Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)

reviewed by
Harvey S. Karten


LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE

Reviewed by: Harvey S. Karten
Grade: B-
Paramount Pictures
Directed by: Jan de Bont
Written by: Dean Georgaris
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler, Ciaran Hinds, Noah Taylor,
Djimon Hounsou, Til Schweiger
Screened at: Loews E-Walk, NYC, 7/25/03

What do young women really want to be like? Marie Curie? The Bobsey Twins? Hillary Clinton? Hardly. Just ten minutes into Jan de Bont's "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life" you're convinced that every lass wants to be either Angelina Jolie or more likely, Lara Croft. Perfect body, cool Spandex threads, able to leap tall cliffs at a single bound or ride a bike across rocky cliffs; well, maybe without that symbolic chastity belt that Laura wears outside her silvery outfit to signal her inaccessibility since she's too busy saving the world to be concerned about her love life--even given the unextinguished tension with a charismatic boyfriend with a West Highland accent. In "The Cradle of Life," Lara (Angelina Jolie, who shapely lips aside bears a distinct resemblance to Jon Voight) must get to Pandora's Box before the villainous scientist, Dr. Jonathan Reiss (Ciaran Hinds) gets his hands on it. To speed her on the way, she enlists the support of a former crush, Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler), whom she breaks out of a Kazakhstan prison with the blessings of Her Majesty, a guy too ambitious to be trusted even with the offer of big bucks upon completion of his assignment.

As in most James Bond pics, the chief villain wants nothing less than world domination--in this case a renegade scientist with a Nazi-like plan to wipe out the world with a deadly poison--except for a few ubermenchen who will receive the antidote and who will presumably submit to his rule. The scientist, Dr. Reiss, assembles an international circle of bidders for the stuff, despotic types from Serbia, Asia and Central Europe, who are given capsules that will protect them from the effects. To show he means business, Reiss pulls a "Godfather" shtick, poisoning one in his circle whom he labels a traitor, ready to sell out the project and find asylum in the West.

Jan de Bont takes us on an adventurous tour beginning on a Greek island, where an unexplained attack by gunmen leads Lara to a lost, underwater Greek temple (which is destroyed), then to Hong Kong and Shanghai with a side trip to The Great Wall, finally to East Africa (filmed in Kenya and Tanzania) where the race between Hinds and Croft for Pandora's Box is joined.

As Croft explains early on, the box, which arrived to Earth from outer space where it was discovered in The Cradle of Life in Egypt of 2300 B.C., was seized 200 years later by Alexander the Great who hid the box in the temple. Somehow the box arrives in Africa, its location made clear by a golden orb which acts as a kind of Rosetta Stone to pinpoint the location.

More Indiana Jones than James Bond, Lara Croft adventures into deep sea diving, taking Spiderman-like leaps across skyscrapers, hopping motorcycle rides, parasail jumps, finally taking over the driving of a land rover piloted by her contact in Kenya, Masai warrior Kosa (Djimon Hounsou) who translates the sage advice from the village chief from Swahili.

This sequel to Simon West's version of Lara Croft Tomb Raider made in 2001 is the superior one, substituting exciting stunts for the dull action scenes two years ago wherein Lara was instructed by her father to find and destroy pieces of an ancient relic that control time. The locales appears as realistic as they are exotic, with Lara, though occasionally captured only to bounce back because once again the malefactors talk rather than shoot, proving that she could conceivably take on Charlie's Angels one by one.

Rated PG-13. 116 minutes.(c) 2003 by Harvey Karten at Harveycritic@cs.com

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