To briefly engage my review of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: “Simon West’s dreadfully boorish film doesn’t know how to handle a woman like [Angelina] Jolie.” Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life is infinitely more fun and feral than its precursor, and it exudes an attitude worthy of the diva that rides it. As per the Queen’s command, Lara Croft (Jolie) must secure the mythical Pandora’s Box and save the world from mass destruction. Along the way, she butts heads with Chinese crime syndicates and a former Nobel Prize winner, Jonathan Reiss (Ciarán Hinds), who has germ warfare on the brain. After a banal opener that evokes the crummy underground sets of the first film, Jan de Bont’s wind-up toy is quickly set into motion. As soon as an oxygen-starved Lady Croft punches a shark on the noggin and rides the beast to the surface of the sea, the film moves giddily and elegantly from one set piece to the next as the eponymous heroine solves puzzles and secures new tidbits of information in various lands. The competency with which de Bont makes every action sequence in the film its own self-contained entity truly does bring to mind the different stages of a video game, something the original film never really accomplished—at least not with this much bravado. Jolie’s gaze is her most powerful ammunition and de Bont affords her ample time to give good face. From Singapore’s seedy underbelly to a Hong Kong corporate tower where Reiss’s goons keep shop, Croft gets to kick some major ass. More impressive than the punchy action sequences is the elegiac tone to some of these moments, especially a scene that has Croft and sidekick Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler) sailing off the roof of the corporate tower and onto a barge sailing in a nearby body of water. A curious bit of CGI business toward the end of the film isn’t quite as suggestive it could have been, but it complements the script’s earthy, spiritual quotas nonetheless. Save for one excellent tune by Craig Armstrong and a chill-out remix of “Tears from the Sun” by Conjure One and Sinead O’Connor, the soundtrack isn’t quite as consistently high octane as that of the original film’s. And even if the film is somewhat lacking in imagination, the central relationship between Croft and Sheridan is a fascinating one to watch mature and unravel over the course of the film’s two hours. The couple’s curiously sexy repartee truly goes hand-in-hand with the film’s fierce set pieces, and as such the overall effect of the film is that of a long make-out session sans a truly explosive payoff.
Save for one or two places where shimmering is noticeable, this is another reference-quality transfer from Paramount Home Video. If the video transfer makes the film look like a dreamy Glamour magazine spread, the audio transfer truly does evoke the sound of a video game.
Jan De Bont is not exactly the most interesting person to listen to for two hours. His commentary track is a standard affair. Though he spends entirely too much time talking about the tanks and backlots many of the film’s scenes where shot in, his anecdotes are lively enough to make the track a recommended listen. (Apparently, he came up with the film’s nifty skyscraper escape sequence after seeing a picture of two Swedes pulling the same stunt in a magazine.) Next up are seven deleted/alternate (more alternate than deleted) scenes with optional director’s commentary, followed by five pretty routine featurettes that cover the film’s training, vehicles and weapons, stunts, visual effects and scoring. The "Stunts" portion is the most interesting because it focuses on Angelina Jolie’s anxiousness to do her own stunts and the insurance policy that dictates how far she can go. Rounding out the disc is Gerard Butler’s screen test (why?), music videos for Korn’s "Did My Time" and the Davey Brothers’s "Heart Go Faster," and previews for John Woo’s Paycheck and the Indiana Jones DVD collection.
Angelina Jolie punches a shark. If that’s not enough to at least rent the film, then there’s absolutely no hope for you.