Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life (2003)
Release Date: June 25th, 2003 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Jan de Bont Actors: Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler, Ciaran Hinds, Christopher Barrie, Noah Taylor, Djimon Hounsou, Til Schweiger, Simon Yam, Terence Yin
n Santorini, Greece, a wedding reception is interrupted by destructive tremors (falling rocks form into the title graphics), before Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) jetskis into the surrounding waters in a revealing black swimsuit, noticeably reminiscent of Ursula Andress’ iconic outfit from “Dr. No.” She’s there to search for the remains of the Lunar Temple, built by Alexander the Great to store his most prized possessions. But its secret location was wiped from the Earth by a volcano, prompting Lara’s tomb-raiding companions to wonder if it contains dangerous evils best left unrecovered. “Everything lost is meant to be found,” she insists.
Lo and behold, they do find the temple, but they’re attacked by machine-gun-toting Chinese bandits as Lara attempts to dislodge a glowing yellow orb. Fortunately, despite being deep underwater, she’s able to escape by punching a shark in the face, which coaxes it into quickly swimming to the surface with Lara in tow. And then, the standard-issue tomb-raider-submarine comes to the rescue, manned by Croft’s only two friends – butler Hillary (Christopher Barrie) and tech geek Bryce (Noah Taylor).
The main part of the story is about retrieving the orb (a map), which will be used by evil scientist (and biological weapons terrorist) Jonathan Reiss (Ciaran Hinds) to unleash Pandora’s Box (a legendary receptacle found in an Egyptian pharaoh’s realm, called the Cradle of Life, holding a powerful plague that serves as the anti-life) on the world (via international warmongers). But the plot hardly matters. Lara is still invincible and capable of ridiculously superhuman feats, and the visuals are still overdependent on weak CG. Plus, the stunts are once again utterly unconvincing and choreographed to be practically comical in their phoniness.
Gerard Butler costars as a new romantic partner, exuding just a bit more sarcasm and charm than might be expected from this rushed, money-hungry follow-up, but he’s unable to save the film from its abundance of repeated faults. Painfully apparent product placement (laptops and cameras contain conspicuous brand logos) is an unexpected yet unwelcome gimmick to go along with a familiarly exaggerated evil villain, who does obligatory evil villain things (almost exactly like a James Bond nemesis); hokey technology is still prevalent; and, while nonsensical fantasy components are somewhat reduced, the picture insists upon clearly fake concepts – like growling sharks, sprinting across the top of a speeding car, pole-vaulting onto a helicopter, and the disorienting house-of-mirrors-like labyrinth of life at the climax. It might be ever-so-slightly better than the last one, but that level of improvement is virtually unquantifiable.
– Mike Massie