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Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life is a 2003 action adventure film directed by Jan de Bont and based on the Tomb Raider video game series. Angelina Jolie stars as the titular character Lara Croft with supporting performances from Gerard Butler, Ciarán Hinds, Chris Barrie, Noah Taylor, Til Schweiger, Djimon Hounsou and Simon Yam. An international co-production between the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan, the film is a sequel to the 2001 film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

Critics regarded The Cradle of Life as an improvement on its predecessor, particularly in the action sequences, and continued to praise Jolie's performance as Lara Croft. Despite this, it did not repeat its box office performance, grossing $156 million compared to the previous instalment's $275 million. It was still a financial success, and plans were made for a sequel, but these were cancelled when Jolie declined to reprise her role as Croft.


On Santorini island, Greece, a strong earthquake uncovers the Luna Temple. The temple was built by Alexander the Great to house his most prized treasures. Among these treasures is a glowing orb with a pattern resembling a code etched into it. Treasure-hunting archaeologist Lara Croft and her group find this orb but are ambushed by the Lo brothers; Chen and Xien, both of whom are crime lords and leaders of Chinese syndicate Shay Ling. The duo kill the group and take the orb but Lara escapes with a strange medallion.

MI6 approaches Lara with information about Pandora's box, an object from ancient legends that supposedly contains a deadly plague (the companion to the origin of life itself). The box, hidden in the mysterious Cradle of Life, can only be found with a magical sphere that serves as a map. The sphere is the same orb that was stolen by Chen Lo, who plans to sell it to Dr. Jonathan Reiss - a Nobel Prize winning scientist and business magnate turned misanthropic bio-weapon arms dealer.

Agreeing that the sphere must be kept away from Reiss, Lara agrees to help MI6, with the condition that they release her old flame Terry Sheridan, who is familiar with Chen Lo's criminal operation. Together, Terry and Lara infiltrate Chen Lo's lair, where he is smuggling the Terracotta Soldiers. Lara defeats him in a fight and learns that the orb is in Shanghai, China. In Shanghai she discovers Chen's brother Xien is trying to hand over the orb to Reiss, however once Xien hands the orb over, Reiss betrays Xien and executes him, but not before Lara manages to put a tracker on the crate containing the orb during the handoff.

Lara and Terry manage to find the orb in a lab housed in Hong Kong. However, Lara is captured by Reiss and his men. Reiss reveals his plans to unleash the plague, saving only those people he deems worthy. He is about to kill Lara Croft. Helpless and condemned, Lara is saved by Terry and then they take the orb before fleeing using wingsuits. The next day, Lara uses the orb and learns the location of the mysterious Cradle of Life; in Kenya, Africa near Mount Kilimanjaro. After Lara sends returns information to her friend Bryce back at Croft Manor, Reiss and his men infiltrate the mansion and capture him and Hillary. Lara travels to Kenya where she meets up with her longtime friend Kosa. They question a local tribe about the Cradle of Life, wherein the chief states that the Cradle of Life is in a crater protected by the "Shadow Guardians".

As they set out on an expedition, Reiss' men ambush them and kill the tribesmen. Outnumbered, Lara surrenders. Using her companions as hostages, Reiss forces Lara to lead him to the Cradle of Life. At the crater, they encounter the Shadow Guardians, monsters that appear in and out of wet patches on dead trees. The creatures kill most of Reiss' men, but Lara manages to find the "keyhole" and drops the Orb in it. The creatures disintegrate and the entrance to the Cradle of Life opens.

Lara and Reiss are drawn into the Cradle, a labyrinth made of a strange crystalline substance where normal laws of physics do not apply. Inside, they find a pool of highly corrosive black acid (linking back to one of the myths about Pandora's box), in which the box floats. Terry arrives, frees the hostages and catches up to Lara.

