Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

The idea of a “female Indiana Jones” movie — based on a phenomenally popular video game and starring one of the world’s most desirable women — was a pretty good one the first time around. Kids liked the action, it had grrl-power appeal, and anyone with a pulse was mesmerized by Angelina Jolie’s hypnotic lips. However, amongst the mostly-mundane stunts, recoil-less gunplay, and Jolie’s mesmerist act, the makers of the follow-up to Lara Croft: Tomb Raider forgot to include a compelling or even remotely original plot.

Sluggish as an Alaska-bound barge, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: the Cradle of Life‘s storyline for Level 1 is as follows, if anyone gives a damn: treasure-hunting heiress Lara — along with a pair of soon-to-be extinct divers — find a glowing orb in Alexander the Great’s long-lost hideaway, which has been long-submerged off the coast of Santorini. The orb is soon stolen by Chen Lo (Simon Yam), a mercenary contracted by maniac death merchant Jonathan Reiss, played by Ciaran Hinds (Road to Perdition) . It seems that the orb is a coded map to the Cradle of Life, a fabled (and also long-lost) speck on the map from which where all life is supposed to have originated, for those blasphemy-minded. What’s better yet, the Cradle of Life is also home to Pandora’s Box, which — shades of Indy and the Ark! — wreaks great havok on nearby populations when opened. Naturally, Reiss wants this little nuclear suitcase — and instead of holding a great eBay auction, he intends on selling it to a league of extortion-bent criminal masterminds.

Level 2: In order to track down Chen Lo in China, Croft springs British Army deserter/mercenary/former flame Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler, Dracula 2000, Mrs. Brown) from a Kazakhstan prison. Forming a tenuous alliance, the pair set off to retrieve the orb.

Levels 3-6: Borrowing pages from the 007 manual, Cradle of Life‘s producers put Croft and Butler through the usual action-sequence paces, including the obligatory parachuting, motorcycle riding, and hand-to-hand combat, with Croft wielding twin .45s so large and undoubtedly so heavy that Dirty Harry — using a two-handed grip — would be hard-pressed to fire with any accuracy. For flavor and unintended comic relief, there’s also tree monsters and a laughably-drawn CGI shark (which Croft punches in the nose). As in the first Tomb Raider film, all of this excitement is set in Bond-trademarked exotic locations. But exotic locations and hand-me-down stunts didn’t carry 007 in the “Timothy Dalton era”, and they don’t come close to saving this movie.

Besides being sex personified, Angelina Jolie is a very talented actress; one can see her playing Lara Croft once, for kicks. But twice, and with a B-movie script? To fathom that would require even more suspension of disbelief than this tedious film requires.

Indeed, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life plays like a video game with a broken controller; ultimately, the audience is the loser and the bean-counters and Jolie-pimps at Universal are the cackling victors.

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