GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB. Lara Croft made in China

It’s a very bad movie and at the same time I don’t think ninety minutes is a waste of time.

Jarosław Kowal

8 July 2023

Gurdians of the Tomb provokes the creation of a new definition of Z-class cinema. After all, you can’t call the most expensive Chinese-Australian co-production in history low-budget, but you can’t put the result in any other category either. Perhaps this is a sign of the times when kitsch and trash fascinate an increasing number of viewers.

Studio The Asylum has no equal in creating painfully trashy mockbusters with nasty digital effects. This is where the Atlantic Rim, Avengers Grimm (a combination of the Avengers and the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm) or Tomb Invader come from, but the Chinese are hot on their heels, they already have their female version of Mad Max (Mad Shelia), they also have The Autobots that are deceptively reminiscent of Pixar movies Cars (which Disney decided to explain in court), and now it’s time for something that on the poster looks like a combination of Guardians of the Galaxy and Tomb Raider, but is actually a copy of only the latter.

Director Kimble Rendall did not hide that positive reviews will surprise him, and he certainly won’t be surprised. However, he is also fully aware that all these poster references (not to say theft) and scripts strongly inspired by big Hollywood productions are no longer used to fool the audience. After all, everyone can verify in three minutes what image they are dealing with, and in times of the flood of the Internet with the mass of films and series impossible to absorb in their entirety, every minute is a waste of missed choices. His work is therefore addressed directly to all those who like when the plot is full of holes like Renfield after meeting with Count Dracula’s handmaids; when actors stumble over bad dialogue or emotions too shallow to convey with credibility; when you don’t keep your fingers crossed for the victory of “good”, but for the most ingenious ways of killing heroes, and to a large extent this is what “Chinese Tomb Raider” is.

Bingbing Li – an actress with a rather unfortunate career in the United States, she appeared in the disastrous Resident Evil: Retribution and in the even worse Transformers: Age of Extinction – in Lara Croft’s characteristic outfit, she is no less convincing than Alicia Vikander, and she is accompanied, among others, by Kelsey Grammer, the Beast from X-Men, and Stef Dawson aka Annie Cresta from The Hunger Games. Although the dialogue track with slight time shifts evokes associations with old kung-fu movies, where the dubbing creators did not even try to synchronize, and in addition there was very little to play, there can be no question of an amateur level.

Similarly with CGI – the digital spiders (the main antagonists of the Guardians of the Tomb) look not only better than sharks from the tornado, not only better than the infamous deer from The Walking Dead or the face of Superman, from which the mustache was removed, but even than most skirmish scenes from Justice League and Power Rangers. In fact, the background here is so solid that it cannot be compared with what The Asylum does, not to mention the ventures of enthusiasts who often have to take out a loan to fulfill their vision. Were it not for the ruthlessly mockbuster nature of the film, we would simply be dealing with an average adventure cinema enhanced with a few good scenes (for example, the one with killing a spider using a smartphone).

If you got the impression that I’ve been shooting and justifying the director for the last two paragraphs, you’re right, because Guardians of the Tomb isn’t even half as good as I’d like to think of it, and this is due to a sentimental chord. This time, not the one resonating in the 80s, but a decade younger, reminiscent of the clumsiness or even naivety of such hits as The Mummy, Anaconda or The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The scheme is simple – a group of people cut off from the world stands up to fight with degenerate fauna, some of them die, some win in such a way that we would prefer them to die. I wouldn’t want to see a movie like that at the cinema today, but what a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon with it!

You have to have that special quality about you… You have to be the kind of person who can spend hours playing Friday the 13th on Commodore 64 (to be precise, it’s one of the worst games ever made) or watching six seasons of Xena: The Warrior Princess to find any value in Guardians of the Tomb. It’s a very bad movie and I have no conscience to give it more than a “four” and at the same time I don’t think ninety minutes is a waste of time.