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Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
Directed by Jan de Bont
Written by Dean Georgaris
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
Principal Cast
Angelina Jolie -- Lara Croft
Gerard Butler -- Terry Sheridan
Ciarán Hinds -- Jonathan Reiss
Christopher Barrie -- Hillary
Noah Taylor -- Bryce
Djimon Hounsou -- Kosa
Til Schweiger -- Sean
Simon Yam -- Chen Lo
Terence Yin -- Xien
Daniel Caltagirone -- Nicholas Petraki
Fabiano Martell -- Jimmy Petraki
Jonathan Coyne -- Gus Petraki
Robert Cavanah -- MI6 Agent Stevens
Ronan Vibert -- MI6 Agent Calloway
Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Newbert

Lara Croft ought to be a fantastic action heroine. This combination of Indiana Jones and James Bond is, in no particular order: rich, capable of astounding martial arts prowess, handy with guns, well-supplied with every electronic gizmo one could ask for when one is unearthing ancient temples and the like, courageous, intelligent, dynamic, no-nonsense, dryly humourous, and very easy on the eyes. And she really does save the world. So she ought to be in a fantastic action movie. Yet also like James Bond, she's been stuck in a couple of dull cinematic adventures in a row. It's really not fair.

It isn't Angelina Jolie's fault. She has a knack for this character that is almost spooky. No matter how silly the line or ridiculous the situation, she delivers with resolve and energy, and lends a fine gravitas to these movies. She can gunsling with the nastiness of a Chow Yun Fat, is more than capable in the stunt work, yet she can still smile at children with a tender enthusiasm and simple good-heartedness. So it's terrible to find that, much like its predecessor, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life is too quick to coast on Jolie's talent to charm instead of riding a stronger screenplay.

The first Tomb Raider, if you recall, was about finding a piece of a broken triangle that would allow the owner to exert a kind of mastery over Time. This new movie is about finding an "orb" that has stamped on its surface a map pinpointing the location of Pandora's Box, from where all life on Earth originates and which still contains a powerful anti-life force. Of course, an evil genius wants to grab it for his own nefarious ends. Silly, yes, but I loved this kind of story when I was a kid. Will you go see Tomb Raider to watch drama that scales the Empyrean heights of Shakespeare? Probably not. So if you go, you're probably looking for a little guilty pleasure.

You'd be very guilty indeed if you enjoyed this one. It's a disappointment how much back story it takes fill up this movie. Dean Georgaris's script is far too eager to explain itself at each and every turn; the script ends up lurching into one action sequence after another, dragging its exposition behind like a broken leg. Director Jan de Bont, who ought to know better after the excellent Speed (and the less than excellent Twister) tries to snap you awake every few minutes with such things as sudden gunfire and impromptu motorcycle chases. It's a desperately frenetic picture that gives the same creepy feeling you get when spending too much time in the company of someone trying hard to please.

The fantasy element is in the premise and the finale, which is sadly derivative of the monster attack from Aliens. When finally inside the Cradle itself, the action is staged on a kind of Escheresque series of bridges, which was a nice touch. But really, considering the gaudy amount of shameless product placements for next season's electronics, this adventure ought to be thought of more as hard science fiction.

The special effects are decent and the stunts are impressive, and the action scenes display a visual wit, especially a gunfight in a laboratory that seems inspired by the best of John Woo (minus the pigeons). This fight also has the most beautiful shot of the movie. It's simply Jolie, darkly lit from above, looking through a pane of etched glass, yet only her eyes are clearly visible. She looks ready to dish out some action. I wonder if she saw a better movie on the other side.

Copyright © 2003 David Newbert

David Newbert worked for public and university libraries for several years before joining the college book trade. He lives in New Mexico, where the aliens landed.

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