Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (12A)

Another franchise, another sequel.

The transformation of cyberbabe Lara Croft from video game creation to action movie heroine is complete with this vapid misfire, which combines the gunplay of John Woo’s balletic bullet-fests with the locations, stunts and high adventure of the Bond series.

Strange, then, that practically the whole raison d’être of Lara Croft – catacombs, myths and legends – has been ditched in favour of a genre all of its own: one that takes huge bites from the likes of Mission: Impossible at the expense of its roots in quasi Indiana Jones territory.

Pneumatic sexpot Angelina Jolie returns as the feisty Lara, equally full of lip and buxom of breast, as she travels the world seeking the key to the Cradle of Life – the site where life began and where, legend has it, Pandora’s Box was secreted to prevent Mankind lifting the lid on pain, chaos and destruction.

She is joined by ex-Royal Marine, mercenary and former lover Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler), a muscular Scot who acts as her guide as she tries to locate an unusual map that will lead her to her destination.

Between them they must prevent supervillain Jonathan Reiss (Ciarán Hinds), the world’s foremost designer of biological weapons, from finding and opening Pandora’s Box, thus bringing on a modern-day apocalypse.

While everything that occurs in Tomb Raider 2 could easily be placed within the context of the Indiana Jones saga – nefarious nasties, death-defying stunts and legendary archaeological sites such as the Lunar Temple, which provides the film with its starting point – its contemporary atmosphere proves to be its Achilles’ heel.

Jolie brings energy, panache and sex appeal to a role that seemed vaguely bogged down in exposition in the first film. For the sequel all the back-story has been eschewed in favour of all-out action, globetrotting adventure and gadgets galore.

She emerges from the sea in a bikini, swims to the ocean floor in a skin-tight silver bodysuit, fires twin pistols in a fashion that would put 007 to shame and rides motorcycles a la Evel Knievel. When it comes to horses, however, she sits sidesaddle. She is, after all, a lady.

Director Jan de Bont, the man behind Twister, Speed and the lamentable remake of The Haunting, his last film back in 1999, brings a sense of drama to the film’s start and finish, but the mid-section sags badly. Consequently de Bont props it up with much silliness: a high fall from a Shanghai skyscraper is the most believable moment, and certainly impressive.

Despite its 12A certificate the film boasts a high number of on-screen deaths. Various interested parties are shot, knifed or blown up. Throats are cut, heads are bashed in and African assegais reach parts of the body other weapons can’t.

The comic strip action takes a back seat as the movie reaches its climax in the mystical Cradle of Life – a weak and rather rushed denouement that makes everything before it feel like padding. Still, Jolie gives it both barrels throughout and, in the tradition of the old catchphrase, it’s great when a dirty bird talks posh.

Star rating: ***

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