Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Cradle of Life is about the scariest box in human myth or history. It is a box so covered in ancient runes and mystic symbols, that mankind has no record of what it used to look like. I am speaking, of course, of Angelina Jolie's tattoed coochie. No, just kidding. If that were true, the movie would have been much more popular at the "box" office.

According to IMDb, this film was banned in China because it gives "the impression of a country in chaos, with no government and over-run by secret societies". Wow, no wonder so many Chinese people feel at home in California.

Seriously, the problem with this series is that the people in charge think they are making Indiana Jones movies when they are actually making James Bond movies.

So what's the damned difference? Don't they both feature spectacle, larger-than-life adventures, and exotic locales as a backdrop for the star's battles against various evildoers bent on world domination? Yes, but the difference is this. Indiana Jones is to James Bond as Spiderman is to Superman. Indiana Jones movies and Spiderman Comics focus on the star, while James Bond movies and Superman comics focus on the sidekicks and baddies. It has to be so, because Indy and Spidey are interesting and vulnerable, while Bond and Superman are too freakin' perfect.

Indiana Jones acts like a real person. Evil guys scare the hell out of him. Other things frighten him. He's not a great gymnast nor a great fighter. He's a professor. He screws up. You can build on a character like that, because he reacts to most situations the way you and I would.

James Bond is boring. Two words: Roger Moore. He's always cool, under control, in charge, predictable. He doesn't even sweat. He's the master of every skill known to man, from bartending to witty banter to Sudanese Croc Wrestling. Take away the bad guy, and every Bond movie is exactly like every other one. "Bond, James Bond" probably says the exact same words in each one, for all I know. When the requisite naughty Bondbabe says her sexually suggestive name - "I'm Pussy Galore" - doesn't he always say, "of course you are", or does it just seem that way? Like Superman comics, Bond movies need a really good baddie to be in top form: Christopher Lee, Christopher Walken, or the Goldfinger/Oddjob tag team.

Here's the difference between Bond and Indy in a nutshell. What would Bond have done when the crazy guy came out in the market twirling his Balinese Shark-Gutting Swords? Showing deference and respect for the thirty years it took the swordsman to master such skills in the Benihana training program, Bond would have taken off his coat, folded it neatly, handed it to a gorgeous onlooker, and then executed the perfect defense to the Multiple Balinese Shark Thrust, parrying the guy's puny attack as easily as Kasparov would beat Dan Quayle at chess. After finishing the match victorious, he would adjust his cufflinks, straighten his bowtie, and take his coat back from the female spectator, but not before arranging an assignation with her that evening. All that would take several minutes of screen time. What did Indiana Jones do? Made a face, shot the motherfucker, and got on with the treasure hunt. Five seconds.

All that is important background to understanding the Lara Croft movies because Lara is the same character as James Bond,  same invulnerable, know-it-all twit, only with breasts. She even uses the same gimmicks. No personality at all. Completely boring. In order to be watchable, she needs great baddies and great sidekicks.

The people making these movies don't seem to realize this. They focus on Lara, perhaps because their basic adventure concept is so similar to that of the Indiana Jones series. The premise in Lara Croft 2 is important and preternatural and Indy-like. Pandora's Box is real, and some baddies want to use it to destroy the world. That's very similar to the quests for the Ark of the Covenant and The Holy Grail. But Lara Croft is not Indiana Jones. Her superficial resemblance to Indy disguises the fact that she is as boring as James Bond. When she's on camera, the fun ends. 

The sidekicks? Just as uppity and omniscient as she is. Between them, they possess the sum total of all human knowledge, plus a lot more we haven't thought of yet.

The bad guy? Some overweight guy with a gun. What's he gonna do, hide secret codes between his chins?



DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic, 2.35

  • Commentary by director Jan De Bont

  • 6 Deleted Scenes and an alternate ending, all with commentary by Du Bont

  • Gerard Butler's screen test

  • Five featurettes on the film's training, weapons and vehicles, visual effects, stunts and scoring

  • Music Videos by Korn and The Davey Brothers

Except for Roger Ebert, the critics hated Lara Croft 2. I didn't hate it. I liked the sweep, the spectacle, the stunts, and the locales both real and imaginary. Angelina Jolie is about as good a James Bond as Roger Moore. I didn't think it was a perfect movie, by any means, and I did hit the fast forward button a couple times, but I liked it about as much as I like most Bond movies, which is to say that I won't go to the theater to see them, but I'll watch them if they come up to the top of the cable rotation. It isn't bad.

But it isn't good, either, so I'm glad this one lost money. It deserved to lose money. With one hundred million dollars to spend, they could not come up with humor, suspense, clever dialogue, and a bad guy as cunning and brilliant as Lara herself. That is the real tragedy of Lara Croft 2. It could have been Raiders of the Lost Ark or Goldfinger, but it wasn't, because for all the positives, the script just wasn't ready to be filmed.

The Critics Vote ...

  • General super-panel consensus: one and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 1/4, BBC 1/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 5.1/10, Yahoo voters are kinder, scoring it a B.
  • Box Office Mojo. A major disappointment. It grossed $65 million at home, and $87 million overseas, which would be great for some films, but not for this one, which cost $95 million to make, and another $35 million to distribute and promote. After the theatrical release, the studio is probably about fifty million in the red.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C-. Barely adequate genre fare, about equal to an average Roger Moore Bond movie.

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