Gamely strapping on a pair of Lara Croft's party-size pistols, Angelina Jolie is ready for another go as the bodacious archaeologist-adventurer in ''Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life,'' the $100 million-plus sequel that opens in more than 3,000 theaters on July 25. ''This one is better,'' she earnestly promises. ''It took us a while to figure things out -- just figuring out how to use Lara's guns in the first one took us months. But this one has more action and the character is a lot more developed. It's smarter and sexier and a bit darker. The fans should be happier this time.''
Even the makers of the original ''Raider'' admit there was much room for improvement. ''The first one did not have a strong story, I'll be the first to admit it,'' concedes Lloyd Levin, a producer on both films. ''We should have made a better movie. But we learned from our mistakes and this new one is a better movie. For starters,'' he offers encouragingly, ''it's got a plot.'' Precisely what that plot involves is, for now, being kept top secret -- something about Pandora's box being real and a race across the world to unlock its terrible ancient powers -- but it doesn't matter. The important thing is Jolie liked it enough to squeeze back into Croft's camouflaged hot pants for another round.