a critiQal film review Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life (2003)

Plot: Archaeologist and explorer extraordinaire, Lara Croft (Jolie), journeys to a sunken underwater temple in search of lost treasures. During her expedition, Croft happens upon a sphere that contains the mythical Pandora's Box, only to have it stolen from her by a co-hort of Jonathan Reiss (Hinds), who wants to use the priceless Box as a doomsday weapon.

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  • ...Jolie's second attempt at the iconic video game hero turns out to be just like the original, with too much time spent on visual effects, and not enough time spent on an engaging plot.

If you haven’t been living under a rock this summer, you know busty Lara Croft has hit the screens in her first movie sequel, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life. Since the first film didn’t get rave reviews (and I didn’t even like it until watching it a second time), you may be wondering why you would want to see the sequel.

Sure, Angelina Jolie is hot, but is that worth the price of the rental (Let me ask you this – did you see Fair Game just because Cindy Crawford was in it?), or is Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life just another Hollywood sequel not worth the film it’s on?

Angelina Jolie seems to enjoy her role in almost every film she does. It’s readily apparent as you watch her in Cradle of Life…that twinkle in her eye gives it away. It also makes it hard to take her character seriously, since she always seems slightly amused with herself, no matter what’s happening around her.

It’s this hardly contained exuberance for the role that should have given the film that extra edge of enjoyment it so desperately needs, but it doesn’t seem to work here any better than it did in the first film. The viewer is left, for the most part, with a sense that Angelina is pulling a fast one on you, and the whole movie becomes a bit of a joke.

Butler, who was pretty good in Reign of Fire (2002), seems a bit awkward in this film, and the chemistry between the two of them falters somewhat because of it. This awkwardness is odd, especially considering the scope of Reign of Fire (2002), but it still shows through.

The bad guy, Hinds, doesn’t really contribute much to the film, and fails to create a bad enough guy to push the viewer over to the good guys’ side of things. Sure, he has bad intentions, but he doesn’t really bring any substance to the character in his acting.

The plot seems to have taken a cue from the Indiana Jones series of films. But, that comparison between the Tomb Raider films and Indiana Jones actually works against the series.

The greatness that is Indiana overshadows these films, and actually accentuates the flaws in these more modern-day tales. It’s too bad really, and the movies may have made a much more positive impact on audiences if Indiana hadn’t done it first.

True, the scope of these films is much larger, with so much scene-jumping it might make your head spin, but Cradle of Life seems to rely too much on the scenery to captivate the audience. It doesn’t keep the plot moving in a forward direction, and way too much time is wasted just running in circles after the orb.

The first film seemed to relay more of a feeling of continuity, whereas Cradle of Life almost seems to be spinning it’s wheels (and filling up time) waiting for the big finale. And when the big finale finally arrives, the viewer has been inundated with so many spectacular stunts by that point that the end is somewhat of a letdown.

The special effects are quite impressive, and outdo the first film. The only problem with them is that it’s obvious that they are trying to outdo the first film. The audience may get the feeling that some of the stunts are thrown into the mix just so that the filmmakers can say there are more stunts in Cradle of Life.

Still, even if they are just filler, some of them are pretty amazing, especially the hang-gliding in funny suits off a 1200 foot building. It’s pretty amazing, especially when you realize that those scenes are real. Sure, it’s not the actors in those suits, but there are a couple of guys in there floating through the skies of Hong Kong. It’s something that shouldn’t be missed.

The odd thing about a lot of the special effects is the director’s filming of them. Even the real stunts, such as the one mentioned above, look fake and the audience may have a hard time buying into them.

So, is Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life worth checking out? That’s a tough one. If you’re a fan of the original, then the answer is yes, because it’s pretty much more of the same.

That also defines the problem for the rest of us. Most of us want a sequel to be another step in the character’s life, and Cradle of Life just seems to be a repeat – almost totally interchangeable with the first film. Sure, there might be bigger stunts, but the feeling of continuity that was found in the first one definitely seems to have lost something on the translation to this sequel.

For the next installment (which most likely is on it’s way), the filmmakers may want to worry a bit more about the script, and less about trying to top the visual effects of this one. Even the pretty decent special features aren’t going to convince me to buy this Cradle…unless it’s real cheap.

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