Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – Cradle of Life (2003)

Director: Jan De Bont
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler, Ciaeán Hinds, Noah Taylor, Christopher Barrie
Music: Alan Silvestri

Lara Croft – Tomb Raider – Cradle Of Life is really an old-fashioned B-Grade movie. It may have had a A-grade budget and cast, but it really is B-grade trash and deserves it’s place, right along side of films such as Treasure Of the Four Crowns, King Solomon’s Mines and any other films made to cash in on the popularity of Indiana Jones.

I didn’t think much of the first Tomb Raider movie on first viewing (I am starting to warm to it). Initially, for me it was a poor, ponderous ripoff of Indiana Jones (I know It’s based on a video game – which in itself is a ripoff of Indiana Jones). For a guy like me, the joy from it (apart from oggling Angelina Jolie in those impossibly tight costumes) came from the old stagers in the cast, such as Leslie Philips and Richard Johnson. With the benefit of time, it now boasts an very noticeable pre-James Bond role for Daniel Craig. But I didn’t hold high hope for Lara Croft – Tomb Raider – Cradle Of Life . However I have to admit that for three quarters of it’s running time, I was wildly entertained.

The film opens at a Greek wedding on Santorini Island. As the wedding reception takes place, and the guests wine, dine and dance, an earthquake strikes the area. The mountains shake, and fragments from the cliffs fall into the sea.

The earthquake also shifts the ocean floor, and some ancient ruins that had lay hidden for thousands of years are once again revealed. With the discovery, a flotilla of archaeologists flood into the area. Among them is Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie). She is a bit smarter than the other archaeologists, and realises that the earthquake has also changed the undersea current patterns, therefore most of them are searching in the wrong spot.

She has her boat move further to the west, and out to sea. Diving down she finds the airtight lost temple of Alexander The Great. It is filled with treasure and statues and all good things for an archaeologist, but what catches her eye is a golden glass orb which is mounted high above a statue of Alexander The Great.

Lara clambers up the walls to the orb and starts to remove it from it’s casing, but as she does Chen Lo (Simon Yam) and some goons from the Shay Ling Brotherhood arrive in the temple and kill Lara’s assistants. After a pretty large scale fire-fight in which most of the temple is destroyed, Chen Lo manages to escape with the orb and all of the scuba equipment. Lara is now trapped in a flooding temple on the sea bed.

How does she get out of her predicament? Well dear reader, she grabs a knife and slices into her arm. Then she enters the water. The blood attracts a shark. As it comes at her, she punches it in the nose and then latches onto it’s dorsal fin. The shark then races to the surface with Lara in tow. It maybe a creative solution to Lara’s problem by the scriptwriters, but certainly not a believable one.

Now this orb that Chen Lo has stolen is in fact a map. It is a map to the location of Pandora;s Box, which when opened will flood the world with plague and pestilence. Chen Lo intends to sell the map, to Jonathan Reiss (Ciaeán Hinds) who is a slimy entrepreneur who makes his money by selling nasty biological weapons.

Anyway, Lara needs to track down the Shay Ling Brotherhood who have her magic orb, but this is not easy. Like most secretive evil organisations, the Shay Ling don’t advertise where their secret hideout is. But Luckily Lara knows of a man who used to work for the Shay Ling. His name is Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler), and he is currently serving time in prison. With a little help from M.I.6 (another subplot, but I won’t go into that here), Lara arranges to have Terry released. From here, our dynamic duo of Lara and Terry form an uneasy alliance and track down the Shay Ling and the orb.

Cradle Of Life is a vast improvement over it’s ponderous predecessor, but it still is pretty shallow and noisy. But at least it moves at a fair clip, so you won’t have too much time to think about what’s up there on the screen – and Angelina Jolie in a tight fitting costume is always watchable. For most of the films running time I was fairly entertained, but towards the end, the story just gets bloody silly. But by that time, after you’ve invested 90 minutes of the 117 minute run time you might as well see it out. Let’s just say that it is probably this poor ending that killed the Tomb Raider movie franchise.

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