Awfully Good: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Let's hope the new TOMB RAIDER is good. It took 15 years for the franchise to recover from the last movie…


Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)


Director: Jan de Bont
Stars: Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler, Ciaran Hinds

Chesty explorer Lara Croft and her trusty sidekick Gerard Butler travel the world to stop Steppenwolf from finding a box that could destroy the world.

What do you do when you want to kill a franchise? Bring in the director of SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL, for starters. LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE: TOO MANY COLONS was Jan de Bont's last chance in Hollywood after the back-to-back failures of the SPEED sequel and THE HAUNTING. And I'll give you a hint at how his TOMB RAIDER follow-up turned out: de Bont hasn't directed another movie since.

"Pandora's Box, can you get me out of the direct-to-video market?"

The film's ridiculous opening may give you a sense of false hope. CRADLE OF LIFE (I'm never typing the full title ever again) opens with Angelina Jolie's stunt double doing Wave Race 64 tricks on a jet ski for absolutely no reason, before she swims down to an undercover cave in search of treasure. When things go predictably wrong, Lara Croft gets stuck in the middle of the ocean without any equipment. So she does the rational thing in this situation: takes out a knife and cuts her arm open to attract a nearby shark, punches it in the face to establish dominance, and then grabs its fin and forces it to give her a ride to safety. And by "safety" I mean to her personal submarine, because apparently raiding tombs pays really well.

Alan Rickman Lite is available for children's birthday parties and bachelor/bachelorette parties.

If the rest of the movie stayed on this high-functioning level of insanity, it would be an Awfully Good classic. Unfortunately, everything else about CRADLE OF LIFE is much less fun and interesting—a collection of random unconnected stunts more than an actual film. The plot revolves around a race to find the mythical Pandora's Box, which was hidden by Alexander the Great after he discovered it contained "anti-life" i.e. an unstoppable plague with no possible cure. Croft finds the only key to locate the box and must stop bioterrorist Ciaran Hinds from using it to kill the entire planet. But wait, you say, if Lara Croft has the only key to find it, why does she have to worry about the bad guy at all? I have no idea. That's one of the many common sense questions you may find yourself asking while watching this movie. Halfway through, our heroine could just destroy the key so the villain can never get his hands on it, and then move on with her life. Instead, she takes it to the exact location of Pandora's Box with the villain in tow because of plot reasons.

Some couples try new things in the bedroom to spice up their marriage, but only true soulmates recreate the ending of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II together.

Angelina Jolie may be easy on the eyes in all the silly outfits she's forced to wear, but she's surprisingly dull as the title action heroine. There are parts in this movie where Lara Croft is supposed to be having fun, but even with all her acting skills, the Oscar-winner can't fake "fun" successfully. Not to mention that in this sequel, Croft spends pretty much no time raiding tombs whatsoever, and is instead a full-on spy—globe-trotting around the world in different high-tech vehicles and engaging in martial arts fights and John Woo shootouts. It's enough to make James Bond feel sexually inadequate.

Speaking of sexually inadequate, Gerard Butler joins the cast as a mercenary who's a former flame of Lara Croft. Despite the amount of nonstop flirtatious banter forced upon them, their romance is never believable or interesting, chock full of painful lines like, "I'm not leaving you because I couldn't kill you. I'm leaving you because I could." There's also the fact that Butler keeps saying shady and creepy things to his supposed love interest, and at one point nakedly grabs her from behind, saying, "You can break my wrist. But I'm still going to kiss you." (Which to Lara Croft is apparently a successful proposal for sex.) It's all so heavy-handed that when Butler does finally betray her, it's in no way a surprise.

"I'll take 'Things You Say When You Want Someone to Look At Your Ass' for $100, Alex."

The action in CRADLE OF LIFE is definitely quantity over quality, with a constant barrage of training montages and set pieces clearly designed just to show off the stunt work. Rarely is it exciting (unless you consider Angelina Jolie repeatedly jumping and swinging from things thrilling) and often times it's laughable just for how slow the action is. Usually in films they can shoot things to appear faster than they are. Not in this movie! Get excited to watch people ride motorcycles and horses at minimally dangerous speeds, pole vault on to helicopters carefully, and slide upside down on ropes impossibly, hysterically slowly. They even manage to make the one truly unique sequence—where the heroes jump off a Hong Kong skyscraper in wingsuits and fly through the city—somehow boring, shooting them from a really far distance so it looks like they're moving at a snail's pace.

The Google Glass product placement really paid off in the long run.

Even when the action is cranked up to "medium," it's still repetitive. Take the multiple times Gerard Butler tells Lara Croft they can't do something because it's impossible, only for her to makes a snide remark as the movie cuts immediately to them doing said ridiculous thing. For example, at one point Butler tells his partner that there's no way for them get in to China undetected—cut to them piloting a secret government spy plane and crashing in to a mountain to destroy any evidence. And then, less than two minutes later, Butler tells Croft that there's no safe road to the bad guy's hideout where they can get in undetected—cut to them riding motorcycles on the Great Wall of China (which is for some reason completely empty and free of all tourists). It's like the filmmakers were spitballing different modes of transportation for the same sequence and just decided to film them all.

Yes, this is convincing.

Given how the rest of it fares, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that CRADLE OF LIFE has a completely lackluster finale. Lara Croft discovers Pandora's Box is in Africa (after she breaks in to a confused Chinese family's house and activates the magical ancient key, which displays modern National Geographic footage of random elephants and zebras). In Africa, her and the team fight an army of random CGI cave trolls and finally reach Pandora's Box…which is kept in an unimpressively tiny cave. (It's as if the production budget ran out when they got to this part of the movie.) When the bad guy tries to take the box it's time for a final showdown for the ages: expert martial artist Lara Croft vs. an older Nobel Peace Prize winner. Exciting! At least Pandora's Box is randomly housed in a pool of acid, which means you get to watch Ciaran Hinds turn in to a wailing CGI burn victim. (Hey, at least he looks like he's having more fun here than in JUSTICE LEAGUE.)

The exact moment Ciaran Hinds finished watching the Whedon Cut.

In the end, Lara Croft manages to return the box and kill her boyfriend who was clearly a bad guy all along, just in time to watch as her butler and technical support guru accidentally get married in Africa.

The bar is set pretty low, new TOMB RAIDER movie.

Mostly the embarassing flirty dialogue between Angelina Jolie and Gerard Butler.

All the stupid parts. (This is a long video.)

Gerard Butler goes topless.

Tired of feeling sexually confused about a bunch of pixels? Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Angelina Jolie uses a new mode of transportation
  • Angelina Jolie or Gerard Butler say something with sexual innuendo
  • There's a stupid or disappointing action set piece
  • Someone does something slowly to the point of laughter
  • A Chinese family is confused

Double shot if:

  • Ciaran Hinds hates a child


Thanks to Nancy for suggesting this week's movie!


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