Published Jul 01, 2003There's good news and bad news when discussing the recent chapter in the Tomb Raider franchise. The good news is that the second installment to this video game action flick is far better than the original. The bad news is that the original was so incredibly dull and unimaginative that raising the bar wasn't exactly the most difficult thing to accomplish for Jan de Bont, who managed to pump some life into Speed and Twister. In fact, there was so much demand for more vitality in the Tomb Raider sequel that things may have gone too far and we've been introduced to a headache-inducing amount of explosions and gunfire.
Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) has stumbled upon the greatest architectural treasure in centuries and it contains an orb that possesses a map that leads the beholder to Pandora's Box. Really? Okay. The audience has no choice but to swallow that pill and others that might seem a little farfetched, as Lara defeats all odds to prevent the lethal Pandora's Box from landing in the hands of criminal masterminds that want to use it as a weapon to potentially kill millions. In order to track down the bad guys, Lara needs to recruit Terry (Gerard Butler), an old Scottish flame who is also a not to be trusted traitor and the two butt heads and make bedroom eyes all at the same time.
The Cradle of Life is still as corny as the first Tomb Raider film, with one-liners that will make you groan and impossible stunts that will make your eyes roll. Where this sequel succeeds though is that they've actually allowed Lara to develop her character more through risking her neck and shooting her guns, rather than crying about her lost father and battling the demons of her past. The film jumps often from country to country, allowing for more changes of scenery and events to keep the audience's eyelids from getting heavy through boredom.
Jolie is even more stunning this time around as Lara Croft, possibly because of the amount of room she's been given to actually act, which allows us to finally make a connection with her character. The greater-developed Lara of The Cradle of Life takes more charge and has more fun and lives up to the indestructible action hero billing that she deserves, rather than being eye-candy for grown men who opt to read comic books rather than move out of their parent's house. Still, the movie follows all the predictable blockbuster angles and still doesn't live up to the amazing possibilities that the Tomb Raider franchise has to offer. Even though there was no choice but to up the level of senseless violence, throwing money at pointless special effects and action sequences set to horrible dance music just doesn't cut it anymore. The Cradle of Life is entertaining and has restored faith in the series after a disastrous start, but there's still more exciting tomb raiding in The Goonies. (Paramount)