Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life Movie Review
Lara Croft is back, showing more flesh and kicking more butts but raiding fewer tombs. This sequel sees the titular character searching for a deadly artefact, again!
Director: Jan de Bont
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler, Ciarán Hinds, Til Schweiger, Chris Barrie, Noah Taylor, Simon Yam, Terence Yin, Fabiano Martell, Daniel Caltagirone, Jonny Coyne & Djimon Hounsou.
Run Time: 110 min.
US Release: 25 July 2003
UK Release: 22 August 2003
German Release: 24 August 2003
Welcome back to my thread of reviews for the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movies, culminating in this year’s Tomb Raider, which will see Alicia Vikander donning the titular role. If you read my previous review for the 2001 Tomb Raider, you will know that I truly came into contact with the gaming franchise once it was rebooted in 2013. Nevertheless, I did watch the films as a teenager and even watched friends play the games on their computers or consoles. Now, I hadn’t watched these game adaptations for roughly 10 years, which really put into perspective how awful they are! The Cradle of Life, though, was surprisingly better than I remembered!
--- ATTENTION, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!---
Lara Croft (Jolie) returns to the big screen in this new adventure. After a strong earthquake around Greece uncovers the Lunar Temple, Croft makes the most important archaeological finding: an orb that holds the map to Pandora’s Box. Crime lord Chen Lo (Yam), however, attacks her and steals the orb. British Intelligence hires Croft to find the orb, who in turn recruits her former lover Terry Sheridan (Butler), a marine turned mercenary. Both find out that Lo is about to sell the orb to Jonathan Reiss (Hinds), an evil scientist who sells killer viruses and hopes to make a fortune by selling the box. A race ensues in which Lara tries to find the path to Pandora’s Box before Reiss can get his hands on it.
The biggest compliment I can give the narrative is that compared to it predecessor it actually has a plot, and doesn’t simply consist of random scenes that are strung together one after another. The audience actually obtains a beginning, middle and end this time around, with the main character getting a little more depth by expanding her backstory. It also contains a lot of action segments that are entertaining, making The Cradle of Life more bearable. That is all, as far as positives go because the plot itself was poorly developed.
This blockbuster borrows a lot of story elements from Raiders of the Lost Ark. There is the evil organisation searching for a crate (or box in this case), which will unleash death and pain upon the world. Government officers ask both main characters, to help stop the villains from obtaining the artifact and don’t even get me started on the romance, which includes two people that had a falling out a long time ago. It was as if the writers had no other ideas, other than to modernise the first Indiana Jones adventure, with a Jolie taking over for Ford as the archaeologist-hero. Also, for a movie that has “Tomb Raider“ in its title, there is little raiding going on!
The film makes heavy use of exposition scenes, where our hero explains to people what the cradle of life entails or what Pandora’s Box could cause, instead of just showing the viewer. The dialogues include cheesy one-liners and badly delivered conversations that didn’t sound convincing. But worst of all, are the few British accents by tertiary characters. I have never heard such an abysmal try at speaking UK-English.
Angelina Jolie returned as Lara Croft, a role that, as I stated in my previous review, was simply made for her to play! Compared to her previous portrayal of the character, Jolie gave Lara this time around more of a human touch. Her romantic backstory with Gerard Butler’s Terry Sheridan provided the character with heart, as well as little imperfections that departed her from the cold, untouchable persona, which we obtained in the first flick. Butler’s portrayal of Terry was all right but nothing out of the ordinary. He over-acted at times, especially during the end, when he butts heads with Jolie. Sadly, the chemistry between both actors is practically non-existent, which is why that final confrontation left me absolutely cold.
Jonathan Reiss, played by Ciarán Hinds, was just like Manfred Powell, a typical and shallow villain, who tried to dominate the world by shaping it to his vision. Compared to the piss-poor rendition of Iain Glen, though, Hinds gave his persona a threatening aura that made him perfect as the antagonist. Other than that, the character of Reiss had not enough background to help the audience understand his motives.
Til Schweiger, one Germany's most annoying actors also starred in this blockbuster, of course as the villain’s main henchman. The acting was bad and his one-liners were laughable rather than threatening. His persona really irritated me every time he was on screen.
The cinematography is for the largest part terrible, containing some of the worst shots I have seen on screen! Weird angles and zoom-ins into bubbling water, a leg wrapped around a string or a hand holding a gun, is not what I would call good cinematography. There are, however, quite a few entertaining action scenes to watch, in particular, the paragliding segment! The CGI, on the other hand, did not age well but it is miles better than what it was in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Still, there are scenes (for example the opening scene in the Greek sea) that use obvious green-screen backgrounds.
The soundtrack, composed by Alan Silvestri, is epic while complimenting the feeling of adventure. What I found a little annoying, though, are some of the sound effects that are included in action scenes and sound too comical.
Verdict: I do prefer The Cradle of Life, to the first Lara Croft: Tomb Raider but that doesn’t make it a good film! However, director Jan de Bont and his crew of writers did improve a couple of aspects from the first flick, such as adding a story with arcs or adding backgrounds to the main characters. Still, the narrative is shallow, lacking any profoundness, while the script was developed awfully. Most of the story is copying of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the line delivery from the actors is not particularly good. Watching Angelina Jolie kick some butt was as always fun, and the action sequences are entertaining but the villain is the typical superficial baddy, while Gerard Butler had no chemistry with Jolie at all, which made their romance unbelievable. The cinematography is mostly terrible, including outdated computer effects and obvious green-screen effects, yet some action scenes were actually captured beautifully. Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life can be a fun guilty pleasure but it doesn’t deserve more than a 4.0 out of 10.
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