‘Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life’ (2003) review: Cradle of mediocrity

‘Cradle of Life’ lacks charm of its predecessor

Angelina Jolie, to me, always will be Lara Croft, the ingenious millionaire archaeologist who saves the world using her insane cache of guns and feminine wiles. I will always connect the two regardless of medium or character portrayal.

Even after the mess that was “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.”

Which is a shame, because “Cradle of Life” had the potential to be far more interesting than it was.

Sharply editing and better directed than “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” not to mention how much better it looks, “Cradle of Life” returns us to the world of Croft, the video game heroine known for her suave, never-flustered demeanor. Known as the female counterpart to the more-famous Bond, Croft has saved lives (and the world) more than times than can be counted. In essence, she’s a beast. And Jolie, in typical form, brings her swagger to the popular character.

She alone, though, is not enough to save this mediocre script and ridiculous premise. Which, by the way, starts off with a giant earthquake in Santorini caused by loud music. (I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere, I just don’t know where.)

The shifting of the earth reveals a treasure trove under the sea near the Grecian site. In it we find stunningly old artifacts, including scrolls from the Library of Alexandria and a very shiny orb with a type of coding on it. None of this, however, was discovered until Lara Croft enters the scene, riding a jet ski with a distinctly “I’m Lara Croft” attitude. Oh, and she avoids a competing team of deep-sea divers while performing physical acts you’d only expect from a ninja.

So, back to the orb. That important orb signifying a much greater mystery. Lara has it taken from her, rather quickly, I may add. By Chen Lo (Simon Yam), the leader of a Chinese crime syndicate, which is working with Jonathan Reiss (Ciaran Hinds). He’s the villain in all of this nonsense, with a simple goal: He wants to use this golden orb to find Pandora’s box so he can more or less destroy the world.

His plan, one only a crazed man would find plausible, actually has a certain beauty to it: It’s the type of scheme you’d find in a Lara Croft video game. (Think of the recent mega-hit “Uncharted” franchise for a similar premise.) But this isn’t a video game, and audiences don’t always connect these tangential themes.

In this particular movie, our characters and plot lines end up being as stiff and unrealistic as you’d expect from a video game from the same year (2003). We have the unnecessary but always-present sexual component, with Jolie’s Croft working with love interest Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler) in an effort to prevent Reiss from being diabolical. (There’s an argument to be had about the sexualization of Croft, but that’s for a different column.) There’s the unrealistic nature of what’s going on around us, including Croft’s never-ending list of extremely helpful contracts and the presence of world-ending magic. And monsters. Let’s not forget the monsters.

How I wish I could forget the monsters.

As stated earlier, “Cradle of Life,” directed by Jan de Bont, had the potential to be fun and interesting. It squandered that potential with all this silliness, which clocks in at about two hours, or about 30 minutes too long. It’s not that we don’t want Croft to stop the madness, it just doesn’t take long for us to stop caring.

All in all, as a gamer, I wanted this to be more. I wanted Lara Croft to save the world from a credible threat using his intelligence (and weaponry), not magic and sexual persuasion. Perhaps I’ll just go back to playing “Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition.”

Two “Don’t open the box!” stars out of five.

“Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” review

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