I love Tomb Raider and it’s heroine Lara Croft. Being the exact same age as myself, Tomb Raider was and has been a staple of childhood; I’m a fan of the games to my core. And while my enthusiasm may have waned with the last few instalments, my love for the character hasn’t. Lara Croft, like Ellen Ripley and Clarice Starling before her has become a poster-girl for empowered females in the media. And with rumblings of a new film coming along featuring current Lara voice actress Camilla Luddington as our dear Lara, I thought it would be fitting for a film review. So, without further ado, lets look at Lady Croft’s two forays into the film world, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and it’s sequel The Cradle Of Life.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is directed by Simon West stars Angelina Jolie in the title role, with Iain Glen as bad guy Manfred Powell, Daniel Craig as fellow tomb raider Alex West and Jon Voight as Lara’s father Lord Richard Croft. The story follows Lara’s journey to retrieve the powerful Triangle of Light before a sinister organisation.
Despite having a budget higher than the first The Lord Of The Rings film (another film that came out in the same year), the acting is all over the shop. Angelina Jolie does an almost caricatured plummy British accent to rival that of recent release A Royal Night Out, while Iain Glen is almost like a Bond villain, being ridiculously evil. Daniel Craig fares a bit better as a Nathan Drake-lite even if his American accent does fluctuate a few times in the film. This, along with Layer Cake, could have been his audition piece for the role of James Bond; it shows that he can do action with small inflections of humour throughout. But really, this is a video game film, so story is never one of its strong points; we’re here for the action, which is pretty incredible.
Fans of Tomb Raider will get a kick out of some of the locations of the action scenes, with certain locations being ripped from the games with very little changes. Cambodian temples, Siberian landscapes and ancient astronomy sets are a feast for the eyes, but the stunt work is what is to be admired here. Massive jumps, cartwheel backflips and some impressive bungee wirework make several of the fight scenes, even the one at the very beginning of the film fun to view, kudos to the stunt team for crafting several well executed stunts one after another.
As the film is fourteen years old, the CGI is pretty poor. It’s mainly confined to the middle of the film where stone statues in the aforementioned Cambodian temple come to life. The effects are pretty terrible; it’s so easy to see that the enemies have been put in post-production, even if the cast do a good job of fighting against thin air, hoping that some convincing enemies will be put in facing them.
In summary, not a great film, with only a few scenes, along with little nods to satisfy some diehard fans.
Score: 4/10 A pretty poor video game film, even if it is faithful to the source material.
Lara Croft: The Cradle Of Life
Angelina Jolie reprises her role as Lara Croft and is joined by Gerard Butler as former love interest Terry Sheridan, Ciaran Hinds as bad guy Jonathon Reiss, Djimon Honusou as friend/guide Kosa and Til Schweiger as Reiss’ sidekick, Sean. The directing chair this time has been moved over to Jan de Bont of Speed, Equilibrium and Die Hard fame. The Cradle of Life follows Lara once again trying to find a mythical artifact, this time Pandora’s Box, before Jonathan Reiss, a mad scientist/weapons manufacturer gets his hands on the evil that lays within the box.
The acting in the sequel is marginally better than the first. Jolie has dropped her plummy accent and it somehow makes her interpretation of the iconic character much better than in the first film. Everyone else seems to be doing rather good portrayals of their characters, with only Ciaran Hinds being over the top. But even when he is chewing the scenery, Jonathan Reiss is still believable character. Being a madcap scientist, it feels almost true to a character so mad that he would act like in the way he does.
Just like the first film, The Cradle of Life borrows a lot from its source material, and again, just like it’s predecessor, it copies certain chunks verbatim from console to screen. But as well as giving us some more stellar action sequences, the film also has a pretty good story, not just small talking sections between set pieces.
As Lara and Terry are former lovers, we get several scenes of them mentioning their past relationship, which serves to humanise our heroine instead of just painting her as an all-purpose badass who can take on anything, something which the first film seemed to revel in. No, in The Cradle of Life, Lara is bruised, beaten, falling back in love with a man she can’t trust and all the while, trying to stop a crazed man from ending the world. This conflict of emotions and feelings brings out the essence of what Lara Croft was designed as by her creator Toby Gard, the idea of “how far someone will go for their obsession,” and stepping over certain moral lines. What it gives us is someone heart-wrenching scenes where Lara is given two choices, and it’s very hard for her to choose the right one.
The stunts and action set pieces are some of the best put to film, and I don’t say that lightly. Gunfights that happen while sliding down ropes, motorbikes chases, as well as a spectacular wingsuit flight over Hong Kong are really fun to watch, and even better when you realise that shoddy CGI hasn’t been used for the bigger stunts.
That’s not to say CGI hasn’t been used. And its usage is pretty poor. The problem is the contrast. Either the background looks too washed out or the actor/actress does, making it abundantly clear when CGI has been used. It’s almost laughable that anyone approved such bad CGI as the shark that is used at the beginning of the film (that shark has become a meme of sorts in the Tomb Raider community) as well as Lara riding a motorbike along the Great Wall of China. The CGI is lessened the further the film goes on, with more reliance on practical stunt work, and the CGI even starts to get good at the end, with creepy shadow monsters looking halfway decent.
In summary, The Cradle Of Life is a film that builds on what worked in the first film, but has neglected to take out the things that didn’t work.
Score: 7/10 A very competent action film that still manages to deliver some humanity