Jarv’s Birthday Series Redux: Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)
I’ve struggled and struggled with this review, because the whole Lara Croft on the big screen fiasco gets me down, and I didn’t want to approach it like I would with a normal, and now happily defunct, video game series review. If I’m absolutely honest, the Tomb Raider games were never really my cup of tea, and all the original movie had going for it was the outstanding Leftfield-heavy soundtrack. Nevertheless, the damned thing made a lot of cash, as was inevitable for one of the biggest games franchises of all time, so on 22nd August 2003 the UK was privileged to have the sequel, the laughably titled Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, inflicted on it. I’m really trying hard to be open minded with this review, but I honestly hate these films for being a ridiculously easy open goal missed, and if it comes across, then I apologise in advance.
May contain Angelina Jolie with fake boobs and spoilers below.
Pointless piece of trivia time: Lara Croft wears an F Cup in the games. How do I know this? Well, at the time, the makers of the original made a big deal about how Angelina Jolie was cast, and to make her more like Lara Croft the avatar they had to pad her bust. I’m not sure how big the cup she ended up with was (Wikipedia tells me it’s a D), but it wasn’t anywhere near the size of sweater bazooka that Lara Croft actually packed. Eventually, in the early 21st Century, sanity prevailed and Eidos lowered the boob size to make her more realistic. Anyway, this farrago over boob size is indicative of why I hate these films, and most video game adaptations in general: it’s pandering to the fan group over an unnecessary and frankly irrelevant detail when they’ve basically thrown the rest of the game in the trash anyway. Who honestly cares what size English aristocrat Croft’s tits are when a) They’re over a C cup and b)Angelina Jolie is miscast in the part? Not me.
This should be so, so easy. The premise of the games almost beg for a film adaptation, because let’s face it, this is Indiana Jones with tits. Yet for some reason there has been two attempts at it and two rubbish films. I find it utterly incomprehensible that this is such a failure, because I honestly reckon that almost anyone could use Indy as the template and basically turn in a cracking little action adventure film. Instead, the two films are loud, obnoxious, boring, CGI riddled exercises in crass 21st Century action, and are utterly soulless and totally devoid of wit.
We all know how Indiana Jones works, certainly Eidos did, yet it is almost totally beyond the adapters to make a good film. This time out, the Macguffin is Pandora’s Box, which may or may not contain some terrible über-disease (I’m insanely pleased that I now know how to insert umlauts and whatnot into posts, by the by)that will eliminate all human life on the planet. To get the box, they have to find the location of the titular Cradle of Life, which will itself be revealed by a glowing ball thingummy. Unfortunately, evil scientist Jonathan Reiss (Ciarán Hinds) also wants the box. Luckily Lara can call for help from old squeeze Terry (Gerard Butler), an ex-SAS meathead with a major greed problem. So, blah de blah, our Tomb Raider cracks the clue to the cradle of life, deals with a load of terrible effects and doesn’t take Pandora’s box. Incidentally, an annoying touch to the film is that in the cradle the laws of physics don’t work. What a terrible idea, particularly given that they do practically nothing with it.
This is a bad film. It’s full of extraneous and annoying characters (step forward Lara’s flunkies (Chris Barrie and Noah Taylor), boring and unnecessary details, while the plot is about as compelling as a paint by numbers picture. The whole film feels like an attempt to jam as many exotic locations, bombastic stunts and crap effects into its bloated run time as possible. Take, for example, the flying-squirrel suit jump thing: in my opinion this is an almost perfect encapsulation of everything that’s wrong with the film- flash location + “cool” stunt (base jumping was that year’s extreme sport of choice) + stupid dialogue= Lara accomplished absolutely nothing that she couldn’t have achieved via the more mundane means of getting a taxi. It’s an almost entirely pointless sequence.
I’m struggling here, because I haven’t got a lot to say as this is such an obviously bad film. Jolie and Butler are clearly miscast, which is an inevitable consequence of miscasting Jolie in the first film, and his attempts at roguish charm grate horribly. The “love” sequence feels amazingly forced, and the whole relationship almost seems to be against Croft’s character. I know she’s all rough-and-tumble, but he’s such an obvious dick, them making bloody cow eyes at each other explaining how they can never kill the other one just had me clenching my teeth in hatred. Hines, an actor I normally like, hasn’t got the moustache twirling chops to play a villain as dumb as this one, and the less said about the support, particularly Djimon Hounsou’s ethnic stereotype guide the better.
Then there are the effects. The “shadow guardian” sequences are risibly bad, and the cradle itself is a laughably inept piece of design. The glowing ball that responds to music looks not unlike the solar lamps outside our house in Spain, and, to sum up, for this budget at this time there’s really no excuse for this level of incompetence. Really, the effects in the film, as befitting the film as a whole, feel as if nobody gave a toss and Jolie can witter on about her “responsibility” portraying Croft as much as she likes and I’m not convinced that this was anything more than collecting a cheque for her.
Overall, this is a shit film. I’m not Orangutan of Dooming it, although it is sorely tempting, for a few reasons. Firstly, it is better than the first one (small accolade that that is), secondly the physical stunts are genuinely not awful, and the soundtrack is again good (albeit nowhere near the same league as the first one). Nevertheless, it’s a piss poor piece of cinema, and in all honesty writing this review has been an absolute chore that has sapped my soul. I not only do not care in the slightest about this film, but I’ve practically bloody forgotten the damned thing and so was nearly forced to rewatch it again to prompt my memory. Seriously, if I’d waited another 24 hours, I’d have had to redo this. As a result, I’m giving it one pogo stick sans naked Angelina Jolie out of a possible 4, and I have to say, in the name of everything sacred, I hope that nobody ever attempts another Lara Croft film.
It should be Indiana Jones with tits, yet it’s actually just tits. I’m going back to a happier place where I can forget this garbage exists, and I suggest everyone reading this does the same.
Until next time,
The Full List for the Birthday Series Redux:
- 2011- The Skin I Live In (2.5 out of 4)
- 2010- The Last Exorcism (2.5 out of 4)
- 2009- Post Grad (1 out of 4)
- 2008- The House Bunny (1 out of 4)
- 2007- Knocked Up (1 out of 4)
- 2006- Volver (1 out of 4)
- 2005- Red Eye (2 out of 4)
- 2004- Dead Clowns (Orangutan of Doom)
- 2003- Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (1 out of 4)
- 2002- Talk to Her
- 2001- Jeepers Creepers
- 2000- Gossip
- 1999- All About My Mother
- 1998- The X-Files
- 1997- Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion
- 1996- The Last Supper
- 1995- The Usual Suspects
- 1994- The Color of Night
- 1993- Surf Ninjas
- 1992- The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag
- 1991- Pump Up the Volume
- 1990- Wild at Heart
- 1989- Bull Durham
- 1988- Crossing Delancey
- 1987- The Big Easy
- 1986- Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
- 1985- Better off Dead
- 1984- Oxford Blues
- 1983- MetalStorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn
- 1982- The Thing
- 1981- Honky Tonk Freeway
- 1980- Schock
- 1979- Rich Kids
- 1978- Coma