Do you ever get that feeling that you didn't see the same movie that everybody else did? That's certainly the case for me after reading reviews of Lara Croft Tomb Raider The Cradle of Life.
I don't know what these people saw, but I want to see that movie, because the one that I saw was certainly not as entertaining as the first one in the series, Lara Croft Tomb Raider.
Even for the "scenery-only" crowd, I can't suggest that this movie is a good pick, because the costumes are just not as compelling as the first movie.
So, let's get down to brass tacks here. This movie just doesn't pass muster. Any film where you leave the theater commenting to your friends, "I just can't believe that was directed by the same guy who did Speed, it was so poorly paced" is not a good start. Jan de Bont was certainly not doing his best work on this film. Despite his roaring success in creating a real thrill-ride feel in Speed, Cradle fails to engage at any point, mostly due to ploddingly-slow pacing.
Maybe I'm just reeling against anything that overuses Matrix-style slow pan and motion effects after being disappointed by The Matrix Reloaded, but even that would have been OK, if it hadn't been more reminiscent of the overdone panning in William Shatner's Star Trek V (by the way, if you haven't seen that film yet, it's still not worth seeing after almost 15 years).
What really puzzles me is the contention of reviewers like Roger Ebert (whom I've had more trouble agreeing with in the last 6 months than the last 3 years), whose review gave it three stars saying, "This is a better movie than the first one, more assured, more entertaining." I don't know what movie he saw, but short of his particular praise about consistency and logic in the plot (which I will admit was certainly more linear than the first movie), I didn't see a film that was entertaining on almost any level.
The biggest laugh in the theater came in an uncomfortably-placed make-out scene that elicited a load "what are they doing!" from some kids in the near- front rows. The whole theater lost it, partially because it was just funny, and partially because I think we all agreed that Lara Croft, the video game character isn't supposed to be that kind of character. In deference to the writers, that character is supposed to be a driven archeologist and a tease, not a mushy sentimentalist as regards "bad boys."
What about entertainment value? Well, I couldn't get engaged in this film. I wanted to be, I pleaded to be. But, unlike Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, which grabs you with humor and drama in the first five minutes of the film, this film never managed to pull me in. Not only were there no action sequences that created real tension (unlike the original Tomb Raider's spectacular robot chase scene, but the basic chase metaphor was disrupted by the use of technologies that left the audience silently watching as our "heros" drifted away from the bad guys.
To add insult to injury, the soundtrack utterly failed in its job to enhance the on screen delivery. A great soundtrack acts as a catalyst to encourage the viewer to participate in whatever emotion is intended by the film maker. A mediocre soundtrack is either completely unnoticeable or contains some inappropriate (usually overly-dated) music. However, a failed soundtrack like this creates a conscious conflict between the viewer's eyes and ears, a form of puzzlement that makes you say "why are we getting calming music during a chase scene?" It is, unfortunately, the latter that we were treated to in Cradle, a sound track that was more distracting in its confict witht hte film.
All told, I cannot recommend spending money to see this film. To be sure, if you are given a choice between Hulk and Cradle, you should go see this film, but if you are given any other choice, take it.
By the way, if you are going to the film looking for, shall we say "compelling" costumes, you can just stay at home too. The costumers were much more sedate in this film than the last.
Most of the violence in the film is cartoonish, excepting a few scenes that contain some mild gore.