Despite being critically reviled in her first movie, Lara Croft is back with a new adventure that is better, but not even close to good.
In Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, Angelina Jolie stars as the title character as she is sent by MI6 to stop a rich arms dealer from finding and unleashing the power of Pandora's Box. Her quest leads her all over the world, including China and Africa, but in the end, she fails to get what she has been looking for: a good movie. If only Tomb Raider 2 had good action and some nudity - though Jolie in various tight outfits isn't bad - this movie would be salvageable; alas, it has neither.
The director's chair has been upgraded this time around, from Simon West to Jan de Bont (along with the screenwriters). At first glance, it is a definite upgrade, as he is the man behind such hits as Twister and Speed, but then again, his latest films have been Speed 2: Cruise Control and The Haunting, two of the worst movies ever made. Either way, West royally screwed up the original Tomb Raider movie, so this new guy could not possibly have done as bad of a job, and it's true... This movie is nowhere near as silly and stupid as the original.
Unfortunately, that doesn't say much. This time around, things are a tad more realistic, as de Bont has moved away from a lot of the flashy video game special effects while doing a better job of embracing what the video games are all about. Of course, that doesn't say the graphics are good - in fact, they are quite, well, bad. The computerized shark is terrible. The submarine is terrible. Most of the other visuals are terrible. The only things I do like are the monsters near the end of the film; they are quite creepy and original.
Besides the graphics, none of the action scenes are very catchy, either. There were some good (though none memorable) sequences in the first movie, but very little excitement here. Sure, there are plenty of gunfights and so forth, but the characters - both the good guys and the bad guys - do so many stupid things that it is hard to get into any scene. At many points, Lara will kick a guy or knock away his weapon, but instead of finishing the job, she will run away or step back and wait for him to come at her. It makes no sense. Even allowing for some stupidity, none of the action scenes drew me in or made me tense; in fact, I was bored throughout the first half of the movie, despite several action scenes.
As for Jolie, she is decent enough, but definitely does not flaunt her sexuality as much as she should. That might sound a little shallow, and perhaps it is, but this movie is based on a video game about Indiana Jones with big breasts. Jolie is obviously a talented actress that suffers from two things: good looks and a bad taste in screenplays. Hopefully she will be able to find another movie that brings her the same recognition that Girl, Interrupted gave her.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life is a little more believable than its predecessor, but boring action scenes and bad graphics suggest that there may never be a third movie in this franchise.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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