Thursday Night Movie Club
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life
star rating graphicstar rating graphic½
Release Date: July 25, 2003

Director: Jan De Bont
Angelina Jolie
Gerard Butler
Noah Taylor
Ciaran Hinds
Djimon Hounsou
Til Schweiger
Lara Croft
Terry Sheridan
Jonathan Reiss
Lara Croft: Tombraider2 - The Cradle of Life poster
Well fellas...this one is just as poor as the original. It again an action movie in search of better directing. The story, as the original, is very good. The execution is very bad.

The opening sequence finds Lara Croft and a bunch of other "treasure seekers" on a mission to find a lost temple erected by Alexander the Great. Due to a volcano eruption and its effects on currents, the other seekers are looking in the wrong place. Lara stumbles upon a great find, an orb that points the way to the "Cradle of Life" where all life began. This is also the location of the fabled Pandora's box that lead to a great plague in mythological times. Lara's adversary is set upon finding the lost box and selling it to the highest bidder.

As in all archaeology movies, the temple is always destroyed (see any of the Indiana Jones movies or Michael Cricton's "Congo")! The bad guys get away with the booty. Lara is then hired by MI6 to find the orb and prevent the bad guys from finding the lost Pandora's box.

This sounds interesting and it is. The problem with the Lara Croft movies is that the director shoots all of the action sequences with a long telephoto lens and crops the frame very close. The fight scenes are quickly edited with cuts in the middle of a swing with whatever weapon is currently available. This shooting/editing technique is the same as with the WWF wrestling on TV. Just as a punch is thrown, there is a cut to another shot. The end result is like watching a Fred Astaire dance sequence without seeing his entire body. As good as Jolie's fighting techniques are, the scene looks cheated! This is repeated throughout the entire film...too bad!

There is what should have been a great sequence where Lara and her partner escape an excavation dig by hanging upside down and firing their guns both up and down at the henchmen. I saw a brief clip on the making of "The Cradle of Life" and they actually hung the actors upside down and hoisted them up the cliff to get the shot. Unfortunately, the end result looks as though the scene was shot on a blue screen and all of the elements added-in in post production. The end result is that is looks faked. Compare this with a similar sequence from the opening of the James Bond movie "GoldenEye" and you know what I mean!

Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft and the rest of the actors are very believable in their roles. The acting is top-notch for an action movie. There is camaraderie and conflict among all of the characters. The personal scenes are shot very well. The motivations of all of the main characters are very clear and well depicted and that is a good thing for an action movie. The problem, again, is with the execution. Maybe the producers should hire an ex-Bond director like John Glenn, for the next installment.

Great special effects and a great story do not add up to a great movie. You have to execute the scenes for the audience to believe that this is actually happening.

Angelina Jolie as Lara CroftIn another of the movies spectacular action sequences, the key is stolen from Lara by Manfred Powell (Iain Glen), who is working as a field operative for the Illuminati. He has his own designs on the triangle. The movie begins to fill up with plot holes when a letter arrives from her missing father warning Lara of the dangers ahead. Of course, there is no intelligent reason other than to add suspense that this letter is designed to arrive just as world history is about to be altered. One would think that Lord Croft would give his daughter a little more lead time to find and destroy the triangle. I suppose it is the fact that there is a specific moment when the planets begin to align that the key works. However, a smart man would destroy the entire location where the triangles are hidden just to be on the safe side. Lord Croft could also have simply destroyed the key, but then there would be no reason to make this movie.

This movie plays out like a James Bond film. Lots of amazing stunt/action sequences. One of the ways critics have used to measure and actor as Bond is "how well can he throw a punch?". The same applies to Lara. Jolie can throw a punch and actually looks like she can beat up any guy in this movie.

Other things this movie is sorely missing are romance and humor. Whereas the Bond and Indiana Jones movies combine action, humor, and romance, Lara Croft has action only. She doesn't relate to any of the other characters, including her two assistants. The ending sequence is written to determine whether Lara has any feelings for Alex West. The answer appears to be yes but this wasn't obvious to me.

In the end, the movie is fun to watch, the action is quite stunning. Jolie is a very good Lara Croft. She looks great (for all the males in the audience). But she is not much of a roll model. Unfortunately, her character is as flat as a computer game.