In The Cradle of Life, Lara Croft returns to the big screen in a highly ambitious globetrotting romp. But, even with new writers and a new director, this cinematic escapade of one of pop culture’s leading ladies doesn’t always live up to its potential.
Indiana Jane and Pandora’s Box
PG-13 for Action violence, sensuality
Rummaging through Greek mythology, this time Lara (Angelina Jolie, Original Sin) goes in search of Pandora’s Box. Containing death itself, the box is the yin to life’s yang and it is, naturally, the object of obsession for the megalomaniacal Jonathan Reiss (Ciarán Hinds, Road to Perdition). He’s a Nobel prize-winning biologist with a disdain for life and he makes for a more interesting heavy than the Illuminati in the first film.
With the mythical box buried in a legendary land called the Cradle of Life, Lara takes on an old romantic interest to aid her in her quest. Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler, Harrison’s Flowers) is a bad-to-the-bone Scottish hooligan locked up in a prison in the far reaches of Kazakhstan. Once released, he offers another improvement over the first installment, making a far better match for Lara than she contended with in Tomb Raider.
With Reiss out to find the box and exploit its content of fresh diseases, Lara’s in a race against time to unlock the secrets of a mysterious orb which holds the map to locating Pandora’s legendary treasure chest of evil.
Sense and Sensibility
Once again wearing Lara’s boots, Jolie is the perfect incarnation of Indiana Jane. This time she gets to strut her stuff with a more substantial relationship and bring out more of Lara’s character, which is in turns both humanitarian and lethal.
Featuring a quirkier sense of humor than the first film, The Cradle of Life has a playfulness about it that keeps the proceedings unpredictable. That sensibility appears right at the film’s oddball start, when a Greek wedding gone awry leads into the film’s opening titles.
While it is more playful, and even though this episode’s director, Jan de Bont (Twister), brings more cinematic finesse to Lara’s world than his predecessor, Simon West, de Bont’s direction is often unable to keep the proceedings as lively as the action itself would dictate. This is, after all, a movie in which Lara punches a shark in the face, drives a motorcycle on the Great Wall of China, and dives off the top of a Hong Kong skyscraper.
The first Tomb Raider set its own pace and used progressive rock to create a tone and edgy atmosphere, an approach this film tries to mimic, but with only mixed results.
Perhaps the songs, including tunes by Sinead O’Connor and The Dandy Warhols, offer hints to the character’s emotions through the lyrics, but with the lofty heights the story wants to achieve, the film ultimately begs for a symphonic score on the order of the Indiana Jones trilogy. Even though Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future) provides an improved score over Graeme Revell’s work in the first film, he, like Revell, doesn’t provide Lara with an orchestral theme to call her own. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is a bottomless source of pulp fiction still awaiting its ultimate cinematic presentation. Under a better director and composer, the material could snap, crackle and pop. Perhaps Steven Spielberg and John Williams should permanently shelve the oft-delayed Indiana Jones 4 and go for Lara Croft 3 instead.