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'Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life'

Jolie is back in action as the video-game heroine

Friday, July 25, 2003

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

So this is what motion pictures have come to, in the year 2003: A sequel to a movie based on a video game. And lest anyone be scared off by any use of the word archaeology, the leading character will be called a tomb raider, which sounds nothing like a summer reading assignment.

 
 

"LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE"

Rating: PG-13 for action violence, some sensuality
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler
Director: Jan De Bont

   
 

Two years after Lara Croft crossed over to the movies with "Tomb Raider," she's back in "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life." Angelina Jolie reprises her role as the fearless, frightfully fit Englishwoman who keeps stumbling across ancient treasures that evildoers covet, so they can control time or the world.

In "Cradle," an earthquake in Greece shakes loose a subterranean museum built by Alexander the Great to house his most prized possessions. Partially submerged under water and crashing back into the ocean, the Luna Temple is filled with riches and one glowing, golden orb.

Croft photographs the orb but is thwarted in her attempt to carry it away by bandits who bob to the water's surface, kill her diving companions and leave her for dead. Through gumption -- attracting a shark by slicing her own arm, punching the toothy one in the snout and grabbing its fin for a thrill-ride escape -- and a high-tech tracking device, she is found after three days adrift at sea.

She eventually learns that a Nobel Prize-winning scientist gone bad named Jonathan Reiss (Ciaran Hinds) wants to buy the orb to find and open Pandora's Box. Already a purveyor of sarin gas, typhoid, cholera and Ebola -- which he demonstrates on a man he considers a traitor -- Reiss sees the box as a means to become rich, wipe out enemies and dominate the world. Once the box is opened, it will unleash a deadly plague.

To stop Reiss, Croft must partner with a former lover, Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler), imprisoned in Kazakhstan. Their mission takes them to Shanghai, rural China and Hong Kong, with Croft eventually landing in the cradle of life but under the most trying of circumstances.

If you're unfamiliar with the first movie or the video game, "Cradle" makes no attempt to familiarize you with the leading or supporting characters, such as her right-hand men Bryce (Noah Taylor) and Hillary (Christopher Barrie). No reference is made to Croft's late father, portrayed by Jon Voight and a key figure in the first movie.

"Cradle" doesn't even try to explain new characters such as Kosa (Djimon Hounsou); the press kit says he and Lara are college friends and he returned to his African roots to improve the life of the Masai tribe. As for Reiss' journey from Nobel Prize to enemy of the state, your guess is as good as mine.

The stunts and action scenes in this movie aren't just dessert. They're the meat of the movie, and "Cradle" features one exhilarating sequence in which two characters don handy "wing suits" and fly from a building 1,000 feet high, triggering their parachutes 200 feet above the ground and landing on the deck of a freighter in Hong Kong's harbor.

Jolie's English accent is still perfectly intact, and she demonstrates how she's perfected the same move Will Smith uses so ably and often in "Bad Boys II": It's sort of a horizontal homicidal hold, as she lunges to the side and aims the guns in both hands at her intended victims. If that's not enough to satisfy the intended male audience, her costumes include a black bikini and form-fitting silver wetsuit, and she gets to bump around the Chinese countryside on a motorcycle.

"Cradle," directed by Jan De Bont ("Speed," "Twister"), takes a big-picture approach in every sense of that phrase, and some of the vistas are as grand as they are impressively filmed. But if you'd like a little detail or character development with your death-defying stunts, look elsewhere, once the sun has set on the summer movie season.


Barbara Vancheri can be reached at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632.

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