Angelina Jolie describes her second go-round as the world's most comely commando in three words: ''Darker. Sexier. Smarter.'' We should hope so. Despite a $48 million opening weekend in 2001 (the record-holder for a film with no male lead), the videogame-based original got flak for its weak story. So while it's still ''just a big, fun adventure movie,'' says Jolie, this time, ''We've introduced friendship and love and trust...some human things.'' Punchier script in hand, Jolie's buxom Indiana Jones-James Bond hybrid will again trek to exotic locations (Europe, Africa, and Asia), hunt lost treasure (Pandora's box), flirt with her rivals (played by Gerard Butler, Ciaran Hinds, and Til Schweiger), and save the world along the way.
Nevertheless, some things have changed. While Jolie recalls no difficulties shooting the movie, her personal life has had its share of complications, the least of which were the flops ''Original Sin'' and ''Life or Something Like It.'' She split from husband Billy Bob Thornton last summer, and had a peculiar public falling-out with dad Jon Voight, who had appeared as her father in the first ''Tomb Raider.'' Needless to say, director Jan De Bont (''Speed,'' ''Twister'') reports, ''There's no Jon Voight cameo in this movie.''
While filming ''Cradle,'' the actress kept company with her year-old son, Maddox, who tagged along to Greece, where Lady Croft fights in a 400-foot-long underwater temple; Africa, where she ventures atop an active volcano; and Hong Kong, where she falls from a skyscraper. In between globe-trotting, the new mom refined her rifle skills while mastering the arts of stick fighting, cliff rappelling, and jet skiing. ''Other kids have the hem of their mom's skirt [to cling to],'' laughs Jolie. ''My kid's got some leather boots and a leg knife.''
Croft also visits a petrified forest and, momentarily, outer space, boasts De Bont, whose last film was 1999's ''The Haunting.'' ''I'm a fan of the character,'' says the director, who wrapped the $100 million sequel's six-month shoot in March. ''I like to do movies about heroines. They're more eager to show their vulnerability.'' Of course, given that bikini she dons in Greece, that's not all this heroine is eager to show...