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Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life Review

By Shawn McKenzie 07/26/2003

One of the interesting things about seeing a movie on opening day as opposed to a preview screening is that you get to hear other critics’ opinions before you write your own.  A lot of them are saying that they liked Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life better than the first movie, but that isn’t saying much, since they hated the first one.  I seem to be one of the few that had an opposite reaction.


The movie opens with an earthquake off the coast of Greece rocking a wedding reception.  Our hero, archaeologist and adventurer Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie), arrives in a skintight silver wetsuit on a Jet Ski to investigate Alexander the Great’s Luna Temple, which was uncovered by the earthquake.  There are some cool archaeological artifacts there, but Lara wants to find a magical orb that serves as a map to the legendary Pandora’s Box, located in the Cradle of Life (a place that is where life began supposedly.)  If you open the box, it would release a deadly and unstoppable disease that could kill millions.  She finds the orb, but the Shay Ling, a Chinese crime syndicate led by Chen Lo (Simon Yam), show up, fight with Lara, and take the orb from her.  A former Nobel Prize-winning scientist turned biological terrorist named Jonathan Reiss (Ciarán Hinds) was the person who had hired the Shay Ling.  He has made a fortune by selling biological weapons to rich people, and he is taking the highest bid for the box.  Lara needs a guide to find Chen Lo in China, so she has MI6 arrange for the release of a former agent turned traitor (and former lover) Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler.)  They offer him freedom, amnesty by the British government, and five million pounds to help her out (I never did figure out what traitorous deed he committed though.)  Since he is still hot for her, he quickly agrees.  They set out to find Chen Lo with the help of her assistant Hillary (Christopher Barrie), computer expert Bryce (Noah Taylor), and African native Kosa (Djimon Hounsou.)  Their adventures take them through Hong Kong, Kenya, Wales, Greece, and Africa (the last of which in the highly-advertised Jeeps) to find Chen Lo, stop Reiss from using the orb to find Pandora’s Box, and save the world from destruction.


When the first movie came out, I liked it because I thought it lived up to its source material.  I’m not much of a video game player, but I have seen the Lara Croft games being played by some of my gaming friends.  Almost all gamers agree the greatest adaptation of a video game was 1995’s Mortal Kombat.  I was in that camp as well until I saw the original Lara Croft movie.  Aside from Croft’s touchy-feely scenes with her dad, all the action felt like a scene from the game.  This movie was different.  It felt much too generic in its action scenes.  There are some weird creatures near the end (which are kind of similar to the rock monsters in the first movie), but they aren’t very exciting.  Those other critics that liked this movie better don’t quite expand upon why they liked it better.  My only guess is that they don’t like a video game feel, and since this one doesn’t give you that gamey feel, that must satisfy them.

I know, I am sounding like a comic book geek who whines about a movie straying from the book, but at least most of the recent comic book movies keep the comic book spirit.  Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life doesn’t keep the video game spirit, at least not as much as its predecessor.  There is non-stop action and many skimpy outfits worn by Jolie to be appreciated, but in general, it is rather boring.  One big mystery for me is the path the career of its director, Jan de Bont, is going.  He was once a director with promise, having helmed Speed and Twister, two of the coolest action flicks of the ‘90s.  He then soiled himself in the awful Speed 2: Cruise Control and The Haunting, and now this one.  I don’t know if I’d encourage a third round for Jolie’s busty video game babe.  If they do, they shouldn’t use de Bont, since he has obviously lost it.

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