Lara fights Reiss but Reiss succeeds in retrieving his gun. He is about to shoot her, throw her into the acid and take Pandora's Box, but unfortunately for him Terry distracts him and saves Lara. Then Lara knocks Reiss down and throws him into the acid pool, which kills and dissolves him. Then Terry announces his intention to take the box for himself. When he refuses to back down, Lara regretfully shoots him dead, replaces the box in the pool and leaves.


The budget for the film was $95 million (less than the first film's $115 million budget), and like the first film, it was financed through Tele München Gruppe. The picture was also distributed internationally by Japanese company Toho-Towa.

Filming lasted for three and a half months, which included six-day shoots on location in Hong Kong, Santorini, Llyn Gwynant in North Wales (doubling for mainland China), and a two-week stint in Kenya for shooting at Amboseli and Hell's Gate, with the remainder of the picture filmed on soundstages in the United Kingdom. One scene in the film was set in Shanghai, but it was shot on a set and not on location.

The film also featured the new 2003 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, first seen when Lara parachutes into the moving vehicle in Africa and takes over the wheel from Kosa. As part of Jeep's advertising campaign, it was specially customised for the film by Jeep's design team along with the film's production designers, with three copies constructed for filming. 1,001 limited-run Tomb Raider models were produced - available only in silver like the film version and minus its special customisations - and put on the market to coincide with the release of the film. Jeep vice president Jeff Bell explained, "[The ad campaign] is more than just a product placement ... the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is the most capable Jeep ever built, so the heroic and extreme environment in which Lara Croft uses her custom Wrangler Rubicon in Tomb Raider is accurate." In the end, Lara's Rubicon had less than two total minutes of screen time in the finished film.


In Jurassic World Dominion, the 1970s Jeep Cherokee gets a lot more exposure. Not a current model, but used to show the hero, Chris Pratt, as being manly. And, it works.

Director Jan de Bont hated working on the movie: 


"It was not such a great experience. But more from the reason how the studio tried to really interfere with it in a way. And the thing itself is that the makers of the game were also involved. And they never told me that they, also, have a say in the story. Suddenly there were all these changes that have taken, and who had to be what, and what cast. And then suddenly it became such a big scene. Everything was a big deal."


About working with Angelina Jolie, he said: 


"I kind of like working with her, and she’s a character, but I thought she was a very interesting character to work with. She’s definitely very opinionated. But not in a negative way, I feel. She was difficult to work with, but for me it was, probably, not a problem. I didn’t really see anything negative at that time. And I really ended up liking her very much, so."


The film debuted in fourth place with a take of $21.8 million. In the United Kingdom, the film opened at number three, earning £1.5 million in its first three days. The film finished with a domestic gross of $65 million.

The Cradle of Life was considered more successful at the international box office, but was a domestic box office failure. It also faced competition with Finding Nemo, a record-breaking animated film. Paramount blamed the failure of the film on the poor performance of the then-latest installment of the video game series, Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness. After numerous delays, Angel of Darkness was rushed to shelves just over a month before the release of the film, despite the final product being unfinished and loaded with bugs. It spawned mediocre sales, and mixed reviews from critics. Former Eidos Interactive senior executive Jeremy Heath-Smith, who was also credited as an executive producer in the film, resigned days after the game was released.


According to review aggregator Metacritic, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life received "mixed or average reviews" based on an average score of 43/100 from 34 critic reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a score of 24% based on 176 reviews, with an average rating of 4.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Though the sequel is an improvement over the first movie, it's still lacking in thrills." Audiences polled by Cinemascore gave it a grade of "B−" on a scale of A to F.

Salon described it as a "highly enjoyable summer thrill ride." Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, stating that the film was "better than the first one, more assured, more entertaining ... it uses imagination and exciting locations to give the movie the same kind of pulp adventure feeling we get from the Indiana Jones movies." David Rooney of Variety praised Jolie for being "hotter, faster and more commanding than last time around as the fearless heiress/adventuress, plus a little more human."

