Updated: Apr 17, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW
“LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital HD copy; 2001; PG-13 for action violence and some sensuality; streaming Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes (4K), and Vudu (4K)
Best extra: Commentary with Director Simon West (“The General’s Daughter,” “The Expendables 2”)
“LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital HD copy; 2003 PG-13 for action violence and some sensuality; streaming Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes, and Vudu
Best extra: Commentary with Director Jan de Bont, cinematographer for “Speed,” “Twister” and “Minority Report”
ANGELINA JOLIE was the perfect Lara Croft in the two films from Paramount – “Tomb Raider” and “The Cradle of Life” in the early 2000’s. It didn’t hurt that her co-stars included Daniel Craig in “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” and Gerard Butler in “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.” The James Bond and “300” stars were virtual unknowns at the time and it was a great start for their action careers.
Lara Croft is probably the best known character in video gaming. But player or not, folks turned out in droves to see the first movie, which took its time getting to the adventure. Its slower pace created a less enthusiastic response for the second even with its bigger budget and bigger action.
Making the jump from video game to big screen is never easy. Failure is legendary. Despite the varied responses, there’s a lot to enjoy in Jolie’s Lara Croft. Action heroines were decidedly unique in the time before Gal Godot’s “Wonder Woman” and Scarlett Johansson’s “Black Widow.” Sure, we had Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens” and Linda Hamilton in “Terminator 2,” while Sarah Michelle Gellar kicked undead booty in “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer” on TV, but they were exceptions. Now we even have the action-villainess, like Cate Blanchett’s Hela in “Thor: Ragnarok.”
Much more the reason to enjoy Angelina’s “Tomb Raider” and “Cradle of Life.” “Tomb Raider” is pretty much a franchise set-up. Opening action all takes place in Lara’s 83 room mansion.with a small detour to see Bryce (Noah Taylor), her man Friday’s trailer outside. Bryce creates the robot and gizmos designed to finesse her combat skills. Lara eventually leaves to track down the Triangle of Light before the sinister Illuminati find it. A less scrupulous fellow Tomb Raider played by Daniel Craig helps. Jon Voight as Lara’s father, Lord Richard Croft, appears in a vision. Voight is Jolie’s real-life father and his appearance was something of a reconciliation between them at the time.
“Cradle of Life” has Lara investigating the waters off a Greek island after an earthquake opens a crack in the ocean floor. The lost temple of Alexander is revealed and dozens of Tomb Raiders are out to exploit it. Lara knows just where to look, once she punches out a pesky shark on the way down. She’s searching for Pandora’s box, rumored to have brought both life and death, in the form of plague, to the universe. Ciarán Hinds as the villainous Jonathan Reiss, a dealer in biological warfare, is after it, too. Lara’s old partner and lover Terry Sheridan, played by Gerard Butler, comes along to help.
The 4K versions of both films look to have been made from the same Digital Intermediate used for the earlier released Blu-rays. Color is now brighter and detail sharper, with “Cradle of Life” and its improved production values showing more all-around improvement. Complexions are natural in a variety of skin tones: Asian, Black, sun-baked Greek and Egyptian. Blacks are solid, showing decent detail in shadows. A wash of film grain provides a cinematic experience on both. Paramount has done a good job restoring both films.
There is no Dolby Atmos, but “Tomb of Life” has been upgraded to a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack; “Cradle of Life” maintains its original 5.1 track. Sound effects and score sound good, with decent dynamic range, but dialogue is sometimes muffled. Like the “Indiana Jones’” films, there are explosions, gunfire, cascading rocks, the roar of engines and fight scenes galore creating a good, immersive experience.
All are found on the Blu-ray and all are carry-overs from the initial Blu-ray releases. Both films have director commentaries – Simon West for “Tomb Raider” and Jan de Bont for “The Cradle of Life” – filled with production and casting details, and anecdotes. “Making a film is like trying to pass a handful of water between a thousand people. By the time the last person receives it you are lucky if there is still one drop left of the original idea,” West says in his IMDB personal quote.
Each film has deleted/extended scenes, featurettes on stunts, effects and various making-of highlights. Look for music videos: one from U2, “Elevation: Tomb Raider mix” on “Tomb Raider,” and Korn’s “Did My Time” and The Davey Brothers’ “Heart Go Faster” on “Cradle of Life.” "Cradle" also has Butler’s screen test.
It’s no surprise a 4K release on the first two Lara Croft movies arrives now – just ahead of the “Tomb Raider” reboot starring Alicia Vikander of “Ex Machina. opening March 16. Directed by Norwegian filmmaker Roar Uthaug of “The Wave,” it has all the earmarks of a crowd pleaser. Meanwhile, pump up expectation with the unforgettable Angelina playing one of her best characters.
- Kay Reynolds