Directed by Jan de Bont, the cinematographer of Die Hard and director of Speed, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life is a marked improvement over the first film – but just barely. It isn’t a very good film and it is rife with problems, but Angelina Jolie is still the perfect heroine and she’s even sexier this round. So there’s that.
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life was actually made for a smaller budget than its predecessor, but the technology appears a little sharper and the sets look modestly better. Filming was done over three and a half months on location in Hong Kong and even Kenya. This time, it actually looks like it.
The movie opens with an earthquake interrupting a wedding in Greece. It apparently unearths the Luna Temple, which houses Alexander the Great’s treasures. An orb is included amongst the treasure and Lara Croft (Jolie) discovers it. It is taken by a crime lord (Simon Yam) and is soon revealed to be a critical piece of ancient legend.
Croft, meanwhile, is dispatched by MI6 to locate another legendary object: Pandora’s Box. A terrorist (Ciarán Hinds) wants it because it contains a deadly plague, so the race is on. Croft teams with an old lover (Gerard Butler) to track it down and it turns out that the orb taken by the crime lord is vital to locating the Box.
The plot of Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life is probably more convoluted than the plot of its predecessor. It can be a little hard to follow and de Bont’s clunky approach doesn’t really help matters. While the plot of Alexander the Great’s treasure was ripe for potential and goofiness, this flick never stops long enough to tell a decent story and instead uses each “plot point” as a set-up for a confusing action scene.
The action scenes are slightly better, although not by much. The director is better, but he even fails to capture the majesty of a free-fall off of a skyscraper. The underwater stuff lacks entertainment value, save for Jolie’s skin-tight gear, and a pile of CGI creatures in one of the many caverns looks awful.
Obviously a lot of the Tomb Raider mythos is built around checking logical thought at the door – and that’s fine. The trouble is that de Bont doesn’t check it enough and the movie tries to take itself seriously, like its predecessor. The same problems plague this production, although Croft’s shark fight is pretty damn funny.
Jolie really is the highlight here, of course, and she looks all kinds of awesome. The wardrobe people have given her an awful lot of cool stuff to wear and she looks dynamite in all of it, although most of it isn’t as revealing as the first picture’s stuff. Beyond her appearance, she also offers Croft a little more emotional complexity and even a touch of romanticism.
Is Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life worth seeing? Not really. Fans of the video game might benefit somewhat and Jolie-watchers will dig her poise and presence in what could’ve been an iconic role, but it’s not a good flick.