The film was nonetheless panned by most critics. Rene Rodriguez of The Miami Herald called it "another joyless, brain-numbing adventure through lackluster Indiana Jones territory". James Berardinelli of ReelViews said "The first Tomb Raider was dumb fun; Cradle of Life is just plain dumb ... the worst action movie of the summer." Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe wrote, "It's a bullet-riddled National Geographic special [that] produces a series of dumb, dismal shootouts that are so woefully choreographed there's reason to believe Debbie Allen may be behind them." He then said of director De Bont, "He has yet to meet a contraption he couldn't use to damage your hearing." Jolie earned a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Actress for her performance in the film. And that, probably put her off somewhat, from doing a third - to complete a trilogy. A real pity in our view.


But, compare Angelina's Raspberry, to the box office nightmare of the 2018 reboot, with Alicia Vikander. Proving that Angie, had what it takes for that part at that time. Today, you'd expect a sportier shape and a face to match. Not that Alicia was not fit, she just did not have shape, bulk, or whatever you'd like to call it. And, don't think that we don't approve of Alicia, in the right setting. She is brilliant in the right part.






The Last Supper, a painting by Leonardo da Vinci




In March 2004, producer Lloyd Levin said that The Cradle of Life had earned enough internationally for Paramount to bankroll a third film, but any hopes of it going into production were soon quelled by Jolie's announcement that she had no desire to play Lara Croft a third time: 


"I just don't feel like I need to do another one. I felt really happy with the last one. It was one we really wanted to do."


A shame, and that may have affected her career options, such as with Cleopatra. But, who knows.


In 2018, the film series was rebooted with Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft.


In our view, and please bear in mind that we are Vikander fans (Ex Machina - Man From Uncle - Bourne, etc) , Angelina Jolie was a hard act to follow. Jolie, bless her, was particularly well cast. Also, "Himiko." Not exactly the best known of subjects. Likely (and it was, as the box office relected) to be met with WTF responses by audience. Too thin. So, although the direction and quality of production is excellent; and great supporting cast (Dominic West - a bit mushy), locations and all - the storyline itself is pants, with a weak and confused ending.


Lara Croft needs to be stronger, physically and facially. Alicia did not have the right look facially, and certainly not the physical attributes of a rugged archaeological adventurer. Take a leaf out of the muscle star's books: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dwayne Johnson. Angelina had the right face, to cover for not quite enough muscle/shape. Though, a good wardrobe and careful camera angles solved a lot of that - an acceptable compromise. This is just our take on the subject, as if we had been investors, rather than critics. Angelina was a better bet. Wild yes, but that's the whole point, isn't it? And, both of Angelina's films had more plausible plots. Far fetched, but palatable fiction. Endings are always a problem. Not so with Indiana Jones, the first three, that is.






2001: A Space Odyssey - Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C Clarke

Ben Hur (Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins) 1959

Fools Gold (Matthew McConaughy, Kate Hudson) 2008

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 1989

Jungle Cruise, (Emily Blunt, Dwayne Johnson) 2021

Jurassic World Dominion, (Chris Pratt) 2022

La Amistad (Djimon Hounsou, Matthew McConaughey) 1997

Lara Croft - Tomb Raider, Pandora's Box 2001

Lara Croft - Tomb Raider, Cradle of Life 2003

Lara Croft - Tomb Raider, Himiko 2018

Monty Python and the Holy Grail 1975

Oblivion (Tom Cruise, Andria Riseborough) 2013

Planet of the Apes (Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall) 1968

Sixth Day (Arnold Schwarzenegger) 2000

The Count of Monte Cristo (Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce) 2002

The da Vinci Code (Tom Hanks) 2006

The Fly - (Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis) 1986

The Golden Compass (Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Dakota Blue Richards) 2007

The Greatest Story Ever Told (Charlton Heston) 1965

The Medicine Man (Sean Connery, Lorraine Bracco) 1992

The Pope's Exorcist (Russell Crowe, Julius Avery) 2023

The Ten Commandments (Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner) 1956 Cecile B DeMille

Total Recall - (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone) 1990

Uncharted (Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg) 2022












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