The source of life on earth, the Cradle of Life, was discovered by Alexander the Great thousands of years ago. But, the power contained in the box, dubbed Pandora's, proved so devastating that the ruler put it back from whence it came. Now, evil genius Jonathan Reiss (Ciaran Hinds) is questing after Alexander's find and wishes to unleash the power in the box upon an unsuspecting world. Enter Lady Lara Croft, archaeologist and adventurer, and it is up to her to save the world from destruction in "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life."
Things start off predictably enough as fishing boats merge at a spot off the coast of Greece. In the distance comes a jet ski hurtling toward them at high speed. The driver of the ski does an effortless flip and draws up to one of the boats. It is, of course, Lady Croft. A recent earthquake, it seems, may have uncovered a near-mythical place, Alexander's Luna Temple, deep in the sea and Lara and her crew take their high-tech diving equipment to find it.
The famous tomb raider locates the temple and finds a mysterious orb that may hold the key to the location of the Cradle and, in it, Pandora's box and all of its powers. Unbeknownst to Lara, Chen Lo (Simon Yam), the leader of the Chinese criminal tong, the Shay Ling, also has designs to seize the orb. In a battle involving spear guns, he and his men grab it from the Lady and strand her in an underwater cavern as an aftershock from the quake brings the temple down. Lara, of course, makes a spectacular escape, hitching a ride on a shark to safety.
This begins a quest that spans the world as Lara Croft enlists the help of former British command, Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler), now a mercenary languishing in a prison in Kazakhstan. She offers him freedom, amnesty by the British government and 5 million pounds to help her find the orb and stop Reiss from his nefarious scheme to rule the world - or what's left of it after he opens the box and unleashes unspeakable disease. This sets off an adventure that travels from Greece to China to Hong Kong and, finally, to Kenya, the location of the fabled Cradle of Life.
Well, the fan boys of the Tomb Raider games are going to enjoy "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life," maybe even more than the first. Angelina Jolie is a stunning figure with a bodacious bod, all of the action hero moves (never mind those luscious lips) and packs a pair of really big guns. (We all know about the attraction to the fans for sexy women with big guns.) Her character and the movie hold much akin to the James Bond films of late, so much so that Jolie could play Jane Bond if the Broccoli family decides to change the gender of 007 in the future.
The supporting cast does a serviceable job backing up the star but the film belongs to Jolie/Croft. Gerard Butler, as Lara's sort-of-old-boyfriend and current partner in adventure Terry Sheridan, is appearing in his first costarring role in a US picture (he played a lesser supporting character in last year's "Reign of Fire"). Butler has the tough good looks, nonchalant line deliver and physical ability to be a good foil for Lady Croft but, once again, the love interest sours in the end. The actor may have given his career a boost with his insouciant character, though. The rest of the cast flesh things out in the background but most are little more than targets for Lara's bullets. Ciaran Hinds is imposing as the chief bad guy, Jonathan Reiss, but German actor Til Schweiger gets the most indignant one-liners as Reiss's head henchman Sean. Christopher Barrie and Noah Taylor reprise their roles as Lara's high-tech sidekicks, Hillary and Bryce, but without note. Djimon Hounsou is in the same boat as her Kenyan connection, Kosa.
Techs are first rate as befits the big-budget sequel to a blockbuster original (which took an estimated $300 million worldwide box office). Stunts, shootout choreography, cinematography, location, costume and everything else are given first class treatment. Jim Henson's Creature Shop provides some quite innovative "monsters" when Lara and company enters the Cradle of Life. The Cradle, itself, is reminiscent of an Escher painting - you know, the ones with the stairways going in all different directions.
"Lara Croft Tomb Raider" is geared to the game boy audience that made the character so popular in the first place and teen girls looking for a strong, feminine role model (and, I have to say, I would rather see Lara Croft as a role model than Charlie's Angels). It will also find some fans in those who are fond of Bond, James Bond and Indiana Jones, but not much beyond. The irony of it all is that, given the state of present and future CGI development, Lara Croft could, once again, become a computer-generated creation if this keeps spawning sequels. I give it a C+.
Laura did not see this film.
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