Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)
Director: Jan de Bont
Screenwriters: Dean Georgaris
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler, Noah Taylor, Ciarán Hinds, Djimon Hounsou, Til Schweiger, Christopher Barrie
Two years after audiences got their first look at Lara Croft on the big screen, the twin-pistol shooting, pony-tail whipping heroine saddled up for a second cinematic outing in Jan de Bont’s underwhelming 2003 follow up.
When a volcanic shift in Greece unearths a long forgotten sunken tomb, a mysterious glowing orb is found with the secret to finding Pandora’s box, an ancient mythical treasure able to unleash a great plague upon humanity. Naturally, everyone’s first thought is to retrieve the box and open it up – did we learn nothing from Raiders of the Lost Ark?
Luckily though, the ever up-for-a-raid Lara Croft is on hand to thwart the bad guys’ plans and leave the big box of death where it is. Sensible.
Noah Taylor and Chris Barrie return as Lara’s ever doting helpers, as well as new additions Gerard Butler as Lara’s old flame and Ciarán Hinds as a Nobel Prize winning scientist intent on unleashing said plague on the world in order to cleanse the planet of unnecessary civilians. Sheesh.
This sequel to the fun but flawed first entry sees Lara flying off to China for the bulk of the movie with co-star Butler in tow, riding motor bikes along the Great Wall of China, abseiling down cliff edges and dabbling in a spot of wing-suit diving from a Hong Kong high-rise.
All of this builds toward a final act in Africa, where Pandora’s box is found being guarded by big razor-clawed spirit-thingies.
A little bit of gun-fighting here and a little bit of betrayal there, and before you know it the credits are rolling. Bish, bash, bosh.
The film starts out strong, with an enjoyable underwater sequence which ends with Lara punching a shark in the face and riding it to safety (as you do) and a welcomed return to Croft Manor for a spot of target practice on the back of a horse, but it’s only downhill from there, getting bogged down in too much exposition and ultimately lacking a lot of the fun of the first film. It’s also criminally sparse on iconic Lara Croft outfits (which is why you never let stars pick their own wardrobe) and offers up a darker tone that doesn’t quite fit the jovial, care-free spirit of the character.
Director Jan de Bont seems more intent on making his own version of Indiana Jones than a Tomb Raider sequel, complete with golden chalice-like treasure better left untouched. Unfortunately for him, this feels more like The Temple of Doom than The Last Crusade.
In other words, game over.