Should I Watch..? 'Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life' (2003)
What's the big deal?
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life is an action adventure fantasy film released in 2003 and is the sequel to 2001's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Directly inspired by the Tomb Raider series of video games, the film was directed by Jan de Bont and stars Angelina Jolie as the eponymous Lara Croft. This time, Croft is recruited by MI6 to recover Pandora's Box before it falls into the evil clutches of a bio-terrorist who plans to unleash the contents on the world. Like its predecessor, it received mostly negative reviews when it was released although it was deemed better than the first film. Audiences disagreed and the film scrapped its way to a total box office total of $156 million, much less than its critically derided predecessor.
What's it about?
An earthquake strikes Greece, unveiling a previously hidden temple built by Alexander the Great. Planning to recover the treasures apparently stashed within, English adventurer Lara Croft journeys with her associates and discovers a strange glowing orb with some sort of code inscribed on it. But before she's able to escape, she finds herself cornered by crime boss Chen Lo who takes the orb and tries to destroy the temple with Croft inside.
Barely escaping back to England, Croft is contacted by MI6 who require her expertise in discovering Pandora's Box before scientist and bio-terrorist Jonathon Reiss manages to. The Box is said to contain a deadly plague and was hidden in a mysterious location known as the Cradle of Life. Croft knows that the key to locating the Box is a glowing golden orb - the one stolen by Chen Lo. Recruiting former running mate Terry Sheridan, the race is on to recover the orb and prevent Reiss from opening Pandora's Box.
What's to like?
Without question, the best thing about the movie is Jolie's performance as Croft. Bearing a striking resemblance to the character, her English accent is passable enough to pull the role off. Of course, she also delivers in the stunt work which has her leaping about the place and blowing away bad guys like Daffy Duck in a bad mood. Clearly taking its cue from The Matrix, de Bont delivers another kinetic action picture that fills the picture with bullets and explosions and your ears with near-constant noise. It has a definite style and energy to it, even if it's utterly bonkers.
Honestly, I've never been a fan of Lara Croft in either movie or video game format. I was too cynical about her appearance, clearly designed to be a poster pin-up for teenage boys everywhere. At least Jolie gives the role her all - the poster alone makes it obvious that the movie is basically about Lara Croft indulging in her earnest impression of Indiana Jones in as tight-fitting clothing as possible. And like the games, it substitutes story-telling for ludicrous action scenes but there's a problem - with a game, you are the one in control but with this film, you are an impassive observer with zero input or involvement. That's not good...
- The film was banned in China because, according to the authorities there, "it damages China's reputation, giving the impression of a country in chaos, no government and over-run by secret societies".
- The scene where Lara climbs a pagoda and pole-vaults onto a helicopter mimics a similar scene in one of the Tomb Raider games.
- The film features a limited edition Jeep Wrangler, customised specifically for the film. 1001 were made available to the public at the time of the movie's opening but it only featuring on screen for less than two minutes.
What's not to like?
Not that The Cradle Of Life was ever going to be a classic in the first place. You rarely know why the action occurs as it does (and certainly never follow the story that closely) because it's shootout after ridiculous shootout. The film's opening scenes give the game away with the worst CG shark seen outside of a Sharknado movie and Ms Jolie's nipples straining to escape before she strips off into a black bikini. Call me shallow but I demand much more than this from an action movie of this type. I want to be thrilled, excited and entertained but this film passed me by in such a noisy blur, it felt like a train rushing past that doesn't stop at your station.
The rest of the cast besides Jolie feel as disinterested in proceedings as I was, Hinds proving a particular disappoint as the clichéd English baddie. Even the action was a let-down - given that Croft is basically a trench-coat away from being Neo, the film presents cartoony shootouts and extreme stunt-work that one suspects had a thorough dipping in CG. I loved the moment when she slides down a rough hemp rope backwards, feet pointing to the bad guys above, blasting them away with her enormous pistols. Just what in God's name does she use as hand-cream? Even the ending, which introduces a yawn-inducing supernatural element to the film, fails to invigorate your interest.
Should I watch it?
This is a prime example of why Hollywood cannot make a decent movie based on a video game - it takes more than dressing up and throwing millions of dollars of special effects into the mix to get it right. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life is a real mess burdened by the lack of a decent script, an unmotivated supporting cast and a director curiously off his game. Not even Jolie's hard work as Croft makes the picture worth watching - I'd stick to the games if I were you. Even the title feels unwieldy and uninteresting.
Great For: the DVD makes an excellent coaster
Not So Great For: fans of the series, action junkies, the man who has to put film titles letter by letter up outside cinemas
What else should I watch?
If I were a professional critic (and God willing, one day...) then it would be my duty to report on Lara Croft Tomb Raider to provide a decent comparison. However, it's safe to say that my experience with this turgid waste of time has somewhat put me off so I'll leave it for another day. Its closest cinematic equivalent is obviously the Indiana Jones series with its mix of charismatic hero, myth and legend, action and suspense and frankly, you don't need me to tell you how much better those films are - even the wretched Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull wasn't as bad as this.
Despite lots of attempts, there still hasn't been a film adaptation of a video game that I could legitimately recommend. Probably the closest would be the fairly dull Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within which is loosely based on the games and is a remarkable piece of animation. It is genuinely staggering how good a film it looks but tragically, the film is a slow and plodding drama with little to relieve the boredom. Even recent adaptations of Warcraft and Assassin's Creed failed to win over many admirers, despite doing OK at the box office. When will people learn?
Jan de Bont
Release Date (UK)
22nd August, 2003
Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Razzie Award Nomination
Worst Actress (Jolie)
© 2015 Benjamin Cox