Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life Review
We begin on the island of Santorini, Greece, scene of one of the greatest volcanic eruptions in recorded history. Lara Croft, international action babe (played again by Angelina Jolie), and her backup guys dive to the sea bed to a submerged temple. Lara finds a mysterious golden orb…just in time for Chinese Shay Ling bandits to kill her henchmen and steal the orb, which contains a map to the location of Pandora’s Box. The villain of the piece is Dr Jonathan Reiss (Ciaran Hinds, who walks through this movie with a permanent expression as if he’s sucking on a particularly sour lemon), Nobel Prizewinner, manufacturer of biological weapons and all-round psychopath. Lara arranges the release from prison of former agent and ex-lover Terry (Gerard Butler). Lara and hunky Terry pursue Reiss around the globe…
Given that this film is based on a computer game, you can’t expect any depth or even plot logic. But even on the level of mindless summer blockbuster it fails to deliver. Plot gives way to a series of setpieces, moving from Greece to China and ending up in Africa, and the hope is that you might be so entranced by the charms of Jolie/Butler (delete according to taste) that you don’t notice that it doesn’t make a great deal of sense. There’s a huge amount of money up there on the screen, and the film looks so big and glossy that you may not notice that it isn’t all that well made. A scene which alternates between Terry being beaten and Lara kicking multiple Shay Ling ass is an object lesson in how not to cross-cut. Jan De Bont was by far a better cinematographer than director (Speed notwithstanding) and here the contributions of DP David Tattersall, production designer Kirk M. Petruccelli and costume designer Lindy Hemming are so top-drawer that they disguise his deficiencies.
Lara Croft is so much a figure of fantasy (so well-endowed that she’d probably need to get her underwear specially manufactured, a detail absent from Dean Georgaris’s screenplay) that it would be difficult to find anyone to play her. In the event, Jolie does so well enough, passing through all manner of mayhem with no hair out of place and makeup unsmudged. Jolie has been far livelier in other films, but in this one she shows a range of emotion bordering on the androidal. (Though, given the emphasis made on her secondary sexual characteristics, perhaps that word should be “gynoidal”.) It’s a shame to see good actors like Noah Taylor and Djimon Hounsou in cruise-control mode, but I suppose everyone needs a good payday now and again. As two hours of brain-in-neutral entertainment, The Cradle of Life may just about pass muster, if you’re very uncritical.