Lara Croft Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life Studio: Paramount Year: 2003 Rated: PG-13 Length: 117 minutes Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic (also available fullscreen) Audio: DD 5.1 English, DD 5.1 French English Subtitles Commentary, 5 featurettes, 6 deleted scenes, 1 alternate ending, 2 Music videos, Web link, Previews 1 DVD-9 M.A.P. $19.95 USD Release Date: November 18, 2003 The Cradle of Life is the return of video game heroine, archeologist, adventurer Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) to the big screen in a typically brainless, stunt and effects-filled action flick. This is purely a popcorn flick - with plenty of eye candy, and holes in plot and logic that you could drive a truck through. Lara Croft is Indiana Jones Lite. A globe-trotting archeologist with far less reverence to the science than Jones, but with enough money to have her own collection of James Bond gadgetry. Taking elements from both series, you’d hope the Lara Croft films would have a lot going for them, but instead, they come off as ultimately formulaic, as you might expect. The story finds Lara Croft racing against a bio-terrorist to find Pandora’s Box. If the box is opened, it will spell certain doom for millions of people - and apparently, the bad guy has some sort of innoculant. Of course, we travel around the globe during the course of the race, from Greece, to England, then to China and Africa. Lots of great set pieces, scenery, stunts and fight scenes - it’s exciting to watch, but it’s ultimately forgettable. If you enjoyed the first Lara Croft, this one is at least as good - and it is similarly lacking, as well. The Video The anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 picture is bright, and is dominated by a warm and deeply saturated palette. Blacks often come across as dark brown, but shadow detail is very good. Contrast varies, slightly lacking in some scenes but very good in others. It’s very sharp, with no signs of edge enhancement. Grain is virtually absent, and the print is free of dust. There has been a lot of digital grading to the print, and I wonder if it might be responsible for the warm tints and the brownish blacks. Having not seen the film in theaters, I can’t be sure if its the grading or the transfer. Overall, this is a very good transfer, if a bit on the warm side. The Audio The Cradle of Life is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. It is a very active mix, with dialog panning across the front soundstage when appropriate. Sound effects fill the room in the action sequences. LFE is quite powerful, delivering a window-shaking experience. Dialog is clean and intelligible, with an exception being one of the actor’s Scottish accents... certainly not a fault of the mix. The score occasionally delivers too much driving bass when it isn’t really called for. I don’t really mind this sort of thing during action sequences, but I find it annoying during transitory and expository scenes. This, of course, is my personal preference... overall, it’s an impressive surround mix with a three dimensional feel to it that adds to the excitement, without being gimmicky or overdone. Special Features Commentary by director Jan De Bont Jan De Bont was a cinematographer long before he was a director, and that fact comes through in his commentary. His work as a cinematographer includes such stylistic pieces as Black Rain and Flatliners, as well as more popular fare such as The Hunt for Red October and Lethal Weapon. He speaks volumes about photographic technique, which I always find interesting. He also talks about the CGI work on the film, the stunts, and the sound design. De Bont is enthusiastic throughout, and I found this commentary to be above average. Deleted / Alternate Scenes British Embassy, Nairobi Lara Rescued by Submarine MI6 to Croft Manor Lara Enters Prison Terry and Lara Driving Mah Jong Alternate Ending Most of these scenes are simple character development and were cut either for pacing reasons, or because they gave away too much of future plot events. While it is nice to see the characters develop, since this is an action film, the pacing takes precedence. The scenes are not anamorphically enhanced, and are typically of poorer quality than the feature. There is a “Play All” feature, and the scenes can be viewed with or without commentary by director De Bont. Featurettes The Featurettes are fullscreen format. Training (08:54) Angelina Jolie does much of her own stunt work and many of her own fight scenes. Many sequences were written specifically with this in mind. This short featurette documents the training required to prepare for these scenes. Vehicles and Weapons (04:28) Most of the vehicles and weapons needed to be modified from their stock form to accommodate the special needs of the stunt work. We see this process in this short featurette. Stunts (10:53) Jolie complained that the first Tomb Raider film was too easy for her, so they upped the ante on the second film. Some of the more elaborate stunts are explored in this piece, including the flying suit sequence. Visual Effects (11:25) Some of the underwater scenes were shot “dry for wet,” where lighting effects, wire work and CGI are combined to create an underwater environment. CGI effects were used for a shark sequence, as well (not as convincing as the model work in Jaws). CGI effects played a part in above water scenes, as well, including a small “plane” crash, and the “Shadow Guardians.” An elaborate “petrified forest” was built on a stage for the climactic scenes. Scoring (4:44) An interview with composer Alan Silvestri, along with footage of recording sessions in England. Gerard Butler’s Screen Test (03:59) Music Videos Korn “Did My Time” The Davey Brothers “Heart Go Faster” Original Theatrical Web Site Archive Previews Paycheck The Adventures of Indiana Jones Final Thoughts If you haven’t seen this film, but you’ve seen the first, use that as your guide. This is more of the same - a formulaic action flick. I think I liked it a bit better than the first, but they are comparable films. The video transfer is well done, but perhaps a bit warm for my taste. The DD 5.1 mix is pretty impressive. There is a jarring break at the layer change (48:48), but other than that, there is not a lot to complain about with this DVD.