Tomb Raider The Cradle of Life

A Film Review By The Mike

Rating:RATED PG-13 for violence and lots of pointy things under tight things
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler
Directed By: Jan De Bont

Final Grade:

There haven’t been a lot of times that I’ve seen a previously created character brought to the screen that I agreed with the casting of. Usually filmmakers make uninspired star choices that don’t fit the previously existing character (i.e. – Jim Carrey as The Grinch, J-Lo as Karen Sisco (a blond in the novel) in Out of Sight recently — though the trend traces all the way back to Boris Karloff as Frankenstein). A lot of these trades work out (i.e. – Karloff’s Frankenstein was extremely effective on the big screen, although Robert DeNiro’s creature in the 1994 version is the best representation of the book’s monster…but by far not the best film about him). I will say however, that Angelina Jolie as Tomb Raider heroine Lara Croft is a rarity, an absolutely brilliant choice that represents the established character perfectly.

Granted, it’s a little easier to represent a video game heroine than a heroine of the written word or of a precious film. Regardless, watching Angelina as Lara reflects the spirit and look of the animated character perfectly, and the films around her seem like the games they’re based off of. Despite this the first film failed, due to too much story and too wild of direction. Now, with The Cradle of Life, the vision of Lara Croft that the games created is fully realized in a film that knows its place better than its predecessor did. It doesn’t try to be too complicated, witty, or stylish. Director Jan De Bont sets out to make a fun action film, and does so with decent results.

There’s a lot to dislike about this film, most notably the plot development. Early scenes seem to be forcing things down our throats, with a word for word description of what is happening in each scene coming from the mouths of the characters in it. Little time is wasted on things like character development, however. Most of the characters we meet are returning from the original, so the lack of detail is allowed. The biggest new addition, Croft’s male partner turned imprison mercenary (Butler) is touched upon a lot (more force-fed plot details), but the villain, played by Ciaran Hinds (The Sum of All Fears, Road to Perdition) is simply introduced and set free. Besides the obligatory scene where he kills a traitor as an example to others not to screw with him, his character is never really given depth, except that he’s the bad guy.

Of course, none of that really matters to the filmmakers, as they simply set out to make a film that looked great and functioned well. They succeed quite greatly in that aspect. The action scenes are very well done, the stunts look cool, and the settings look excellent. Of course, it’s hard to make a film look bad when it’s two hours of a busty babe that totes a pair of pistols.

That would be Jolie, whose performance is the basis of the film. She does what she’s supposed to, looks great, and doesn’t do anything stupid that would mess with the film’s style. Too many stars these days throw in little tricks that don’t fit their character, but Jolie simply makes herself the character, instead of making the character herself.

The film also boasts a pleasant addition in the casting of Gerard Butler as Croft’s male equivalent. The Scottish-born big man has a spectacular screen presence and plays the role of the cocky hero quite well. Jolie and Butler have great on-screen chemistry, and their relationship really works well. I can’t wait to see more of Butler, who’s next slated to star in the Michael Crichton flick Timeline, and then will headline a musical adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera in 2004. I’m drooling at the thought of it.

The Cradle of Life is not a high quality film in any shape or form, but it suffices as a time-passing, popcorn action flick. If you want a fun film, you could do a lot better with some recent releases, but you could do a lot worse as well. It’s not as well crafted as something like The Italian Job, but it’s not as pointless and showy as something like Charlie’s Angels. It’s simply a middle of the pack ride that will keep you entertained and leave your mind soon after. At the very least, it’s not a pointles T & A festival like the first film, which it greatly overshadows, and shows off a lot of Jolie and the future-star Butler’s “talents”, which almost make the film very enjoyable.

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