The truth is that director Jan De Bont's sequel has less violence and is slightly more sensible than its predecessor, which was directed by the less competent Simon West.
Angelina Jolie as the archaeologist, explorer and adventurer Lara Croft looks gorgeous and sexy. She also lends her character an air of maturity and intelligence. Lively and vigorous, Jolie looks more fetching than she did in her first film. Her smile and sex appeal are far more alluring than the musclemen, bad boys and green giants witnessed in other summer hits. The film also boasts of some of the most interesting and colourful locales seen in a Hollywood film in a long time.
After a while, though, the adventures of this female James Bondish character, hopping from country to country, become tedious as the script runs out of intelligent situations. The supernatural climax is also quite a bit of a letdown. To worsen matters, there is complete lack of chemistry between Jolie and her old boyfriend and soul mate in adventure -- played by Scottish actor Gerard Butler, a relatively new face in Hollywood.
The previous Lara Croft adventure went on to gross a handsome $250 million across the world. There is no reason why the new one should not exceed $200 million. The new film seems to promise stronger legs at the box-office than many other summer films. It won't be surprising if it out-grosses its predecessor.
But De Bont, who generated tremendous amount of adrenaline rush with Speed, has never been able to recreate that magic in his subsequent films. Though The Cradle of Life has some awesome stunt situations and a vivacious Jolie, many of its portions resemble a routine summer flick.
The film opens on a Greek isle, where an earthquake reveals the possible existence of an underwater temple where Alexander may have hidden a map. Its discoverer will be led to Pandora's box, the mythical container filled with evil and fraud.
Lara Croft journeys to the temple, slips underwater to a sphere that contains the mythical box. But the box is stolen from her by Chen Lo, the leader of a Chinese crime syndicate in league with a baddie named Reiss (Ciarán Hinds). Reiss wants to use it as a doomsday weapon by selling the box to the highest bidder, who may want to unleash the box's nasty diseases across the world. Meanwhile, Reiss hopes to develop an antidote and make himself rich.
In desperate need of help, Lara approaches her friend from prisonTerry Sheridan (Gerard Butler), even though she is unsure if he can resist his mercenary instincts.
The script does not sufficiently address the dilemmas Lara faces in her personal and professional life. But her character isn't the only one that suffers. None of the characters in the film are full-bodied.
De Bont extracts a decent performance from Jolie, but fails to do justice to the talents of Djimon Hounsou, playing an African warrior.
The climax sees Lara, Terry, and their buddies fight their way through Chinese mobsters, British villains and huge African forest monsters.
With a tighter script, smarter pacing and a stronger sense of humour, this sequel would have been as acceptable as, say a better made James Bond film. Just because the film is better than its predecessor and just because it is superior to the director's previous venture The Hunting doesn't mean it should be applauded. But then again, you will have a much better time with this film than Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and The Hulk.
CREDITSStarring: Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler, Ciaran Hinds, Djimon Hounsou
Direction: Jan De Bont
Screenplay: Dean Georgaris (Based on a story Steven E. De Souza and James V. Hart)
Rating: PG-13 for action violence and some sensuality.
Running time: 1 hour 56 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures