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When an earthquake opens an ancient underwater collection of antiquities and reveals a unique orb with secret codes, professional tomb raider and multiskilled adventurer Lady Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) is asked by The Queen, via England’s MI6, to find the original Pandora’s Box, believed to hold the most powerful evil force the world has ever known. Once in the possession of Alexander the Great, it’s now hidden in a dreadful place in Africa, and the Nobel Prize winning scientist, now a manaiac, Dr Jonathan Reiss (Ciaran Hinds) will stop at nothing to get his hands on it for his evil ambitions.

Review by Louise Keller:
There’s a real sense of adventure about Lara Croft in this new adventure, and one of the best things about it are the fabulous locations that Lara drops into. And I mean that literally, as the goddess of video games zooms on water, swims with the sharks and dives through the sky wearing bird-like wing suits which open up as parachutes close to the ground. Even though there are plenty of special effects to drool about, the film feels more like an Indiana-Jones style adventure with its character-driven story, than one that relies solely on its special effects. We visit a distinctive island in Greece (where the movie begins), the mystic wonders of the Great Wall of China, breathe in the hustle and bustle of the skyscrapers of Hong Kong and the breathtaking wonders of the wildlife in Kenya, where giraffes, elephants, flamingos and monkeys invite us into their habitat. 

Of course, much of the success of the Lara Croft movie franchise depends on its stunning leading lady, and Angelina Jolie dazzles with her curvaceous, statuesque beauty, her very English persona and endless gumption as she tackles stunts of the allsorts variety wholeheartedly. Director Jan De Bont (Speed) keeps his foot on the accelerator, and according to second unit director Simon Crane, Jolie could get ‘serious employment as a stunt performer…she’s extremely fit and because she wanted to do just about everything.’ Lara might be a lady by name, but when it comes to adventuring, there’s nothing holding her back. From pole-vaulting up to air-borne helicopters, galloping side-saddle and thumping a shark in the mouth, she packs a pretty punch and her kicks are high, accurate and impressive. When it comes to her sense of romance, who can guess the consequences when Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler, appealing) murmurs ‘You can break my wrist, but I’m still gonna kiss you.’ The story of Pandora’s box (‘The Greek Myth? That’s the Sunday School version’) is unbelievable of course, but the stunts just keep flying and Lara looks glamorous whether it’s in her skimpy-topped bathers, clingy silver wet suit, chinese pyjamas or safari gear. 

Good to see Noah Taylor back as Lara’s nerdy assistant, and there’s a funny moment when his Bryce misunderstands the hospitality of the Masi tribe to his detriment. When Lara descends by parachute through the sky and accurately negotiates her way into the jeep that is being driven by Kosa (Djimon Hounsou, enigmatic), Kosa exclaims ‘Won’t you ever do anything the easy way?’ to which Lara replies ‘I wouldn’t want to disappoint you.’ No, you haven’t disappointed us Lara – it’s been a treat. And as the jeep drives into the sunset, we are left with a spectacular shot of the African landscape leaving us with the smell of adventure.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Chopper shot flying over water. Our pov rises to reveal spectacular Greek island setting. Just right of centre frame we notice movement; a party. People dancing in broad daylight, sun streaking across the hillside village above. Under a sun canopy, a wedding is taking place, musos play and drink, guests dance and drink. Then the tables loaded with bottles start to shake and spill as a roar engulfs the scene. 

This is the best part of the whole film, and while I may have described it, I haven’t spoilt it. It looks great and will look great on repeated viewings. Not so the rest of the film. I really enjoyed the first Lara Croft film, my only little whinge being that Lara’s wardrobe denied her nipples. Somebody took notice, because now she has cute little nipple mounds on her action outfit. (not that you’d know it by the poster.) But it’s not enough. The screenplay is a pedestrian and clumsy reworking of every James Bond scenario, without the flair. Like a joke retold badly, it’s a nuance away from being satisfying. (IJ-Temple of Doom does it better.) Far too far fetched in the detail as well as in its plot, the moment by moment weaknesses combine to wear down even a forgiving and willing audience. It’s all too pat. 

The end result is a film that commits the ultimate sin: it is boring. We never feel Lara is ever in real danger, for example, because she is invincible. We never see her humanity, even though the script pays lip service to it. The game is too remote for us to engage, except in the way of the digital game from whence she came. But Australians will enjoy the work of Noah Taylor as her increasingly rustic IT backup and Gerard Butler is effective as her counter-point and edgy love interest; pity it’s the only workable part of an otherwise dreary script. Jan de Bont’s direction is also disappointing, and while Angelina Jolie continues to be an eye catching female superhero, she will only do it for the most undemanding audiences this time. Not her fault. Film is collaborative….

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CAST: Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler, Ciarán Hinds, Chris Barrie, Noah Taylor, Djimon Hounsou, Til Schweiger, Simon Yam, Terence Yin

PRODUCER: Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin

DIRECTOR: Jan de Bont

SCRIPT: Dean Georgaris (story by Steven E. de Souza, James V. Hart)


EDITOR: Michael Kahn

MUSIC: Alan Silvestri

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kirk M. Petruccelli

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 25, 2003

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