The Cradle of Life?
Tomb Raider masters marketing, not cinema
By Rachel Deahl

"Yes! Off to save the world and adopt more Cambodian orphans."

It's hard to imagine that game designers didn't have Angelina Jolie in mind when they pixelated Lara Croft. A cross between Bruce Wayne and James Bond for the MTV generation, it wouldn't be much of an understatement to say that Jolie was made for the roleor vice versa. If only movies were about nothing more than brilliant casting. With its idiotic storyline and laughably implausible stunts, The Cradle of Life tries far too earnestly to be something it's not-a legitimate action movie.

The question as to whether video games make for good movie material may be moot at this point, since these two technologies and businesses become more intertwined and interdependent.

The Matrix Reloaded felt like an extended ad for the video game that was to come out on its heels, Enter the Matrix, and, while the effect was somewhat offensive, it didn't necessarily make for bad cinema. The Wachowski Brothers dangled the effrontery of their work in our faces, reminding us, the moviegoers, of our complicit role in a product-driven culture. And, after all, if the movie was just an ad for the game, what an effective ad it was.

Unfortunately Tomb Raider doesn't function in the desert of the real; it doesn't bother with such high-falutin' issues as the search for reality in a hyper-real world. While Neo and Morpheus struggle with the result of their decision to take the red pill, Lara Croft is out saving an old-fashioned world in an old-fashioned wayand with such old-fashioned tactics comes the tired stuff of spy movies.

Director Jan De Bont, who made a bus that functioned as a bomb believable in Speed, has trouble with the goofy plot here. Lara, who's a British heiress with a healthy disregard for authority and an affection for showy stunts, is beckoned by the Queen to stop a deranged scientist from unleashing a plague upon the Earth. The myth of Pandora's Box winds up being a historical reality and Lara, paired with a rogue Scottish ex-lover, has to go on a trans-continental adventure in order to ensure the Box remains in its proper spot, an unidentified locale known simply as "the cradle of life."

Of course, turning Pandora's Box into a historical treasure is the least of the trespasses made here. Lara's escapes are often idiotic, gravity-defying feats that make the film more fantastical than it should be. Early in the film, Croft rides a shark to safety after escaping from a crumbling underwater tomb. Without enough camp and humor to qualify its silliness, Cradle of Life is a pastiche of overblown stunts and convoluted plot points. And, although Jolie is perfect in the lead with her cartoonishly provocative figure, the comely starlet can't make this shoddy story work.