The franchise continues with an increased dose of female testosterone,
administered by acrobatic designers and stunt coordinators. Though it's not
human chemistry that supplies the boost, Angelina Jolie demonstrates what
star spunk can turn into as she leads us on a whirlwind of woman to man
combat through underwater tombs and hidden mountain redoubts, from Hong Kong
Lara Croft (Jolie) accepts the mission to find and protect the "Cradle of
Life" (which turns out to be the mythical "Pandora's Box") but only if she
can have her choice of companion. This turns out to be her old friend and
ex-lover Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler) who, if he agrees to his part of the
exploit, she will spring from what we discern as an exceedingly miserable
After the tough talk of negotiation, he does accept, providing Croft with as
much mental combat with an old flame as the more physical kind against the
powerful enemies who are after the same prize she is, but for much more
mercenary and sinister reasons.
Heading the list of villains is Jonathan Reiss (Ciar n Hinds) who has the
money to hire the hoodlums and wherewithal to get the better of lady Lara.
His intent is to sell the ancient object and allow his buyers to open it,
knowing that it will destroy most life on the planet. As with many a
sociopath, he could care less.
The adventure is in finding out where it is and, for that, Lara has to find
an ancient underwater ruin (something about Alexander's Tomb), where her
incredible sleuthmanship allows her to find the key to the mystery, a prized,
luminous orb with a pattern that is an encoded map. Next problem is
decrypting the code, for which task she uploads a partial picture of it to
her computer expert back at the Croft mansion.
But, she's been followed. Just as she's about to complete her picture
digitizing, a team of assassins appears, guns blazing, causing the underwater
tomb to collapse and making off with Lara's orb. She must recapture it. She
does; she loses it again; she regains it again... well, you know how this
Terry Sheridan is pretty much always at her side or in some spot to provide
rescue should she need it. Between them, the pair have enough martial arts
skill to emerge from any challenge or threat of firepower, including a soaring
escape off a Hong Kong skyscraper under construction to softly land on a
seagoing ship 3 miles away. But if that's not a test of credibility, Lara's
escape from a shark's belly by first attracting it with a self-inflicted cut
and then punching it out on the snout is a complete misunderstanding of or a
cynical disregard for natural mechanisms. We're trading, here, on mythical
imagination, so there's no time for the amenity of reality.
The romantic/sexual interplay between these two healthy specimen of opposite
gender is kept alive by hints and promises, always at arms length so as not
to gross-out the prepubescent sub teenage attendees. Director Jan de Bont
("Speed") and writer Steven E. de Souza ("Judge Dredd", "Hudson Hawk")
apparently felt they have a handle on where their boxoffice coin will be
coming from and kept story elements comic book simple.
For the more mature audience (13-73), there's Jolie herself to satisfy
glandular interests. Besides her sure-fire sexy attractiveness, her repeated
expressions of whimsy and enjoyment in the escapade are sparkles emerging from
pure star quality. She's a treat. The girl is on her game. Effecting a
British accent, her energy holds the screen, while her acrobatic skill
provides an adequate level of credibility for the action. Though, for sure,
those big guns she carries have to be lightweight surrogates.
As is the film itself, which could benefit by some story improvement at the
hands of the James Bond team.
~~ Jules Brenner