[box cover]

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

The existence of Pandora's Box has been proven, and Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) must reach it before Jonathan Reiss (Ciaran Hinds), or a plague will be unleashed upon the Earth. Reiss is a former Nobel Prize winner who now sells biological weapons, and he's decided, for some reason, to kill everyone but the best and brightest. The key to finding the Box is an orb, discovered by Croft in a sunken temple built by Alexander the Great, but stolen from her by a Chinese gang. Contained in the orb is a map, leading to what is known as "The Cradle of Life"; however, the map must be decoded before it can reveal the location. British Intelligence agency MI6 wants Laura to stop Reiss, and they agree to release military prisoner Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler) to help her get into the Chinese gang's hideout. There's a lot more globe-trotting than tomb-raiding that follows, as Croft and Sheridan track Reiss from Greece to China and finally to Africa in an effort to reach the Box first. Bearing little in common with the video-game franchise that first established the Lara Croft character, but including several cheesy bits of action just the same, the Tomb Raider films have given Angelina Jolie an opportunity to kick some ass and look good doing it. In Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003), the technical gadgetry and detective work seem more in line with a James Bond film, while the mystic qualities call to mind 1999's The Mummy more than Indiana Jones. If only it were more tongue-in-cheek — in a movie with a sense of humor, a character pole-vaulting onto a helicopter would be hilarious. Here, it's tedious. And when Lara uses a musket to fend off a man wielding two swords by performing some sort of formal musket-twirling technique, it starts to get annoying. Although Croft apparently is infamous in archeological circles, the location of the massive Croft Manor in Buckinghamshire remains a mystery to the villains, and (much like the first film) they gain an advantage by "discovering" its location. You can almost feel sympathy for Gerard Butler, whose character is presented as some sort of ex-military badass, then winds up being relegated to hopeless-sidekick status. Of course, it wouldn't do to upstage Lara, since her name is in the title. Director Jan De Bont brings his technical competence to the film — there's nothing special here, but at times it looks good, mostly due to the location shooting. In all, it's a fairly harmless bit of action filmmaking, but there are better genre choices out there. Paramount presents Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life as a single-disc Collector's Edition in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. There's actually a reasonable amount of supplements here for a single disc, with 10 deleted scenes, an alternate ending, four "making-of" featurettes, and a full-length commentary from De Bont. Keep-case.
—Scott Anderson

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