Whoever thought searching crypts and robbing tombs would be so intense?
When I found out they were rebooting the Tomb Raider franchise, I was scared, and a little concerned like any reasonable person would be. I mean who can say if any a reboot will be what we hope it is? Lauren Curry reviews the 2018 release of Tomb Raider.
Many times, I have personally been left in dismay at the failings of a franchise, the cinematic 2016 release of Assassin’s Creed, is most prominent in my mind. The announcement that Roar Uthaug was making a film based on the rebooted Square Enix games from 2013 and 2015 left me concerned that Lara’s origin story could be compromised. Though, this was exciting because the past games did not go into that much detail of how she became this brilliant survivalist archaeologist except the 2006 Legend which was mainly about her losing her mother. I went to see the film the first night it was released. To my surprise the cinema was quiet, which in retrospect, I understand as few people jump to the idea of seeing their favourite video game franchise get ripped to shreds in front of them. However, throughout the film, I could not contain my excitement. Many elements from the 2013 Tomb Raider and the 2015 Rise of the Tomb Raider to my relief were preserved. As a fan of the franchise, it did not disappoint.
The film starts with Lara taking part in a boxing class; the opening scene is a fitting addition to the characters back story. In the rebooted game she does not have any experience of fighting. Therefore, seeing Lara engage in combat training on screen, is useful as Lara is not labelled a ‘Mary-sue’ even though in past games Lara trains in Croft Manor and has various talents. Another unique aspect that Uthaug utilised through the film was the characterisation of Lara as being relatable to the modern age. Lara is seen to be strapped for cash as she worked as bike delivery person (not Deliveroo!), an infamous part-time role for many millennials. At least it is a way to get a work out and not have to pay for the gym! Lara is spurred on to take part in a ‘fox hunt’, not hunting foxes or being horseback, I did not have a clue what that was until I saw it play out in the film and let me tell you chasing a cyclist across London looks terrifying, I would not recommend it at all.
Early in the film, the audience understands that Lara does not want to inherit her Croft Legacy. Understandably this points to why Lara is tight for cash, unlike in the games this is quite refreshing that she wants to make it on her own and not have to rely on her name to get her somewhere. Though Lara’s independence from her Croft title was touched upon in Rise of the Tomb Raider, it is focal in the 2018 release. When Ana bails Lara out of jail for getting caught fox hunting she tries persuading and manipulating Lara to sign papers for her to inherit her father’s legacy and wealth. By not doing this Lara would lose all her father’s work and research he has done over the years which obviously Lara would be devastated to lose. As Ana was introduced on screen, I could almost hear alarm bells go off in my mind. Reflecting upon the second game in the Survivor franchise, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Ana is introduced as Richard’s former lover and family friend. However, in the game, the audience is faced with the truth that Ana is working for Trinity and is a leading antagonist.
“A famous explorer once said…that the extraordinary is in what we do not who we are.”
This character history of Ana is not fully explored in the film as she plays a minor role in the plot. Though, if a sequel was to be announced, Ana could be expected to take a more pivotal role as an antagonist. The film was drawn to a close as Lara signs the papers for her inheritance. Lara discovers in these final moments that Trinity has infiltrated the Croft company because of what Lara saw on Yamatai thanks to Mathias. One prominent line of dialogue from Lara notes “A famous explorer once said…that the extraordinary is in what we do not who we are.”. When Lara gets stranded on Yamatai, she meets Mathias who allegedly killed her father seven years ago on the island. Spoiler he is not dead! When first introduced to Mathias I was a little disappointed that they did not keep the creepy old guy trope as they did in the game as it adds to the story. Mathias tells Lara he needs her to open Himiko’s tomb for the search of eternal life which Trinity are really into. Lara refuses and escapes, going on an adventure to become the Tomb Raider we all know and love.
“I've been a huge fan of Vikander’s after seeing her in Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2014), and James Kent's Testament of Youth (2014) but to top it off her marrying Michael Fassbender brought joy to my life I never thought I needed!”
Finally, after some torture and trials, Lara is faced with force to open the tomb where immortality lies. When opening Himiko’s tomb, the group discover that the immortality myth was a lie and it was a disease that could start an apocalypse, as if we have never seen that before! Self-sacrificing Richard decides to blow up the crypt as Lara did not need to go through the trauma of grieving over her father twice. This then transpires into Lara and Mathias battling it out together to save humanity. Gracefully, Lara grabs the sample of the virus that Mathias took and plunges it down his neck thus killing him. While watching the film, it inspired me to work harder at the gym and take up boxing because Alicia Vikander killed it as Lara Croft. Seeing her body transformation and gaining muscle was inspiring and motivating. I’ve been a huge fan of Vikander’s after seeing her in Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2014), and James Kent’s Testament of Youth (2014) but to top it off her marrying Michael Fassbender brought joy to my life I never thought I needed!. The stunts in the film are amazing, and I could see several parallels to the rebooted game. The part where Lara and Lu are on the Endurance, and they get trapped in a storm that strands them on Yamatai. I was excited to see the famous leap Lara made in the rebooted game to get onto the other side of the ship, however, in the film, Lara leaps into the water. The cinematography of this scene was stunning.
This always gets to me after playing Tomb Raider as a child, many of the games had Lara swimming in the sea or crevices, which were in the tombs. Sharks or crocodiles were in there with her, and I hated that. I will always remember the 2009 Tomb Raider: Underworld and the first part of the game was to swim into the ocean and go into a secret underwater tomb, I felt like I could not complete the mission due to my fear of sharks. Thanks to Jaws! Although in the rebooted games there were no underwater scenes which in many ways I was thankful for, however, there was a significant angry bear in a cave, and that made up for it! We will have to wait and see if the 2018 Shadow of the Tomb Raider will grace us with an underwater level, hopefully not.
The differences from the ‘Survivor’ game trilogy and the film are subtle. However, there is one big reveal which I did not like; the trope has been overdone to death. When Lara gets stranded on Yamatai, she discovers her Dad is still alive which personally I think was a wrong move concerning keeping faithful to the video game material. In the game, Lara went to Yamatai to find out what her father discovered about, the sun queen, Himiko and searching for eternal life which in the film they do stay close to the plot, but with the game, we already know Trinity killed Richard Croft. Another plot point I would have liked to have seen on screen would have been Lara escaping from the island by boat, rather than a Trinity helicopter. I recommend the film for Tomb Raider fans just to see another timeline come to life in front of them. I additionally would recommend it to people who want something fun to watch. Tomb Raider provides escapism from the outside world through the visuals of action and adventure.