So after years of teasing and rumors, we finally got our first look at Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft and… it’s a bit rubbish. The initial trailer doesn’t stick the landing for me and while on the surface it looks like a bold new direction, it seems that Warner Bros couldn’t help but bring along the same issues that tanked Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider movies.
I’ve been a huge fan of the Tomb Raider series since it emerged. I remember playing the original Tomb Raider back when DOS was still a thing. I also remember spending hours running around Lara’s mansion – exploring every nook and cranny. To me, Tomb Raider is about that sense of adventure and uncovering a story through that. It’s about the tension of the leaps, the idea that tricks and traps wait around every corner looking to catch out the not so weary. Yet as the video game series has evolved, the idea of translating Lara Croft’s adventures to the big screen has become ever-present.
Angelina Jolie’s two outings as Lara Croft tried (and failed) to capture the spirit of the games – leaning too heavily on Hollywood’s desire to give every character a heartfelt backstory. Lara Croft of the 1990’s was an empty husk of a character really, mainly there to take plot convenience when the games needed to shift locations. She was just an avatar for the gamer to explore dungeons. But because she had sex appeal and because Hollywood can’t help itself, we ended up with two movies of varying quality. Trying to give her a story revolving around her father and an Illuminati mystery ultimately came off as shallow – written with barely a care for the fact that Jolie spent next to no time exploring tombs. The thing she was supposed to be doing.
So why exactly are we revisiting that idea in the latest Tomb Raider movie?
Bizarrely the new trailer seems to heavily imply that the movie will be taking cues from both old and new. In this trailer, a young Lara Croft stumbles upon a mystery that her father pushes on her – expecting his daughter to clean up the mess he isn’t around to achieve. One can only assume that the new movie takes nods from the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider – as Lara unexpectedly ends up trapped on an island with a group of gun-wielding men. So in one movie we’ve got a repeat of the old Tomb Raider movies (arguably) weakest aspect – the daddy issues subplot tied to a retread of a game that most fans have already experienced and likely don’t want to pay $20 to experience again. Who is the film for exactly?
All this is without talking about the awkward action scenes – which make the movie feel like a rip-off of the critically acclaimed 2013 game. I don’t think Warner Brothers has understood that directly lifting the aesthetics of that game doesn’t make for a solid movie alone. The reason that game worked as a Lara Croft origin was that gamers saw Lara grow throughout the game. She didn’t begin the entire thing as a gun-wielding adventurer – it was thrust upon her. Yet in this movie, we’ll be meeting Lara when she already has these skills. Why else would her dad send her to an incredibly dangerous location if he didn’t think she was going to be ready?
It’s this kind of logic that doesn’t translate well to the big screen. The trailer heavily implies that we’re not getting a Lara Croft origin movie – which was really the whole point of this exercise. We needed to see that Lara Croft works on the big screen and that the origin story which revived the franchise so handsomely could be translated.
For all the hate heaped on Angelina Jolie’s original movies garner – you can’t deny that their globe-trotting adventures felt very in-keeping with the tone of the games at the time. The most important aspect is that they were their own beast. They avoided drawing too heavily from the video game series – instead of making their own stories (for better or worse). It’s funny really because those movies would inspire the 2005 rebooted video games. Heck, the best scene in the first Tomb Raider movie is the scene where Jolie’s Lara is left alone in a tomb and allowed to do actual Tomb Raiding. This time around though it seems that the movie’s creators have opted to mix and match the aspects – even the bits that didn’t work.
It’s just a trailer and there’s every chance things could improve – but I’m not hopeful. Something feels majorly off about the entire thing – like the movie doesn’t understand what makes Lara Croft tick. You can put her in a movie and say it’s a Tomb Raider film – but who wants to pay to see an inferior version of a game that’s already out in the wild?
It’s a question I can’t help but ask after watching the trailer. It’s a confused trailer – I just hope that the final movie is much better than we’re led to believe.