Its 1996 and British gaming company Core Design has released action-adventure game Tomb Raider for PC, PlayStation, and Sega Saturn consoles. Centered around archeologist/adventurer Lara Croft, the title challenged gamers to solve puzzles and confront strange enemies in pursuit of recovering lost treasures. At the same time, actor Angelina Jolie was still in the process of transitioning from smaller screen work in music videos to film with performances in Hackers (1995), Love Is All There Is (1996), and Mojave Moon (1996). After a series of audience and critical wins for The Bone Collector (1999) and Girl, Interrupted (1999), she would eventually intersect with Croft in 2001 as the series released its sixth entry, Curse of the Sword, taking on the mantle of the swashbuckling history hunter in the Simon West-directed Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Nearly 20 years after its release, Paramount Pictures is putting out a commemorative Blu-ray of the Angelina Jolie-headlined film, as well as the first 4K UHD two-pack containing both Jolie-as-Croft adventures.
In the first Tomb Raider, Lara Croft (Jolie) battles the Illuminati in a race to find an artifact rumored to control time itself. In the second outing, Croft is recruited by MI6 to locate the mythical Pandora’s Box before bio-weapon arms dealer Jonathan Reiss (Ciarán Hinds) does. In both adventures, Croft finds herself touring the western part of the globe in search of answers, confidently tackling each mystery as she explores areas once believed to be nothing more than legend.
Having never played any of the Tomb Raider games at the time of Lara Croft’s release, the best I would’ve said about the film is that it’s a fun popcorn ride lead by the captivating Jolie. Two decades later, with a host of roles in front and behind the camera to her credit, Jolie remains a giant draw, continuing to demonstrate a versatility that enables her to outshine her contemporaries. She’s always possessed this Golden Age starlet quality, but she never allowed it to become her sole defining trait. Instead, she’s jumped between genres and mediums, never allowing any one thing to become a moor. Looking back on Lara Croft and the 2003 Jan De Bont-directed sequel The Cradle of Life, Jolie commands the screen, indisputably comfortable in the role of the self-assured Croft. It’s one of the things which makes the cinematic version of the character work as well as it does, her performance implies a woman who knows her worth when confronted by adversaries yet is gentle and respectful to those deserving. A mix of Indiana Jones and 007, Jolie plays her as possessing all the best pieces with none of the misogyny or patriarchal traits the masculine cinematic heroes were built upon. Putting aside the fantastical elements, the dated CG, and even more dated music (these were summer blockbusters, not artistic ventures after all), both films still hold up largely because of Jolie who is so captivating and charming in a role which could easily have just been a cash-grab to stimulate the attention of gamers with disposable income. Instead, we get this sex-positive capable heroine whose honor and morals guide her as she seeks lost items of antiquity in an effort to restore them to their rightful home.
In honor of Lara Croft hitting the 20 year mark, Paramount’s doing two things: releasing an anniversary edition Blu-ray with a remaster of the 2001 film and a first-time two-pack of both Jolie-led films on 4K UHD. All of the previous bonus features are included with no new materials added for the anniversary. Additionally, and this is important when it comes to the bonus features, the 4K UHD discs in the two-pack include no bonus materials at all. If you want to listen to available commentary or watch any featurettes, you’ll have to go digital to do so. This may frustrate folks who prefer physical media or have less stable internet connections, so make sure you’re aware going in. The single 4K UHD releases do appear to include the regular Blu-ray editions, which often come with special features included, so this is a reasonable thing to consider when deciding whether to pick up the two-pack or not. If easy access to bonus materials are a must, opting for the previous release may be preferable, but, if you’re looking for a space-saving method and aren’t as concerned about how you access the bonus features, then the two-pack is a solid way to revisit the Jolie Lara Croft stories at a discount.
If the aggregate Rotten Tomatoes score means anything, both films were not successful at all, earning rotten scores from both audiences and critics. However, even all this time later, it’s never appeared to hurt Jolie. In fact, looking back on them, they are a showcase for what she’s capable of in the sense that she’s able to make even the most nonsensical tale engaging and entertaining by simply being involved. Of the two, I personally find Tomb Raider a more engaging story than The Cradle of Life and, despite its temporal anchors, it holds up better over time. It is simply a romp that seeks to do nothing more than entertain and it succeeds by keeping the momentum going to prevent anyone from thinking too hard about Daniel Craig’s (Knives Out) off-putting American accent. Cradle fails by trying to be more serious as an adventure tale rather than keeping its tongue firmly in cheek. It’s not a terrible time, mind you, it’s just the larger-than-life villains and the pandemic threat via mythological pathogen feel about as average as any other basic Bond villain. Still, though, it’s an entertaining enough two-fer to make for idle entertainment with a bowl of popcorn and your favorite snacks on family movie night.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Special Features
- Commentary with director Simon West
- Digging into Tomb Raider
- Crafting Lara Croft
- The Visual Effects of Tomb Raider
- The Stunts of Tomb Raider
- Are You Game?
- Deleted Scenes
- U2 “Elevation” music video
- Alternate Main Title
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life Special Features
- Commentary by Director Jan De Bont
- Deleted/Alternate Scenes
- Training featurettes
- Vehicles and Weapons featurettes
- Stunts featurettes
- Visual Effects featurettes
- Scoring featurettes
- Gerard Butler’s Screen Test
- The Davey Brothers “Heart Go Fast” music video
Available on 4K UHD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray, and digital June 1st, 2021.
For more information on Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, head to the official Paramount Movies website.
For more information on Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, head to the official Paramount Movies website.