Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life 4K UHD Review

Two-mb Raider

Lara Croft doesn’t jump the shark in Cradle of Life – she punches it. She punches the thing right in the mouth. Cradle of Life is an absurd film, enough that underwater shark fisticuffs seems rudimentary by the end. Angelina Jolie returns as the wealthy British adventurer, this time out for Pandora’s Box, hunting alongside a romantically linked Gerard Butler. The two skydive in wingsuits. They shoot plenty of people. Mysterious African monsters pounce on them. It’s all nonsense.

Under director Jan de Bont, Cradle of Life shows signs of maturation. The camerawork is less lurid. Jolie isn’t used for her physique as much as her macho musculature. She wears more clothing too, even if its often skin tight. Old habits and all.

Croft still isn’t much of a character. There’s a sense of a complex past, mingling with people she knows even in isolated spots of Hong Kong, but other than a derivative screen heroine, there’s nothing here. Cradle of Life, with hokey slow-mo and generic music stings is lean enough to feel direct-to-video rather than a studio blockbuster.

Croft remains a dull lead, speaking to the videogame series that spawned her as a mere vessel for male fantasies

In either of Paramount’s Tomb Raider offerings, rarely does anyone seem to have fun. Up until the final quip of Cradle of Life, the sense of this being an American blockbuster is almost nill; it feels more like an internationally sourced copycat. Action scenes reach for any creativity, often draining logic in a hunt for visual stakes. Croft slides down wires on a Chinese dragon sign. She fights her opponent by performing a military salute routine. Every bit of this is hokey.

Some fifteen years passed since Cradle of Life. Jan de Bont’s take on the videogame gained some kitsch value in that time. It’s corny enough for laughs, bombastic enough to shed boredom (most of it, anyway). Pacing keeps moving around the globe, often without a single tomb to raid, keeping the visuals varied and events ludicrous.

Cradle of Life is a better outing than 2001’s plainly named Tomb Raider. There’s an actual symphonic score, albeit repetitive, removing the life-draining techno of before. Butler plays a better love interest, and Alfred Molina’s villainous plot to poison the world has some thematic weight. Croft though remains a dull lead, speaking to the videogame series that spawned her as a mere vessel for male fantasies. She would mature through the various interactive iterations. This short-lived movie series had no such aspirations.

Video

There’s some life to this UHD presentation with notable color warmth and attractive locations. Flesh tones veer orange, if not offensively so. Scenes in Hong Kong push plenty of primaries, making use of the exceptional neon streetside. African scenes load up on greens, at least until day-for-night turns everything blue.

A blistering sun sets on those same African locales, showcasing some great HDR effects. The same goes for those numerous Hong Kong signs. Shadow delineation is spectacular, and black levels frequently feature true black. If there’s a “best quality” to this disc, it’s certainly those moments of darkness.

Mild grain isn’t enough to challenge the encode, and resolution appears reasonably high. Close-ups pick up precision detail. Facial definition strikes at medium range too, and some of the location sights (including the opening shot of Greece) reach high-grade travelogue quality. Cinematography softens at times, but that’s a source issue, not this disc.

Minor print damage is evident in the form of small specks. A hair is visible in the upper right of the screen in one shot. All of this is minor, but worth a note for those keeping track. It’s not as if Cradle of Life is in need of clean-up.

Audio

No upgrade to the audio here. Paramount includes the same DTS-HD 5.1 mix from the Blu-ray, and it’s a fine track. Although missing some of the bolder range from contemporary design, discreet use of the surrounds is prevalent. Stereos work to pan dialog and effects too, while rear speakers still stand out. Collapsing interiors and rushing water provide the material. Directionality maintains pleasing consistency, with numerous channel-specific cues.

Gunfire tends to become lost in the mayhem, often drained of sonic energy while other effects take off in dominance. That’s a loss. Still, bullets do track between channels, and each speaker is involved when the action picks up. Even when panning motorcycles during an early chase the mix shows off accurate design.

Extras

Jan de Bont provides a feature commentary (shared on the UHD) and additional thoughts over seven deleted scenes (not shared on the UHD). Six behind-the-scenes featurettes run through effects, stunts, weapons, the score, Jolie’s training, and a Gerard Butler screen test. These will be familiar to anyone who owns the Blu-ray as this is the same disc.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 14 Cradle of Life uncompressed screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 10,000+ already in our library), exclusive UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.