Director: Jan de Bont
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler, Ciaran Hinds, Chris Barrie, Noah Taylor, Til Schweiger, Djimon Hounsou
Plot: While searching for a treasure vault of Alexander the Great, Lara (Jolie) uncovers a plot to unleash Pandora’s Box on the world.
Tomb Raider movies have a major problem to work through and that is that the content doesn’t quite lend itself to a cinematic style. Most of the game has the heroine alone clambering up tombs, which is a tough sell for any movie audience. There are shoot-outs and fighting, but focusing too closely on those elements takes away from the overall theme of Tomb Raider. As a result, Tomb Raider movies are, most often, middling affairs.
Cradle of Life’s biggest issue is that there is a large amount of the movie that simply stops feeling like a Tomb Raider movie. It starts strong with an amazing opening sequence in Santorini that involves an underwater tomb, some aerobatics through a crumbling structure and one set-piece with a shark that makes this movie worth a rental alone. However, as the film carries on with MI6 hiring Lara to take down Ciaran Hinds weapons dealer (the actor usually is lumped with small bit-parts in cinema but it is nice to see Hinds grab a role he can truly tear into), who is planning on digging up Pandora’s Box and using it as a bioweapon, it slowly moves away from the film that the fans want to see. It is almost as though the producers are focusing on the fact that Lara Croft is a tough female action hero too much, warping the Tomb Raider movie into a female counterpart of the spy franchise. Angelina Jolie is given a male ‘Bond girl’ in the form of Gerard Butler’s Scottish double agent and put up against some sleek foreign bad guys. The entire middle section of Tomb Raider feels like the script slowly drifted away from the initial project draft by draft. Lara vaults onto a helicopter through Hong Kong and then parachutes off of a skyscraper while being chased by gunmen – it doesn’t quite feel like the Tomb Raider experience that we came to see. It does eventually pull it back, taking the action to Africa, where Lara has to find a gravity-defying tomb in Mount Kilimanjaro via a forest filled with supernatural monsters. The entire sequence feels very Tomb Raider-esque, perhaps more so than most of the first film. But is it enough to save the movie? Despite the flaws of the film, it does feel very smooth. The action is fluid, even the non-Tomb Raider moments, feeling very easy to slip into. Jolie is as incredible as ever, whether it is quipping in her cool English accent or showing off a new talent effortlessly. While a first watch might not quite settle, watching a second time shows off everything that the movie does right. Lara shoots two guns with one hand in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot. Jolie fires off a cool look at the perfect moment. Sometimes it is just a joke. Whatever the reason, the action side of things is perfectly serviceable, even when it ventures away from the Tomb Raider USP. Perhaps it is, at times, just too smooth, the drama not quite sinking in to give the action its bite. When the bad guys have been taken care of, there is one final twist to get through, but it doesn’t land as much as you think it should do. It means that for Tomb Raider fans it will likely disappoint, for action fans it will entertain, but for movie-lovers, Cradle of Life will just fall short of the movie it could have been.
Final Verdict: Tomb Raider movies are tough to pull off and while Cradle of Life might not quite be the film you want it to be, it is fairly watchable.