American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Not everybody could play Lara Croft. Not everybody would want to, but that's another matter. Rich, humorless, awesomely competent, ambiguous about romance, stacked, she emerges in "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life" as once again a heroine too busy saving the world to trouble herself with tomb raiding. In fact, she isn't really a raider at all; the word suggests criminal activities, when perhaps it is only intended to remind us of raiders of lost arks and suchlike.
In "Lara Croft Tomb Raider" (2001), you will recall, she battled the Illuminati in their quest to reunite the halves of a severed triangle in order to control time. In "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life," which with becoming modesty is 10 letters shorter than "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," she engages in a deadly race for control of Pandora's Box, which brought life to earth but was slammed shut before it could also release a plague that would kill us all. Devout Darwinians will note that if the box was opened to admit life and then immediately closed on death, whoever or whatever came out of it must have evolved with startling speed into a box-closing organism.
Lara Croft is Lady Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie), daughter of the archeologist Sir Richard Croft ("Lost in the Field, 1985"). Actually, since the title insists it has no comma, if grammar means anything she is Lady Lara Croft Tomb Raider. In the somewhat murky chronology she describes early in the film, the original box arrived from outer space, and was discovered by an Egyptian pharaoh in 2300 B.C. "in a place he called the Cradle of Life," she explains to her colleagues, mentioning Pandora's Box. "You mean the Greek myth?" she is asked. "That's the Sunday school version," she says. Only Lara Croft would go to a Sunday school that teaches Greek myth.
Some two centuries later, the box was obtained by Alexander the Great, who hid it in a temple, which was buried beneath the sea by an earthquake, its location revealed as the film opens by another earthquake. Lara is involved in a deadly race against Dr. Jonathan Reiss (Ciaran Hinds) for possession of the box. He wants it in order to wipe out humanity, except for the best and the brightest, of course, after which he will rule, I guess. Lara chooses as her only companion Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler), and they embark on an adventure that will have them deep-sea diving, leaping from the tops of Shanghai skyscrapers, and fighting it out in Africa.