Videogame geeks rejoice! Lara Croft is back!
One of the summer's biggest bombs, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, a sequel to 2001's cruddy Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, which in turn was an adaptation of the popular video game, went belly up upon its initial theatrical release. It could be that the video game craze is dying, or that Jolie's name isn't as big of a draw as studio heads might think. Or it could just be no one was really interested in seeing a sequel to a movie that wasn't very good to begin with. Reprising her role was Angelina Jolie as Lady Croft, a woman whose lips are roughly the size of Denver, Colorado. Also starring a lot of serious looking actors who like to snarl a lot, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life makes its DVD debut care of Paramount Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Lara Croft is back! This time the female version of Indiana Jones is after a new and rare find: the mythical Pandora's Box, an artifact that came from space millions of years ago and started life on the planet (oh, so that's how it happened). The box oozed out life but was shut before it could release a deadly plague upon man (who shut it remains a mystery, but never mind). An Egyptian Pharaoh then found the box in 2300 BC in a place called "the cradle of life." Centuries later, Alexander the Great hid the box in a temple along with a magical orb that includes the location of box. The orb is hard to read, though in a movie like this there's always a convenient plot contrivance to help the hero figure out the location. Of course, none of this would be any fun if it was just Lara looking for the box; also in hot pursuit is the vile Dr. Jonathan Reiss (the putty faced Ciaran Hinds, The Sum Of All Fears) who wants the box for its resale value, indifferent to the fact that if opened it could kill millions of innocent people. With the help of a former boyfriend (Gerard Butler, Dracula 2000) and a few of her cohorts from the first film (including the goofy Noah Tyler, Vanilla Sky) Lara will discover the mysteries of life, and blow a lot of things up in the process.
One of the worst mediums for cinematic inspiration is video games. Has there ever been a really good video game movie adaptation? Or even a mildly entertaining one? In an act of desperation that may be classified as stupidity, I watched Super Mario Bros. the other night. Dear Lord, what a horrible movie. Then I watched Mortal Kombat because, frankly, I'm semi-retarded. Finally, I sat down to watch Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, a sequel to a film I really, really didn't like. The final consensus: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life is the best video game adaptation yet, and that isn't saying much.
I enjoyed Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life more than expected, though my expectations were very low. My issues with the first film were that the plot was incredibly hard to follow—more to the point, it didn't make much sense. The Cradle of Life goes down a little easier, even if it's story line is just as goofy and inconsequential. Unlike Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life doesn't have a very exciting payoff (don't worry, I'm not going to spoil the ending for you). However, the lead up sports a few nice action set pieces, as well as Angelina Jolie's magnificent lips, the number one reason why I can't call the film a complete failure.
Taking over the directing reigns this time out is Jan DeBont, a man who has made one good movie (Speed), one mediocre movie (Speed 2: Cruise Control), and two really bad movies (Twister, The Haunting). If nothing else, DeBont knows how to stage good explosions: a sequence involving Lara avoiding certain death in an underwater city looks excellent. What is not so great are some of the stunts pulled off by Croft, many of them either too CGI in nature or wholly illogical. During one scene, Lara floats in the ocean, waits for a huge great white shark to swim up to her, then pops it on the nose with her first and rides the beast to the surface, a feat that should have ended in Lara as an aqua buffet.
Though I'm not a fan of the movies, Jolie seems to be the perfect fit for the Lara Croft character. Aside of being anatomically correct in all the right places, Jolie also offers a humorless rendition of a woman hell bent on one thing: procuring historical artifacts in Peruvian jungles and underwater lairs. Her nemesis, played by Ciaran Hinds with lots of smirking and anger, never rises above villain mediocrity. In fact, aside of Jolie, none of the actors are all that interesting—characterization and plot have been replaced by really cool looking computer graphics and million dollar action scenes. I did like the idea of Croft trying to find Pandora's Box, but too little is done with the idea: the climax is…well, very anticlimactic.
The bottom line is this: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life is better than its predecessor, though not by leaps and bounds. Come for Jolie's lips, stay for a scene where a man gets boiled in a pool of black acid. Otherwise, catch Indy's new-to-DVD adventures over this lackluster action flick.
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I may not have been crazy about the movie but I am nuts about this transfer: Paramount has produced a top-notch picture on this disc. The colors and black levels are all strongly rendered and bold without any major defects marring the image. Edge enhancement is kept at a bare minimum while dirt, grain, and bleeding are completely absent. This great looking transfer should please fans of the film.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English and French. Much like the video transfer, this soundtrack is first rate: there is a vast array of surround sounds and directional effects to be found in this mix. In fact, expect for a few minor scenes, all of the speakers are engaged throughout the length of the film. All aspects of the mix, including dialogue, music, and effects, are evenly dispersed and void of distortion. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
Paramount has produced a new Special Collector's Edition of Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life even though it died a slow death at the box office. Starting off this disc is a decent commentary track by director Jan DeBont discussing many of the visual effects and camera tricks, as well as casting and story choices.
Six deleted/extended scenes are also included, each presented in non-anamorphic widescreen with optional commentary by DeBont. Also included under this section is an alternate ending that is slightly different from the final film's ending.
Next up are five featurettes, each focusing on separate aspects of the film's production. "Training" looks at Jolie's physical preparation for the film. "Vehicles and Weapons" focuses on the arsenal used in the film. "Stunts" is about the stunt work and the rigorous dangers that can be present on an action movie film set. The final two featurettes, "Visual Effects" and "Scoring," focus on how the special effects were created and what it took to bring the music score to life (this feature also includes interview footage with composer Alan Silvestri as well as video clips from the scoring sessions).
Finally there is a screen test for Gerard Butler (which also showcases how silly the dialogue is), two music videos ("Did My Time" by Korn and "Heart Go Faster" by The Davey Brothers), some DVD-ROM content, and a preview section for various Paramount titles.
If you enjoyed the first Tomb Raider movie, you'll no doubt get a kick out of Lara's second adventure. If you didn't catch it in the theaters, which is most likely, you may want to give this disc a whirl on DVD. But be warned: if you weren't a fan of the first film don't expect The Cradle of Life to turn you into a believer.
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life is sentenced to a decade of watching every Indiana Jones movie and TV show ever made.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary Track by Director Jan DeBont
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