple and was later converted into a Buddhist temple. It also had astronomical associations built within the architecture, in accordance with Khmer and/or Hindu belief. There are several solar and lunar alignments between western points along the axis and towers in the central galleries. As such the sun will actually cast light onto specific corridors and reliefs, planned so as to literally illuminate them with solar meaning. This idea was put to use in the film during the scene where the characters wait for the sun to strike a glass dome at a specific time in order to withdraw a piece of the Triangle.
The film received generally negative reviews, earning a 19% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with 29 out of 155 critics giving it a positive review with an average rating of 3.9/10. The general consensus is "Angelina Jolie is perfect for the role of Lara Croft, but even she can't save the movie from a senseless plot and action sequences with no emotional impact". IGN gave the movie the lowest score, a 0.0 ("Disaster") rating, condemning everything from character performances to the ending. A positive review came from Roger Ebert, who awarded the film three out of four stars and said, "'Lara Croft Tomb Raider' elevates goofiness to an art form. Here is a movie so monumentally silly, yet so wondrous to look at, that only a churl could find fault."
Tomb Raider was a box office success. The movie debuted at number one with $48.2 million, giving Paramount its second-best debut and the fifth-highest debut of 2001. It beat the opening record for a film featuring a female protagonist (($42.3) million for Scary Movie) as well as the opening record for a video game adaptation ($31 million for Pokémon: The First Movie), and is one of the highest grossing video game to film adaptations. The movie has grossed a total of $274,703,340 worldwide. An updated adjusted boxoffice would bring the movie's box office around $350 million.
The film was nominated for two MTV Movie Awards, these awards included: Best Female Performance and Best Fight scene, but the film lost to Moulin Rouge! and Rush Hour 2 respectively. The film was also nominated for Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie - Drama.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is a 2001 soundtrack album to the film. The various artists soundtrack was released June 15, 2001. The Score was later released on June 25, 2001. The movie also featured the songs "Lila" by Vas and "Piano Concerto in F Minor" performed by Hae-Wong Chang. These were not featured on the soundtrack. Also used in the movie were elements of "Elevation (Influx Remix)" by U2. This was uncredited.
For the first Tomb Raider film, Nathan McCree was hired, though the producers eventually decided that a feature-length film needed a feature-name composer. Therefore, they hired Michael Kamen, despite the fact that his score for the similarly cult X-Men the previous year failed to arouse the interest of many of the concept's followers. Kamen wrote and submitted a demo for Tomb Raider, but no feedback on that music was returned by the director or producers. Only during the process of recording a second demo did Kamen finally hear back from the Tomb Raider team, and by then, the lack of enthusiasm for the relationship on both sides caused Kamen to seek other projects that were more promising to him (namely, the HBO show Band of Brothers, requiring 10 hours of music). Thus, the producers of Tomb Raider were forced to hire another composer at the very last minute. The man hired for the last minute assignment was Graeme Revell. He composed the soundtrack in less than two weeks. He did not use the original Tomb Raider theme.
The CD was released through Elektra Entertainment, but as noted by Revell and after failed attempts to stop the pressings, the tracks were mislabeled. For example, the opening track includes both the Main Titles and Lara Croft at Home cues together. The resulting score was so poorly received that the composer himself issued an apology through his website. The track list was later revised.
Angelina Jolie returned in the sequel Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. While it was viewed as a critical improvement over its predecessor, it did not repeat its financial success, grossing $156 million compared to the previous installment's $274 million.
In April 2016, MGM and GK Films announced a remake of the film starring Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft with Roar Uthaug set to direct.