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

(In theaters, July 2003) You would think that a film dealing with Pandora’s box, starring Angelina Jolie and taking place on three continents would be more memorable than this. But no: despite the inherent interest of archaeological quests and Jolie’s chest, the film quickly dissolves away as soon as the credits roll. Director Jan de Bont turns in his least remarkable film yet (and that’s saying something considering the disaster we still remember as The Haunting), but he’s working from a lifeless script that itself doesn’t contain any moments of brilliance. Okay, so the film features a practise fight in a library; I shouldn’t ask for much more. But the dull villain (Ciarán Hinds, who deserved much better after a good turn in The Sum Of All Fears) is nearly as ineffective as the putative love interest in raising our involvement in the story. Lara Croft isn’t much of a warm and sympathetic character, and this aloofness also characterizes the rest of the film. One could say plenty of bad things about the first film, but at least it had a visual style and the go-for-broke willingness to use outlandish material like the Illuminati. This entry is more realistic, but it never takes off as an adventure despite visuals that should be spectacular. A third film is unlikely. Too bad; it’s a lousy end for a series that could have been far better.

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