After 21 years on the media landscape and 15 years after the first attempt at a Tomb Raider film franchise ended, Lara Croft is taking another shot at big screen success. Alicia Vikander stars as our titular tomb raider in a re-imagined version of the video game character that most of us are familiar with. The reboot looks like the start of what I assume Warner Brothers wants to be a franchise, or at least a half decent start to WB’s 2018 summer box office when it premieres next March.
And not that we’re not here for a badass chick pummelling her way through whoever and whatever gets in her way. We just have some questions. Like, why? Why now? Why this? Who even decided that this was a movie that needed to be made again? The first major motion picture attempts at a Tomb Raider franchise were barely memorable at best, and Tomb Raider hasn’t been cool since most of the movie’s target audience was in elementary school. Maybe they’re banking on a nostalgia trip or maybe they just want to churn out a generic action flick in the hopes that people will be bored enough to pay twelve bucks to see it, but the fact that the Tomb Raider movie is already so mystifying is not a good sign. So if we’re lucky, how can they make this reboot better than the original? Or if we’re less fortunate, why is this reboot going to suck?
15. Because Tomb Raider Was The Hottest Video Game On The Market… In 1997
Tomb Raider has definitely been a perennial presence in the video game marketplace since the original game was released, but the decision to resurrect it in film form seems pretty puzzling at this particular time. I mean, most people in the world are probably familiar with Lara Croft as a character, but I think that for most people outside of the gaming community the words “Tomb Raider” tend to bring the stone age of PlayStation to mind. Surely there’s a bit of nostalgia in the general population that can be capitalized on, but is it really enough to fuel a big budget action movie? I’m sure the filmmakers are hoping that they can create a franchise that can at least give the Resident Evil series a run for its money, but they could be staking all of those hopes on a project that might wind up with the success and longevity of the Super Mario Bros. Movie.
14. Because Indiana Jones Already Exists
The concept of an adventurer going on an international trek to discover ancient, possibly magical long-lost relics is definitely a cool one, which is why it’s the central idea of one of the most iconic film franchises in history. The Indiana Jones series really has it all: action, comedy, drama, a dash of magic and mystery, and it’s all grounded by a genuinely memorable and seminal lead character. That certainly doesn’t mean that Indy has cornered the market on all historical action adventure stories for the rest of time, but it does mean that if you want to create a successful movie in the same vein you need to bring something to the table that feels fresh and new. Nothing that Tomb Raider’s promotion has shown us so far looks like something that the world hasn’t seen half a dozen times before, and switching out a male protagonist for a female one is not enough to make a movie feel special.
13. But Maybe The Screenplay Is Amazing
Honestly, making a silver screen adaptation for a video game series that is more than a decade past its cultural peak is weird as hell. From the outside view, there’s really no obvious catalyst for why this movie was even made. So it could be that a film studio was in the mood to throw the dice in the hopes that they roll sevens, but maybe someone behind the scenes gave them a compelling reason to want this movie made. The Tomb Raider series definitely has a few elements to it that can translate well to an action film, and maybe a screenwriter just came up with a script that was good enough to convince producers that this new Tomb Raider was a film that was really worth making. The previous film adaptations left a lot to be desired, but they also came about at a time in which there were probably a lot of people who wanted to capitalize on Lara Croft’s popularity while it was at its peak. The fact that a film reboot is happening at such a random time might just mean that someone came up with material that couldn’t be passed up.
12. Because There Are A Million Other Video Games That’d Make Better Adaptation
The world of video games has evolved a ton over the past 20 years. They’ve not only gone mainstream, but they’ve diversified and become way more complex too. It’s not only expected that any major mainstream media success will try its hand at video game adaptations, it’s also expected that a lot of video games will have character development and story lines that could rival any decent TV show or movie and will have special effects that are as good if not better than what we see on the big and small screens. And video game designers and developers have really delivered. The marketplace has become incredibly competitive and a lot of people are coming up with new and creative ideas in order to stand out, and frankly, they’ve created content that seems a lot more worthy of a film adaptation than Tomb Raider does. We’ve already had two Tomb Raider films, so why redo what’s been done instead of bringing one of the dozens of film-worthy video games to life?
11. Because The Trailer Is Already A Hot Mess
We’re all familiar with the plot points that most action adventures require. Find this thing, discover that thing, find this person, and beat the living crap out of whatever gets in your way. And of course in a Tomb Raider movie we all know that whatever Lara is raiding is going to be a significant component of the story line. But there is A LOT crammed into a trailer that clocks in at 2 minutes and 10 seconds. We get to meet Lara, baby Lara, Lara’s dad, Lara’s dad’s company, Lara’s maybe-not-dead dad sending her off on a mission, some evil mystery squad called the Trinity, the ship captain with some actual survival instincts, some creep played by Walter Goggins, and Nick Frost as snarky a weapons dealer who will presumably have five minutes of screen time total. There’s also the titular tombs, keys, secret rooms, puzzles, and a hearty selection of weapons to whet your appetite for adventure. But it’s just too damn much to squeeze into one movie and still make it good. I mean hell, Lara can’t even make it to her super secret island adventure without having to bail out of her boat and, I don’t know, presumably swim to shore?
10. But At Least There’s The VFX
On the plus side, at least the editors and visual effects team should be able to make this nonstop action assault look pretty damn cool. We’ve had a decade and a half of progress between 2001’s Tomb Raider and this new iteration, and in that time special effects have grown in leaps and bounds and amazing stunts have become the bedrock of all action films. But more importantly, filmmakers now seem much less afraid of writing female characters who are dying to get their hands dirty now, and at this particular point in the movie business, it’s almost seen as a way of making female characters even more appealing to the audience. I have no doubt that this Lara Croft will look smokin’ hot in every frame of the film, but I also have no doubt that looking hot will just be the background dressing to the a*s-kicking that will take center stage.
9. Because It’s Already A Failed Franchise
At this point in the media marketplace, no film studio pours any significant amount of cash into a movie with the intention of that movie being a stand-alone film, and everything about Tomb Raider‘s high profile promotion screams the beginning of a franchise. But what I don’t really get about that is that studios have tried to make Tomb Raider into a franchise, and they failed. They failed at a time where Tomb Raider had a lot more mainstream attention and when they had one of the biggest stars in the world playing Lara Croft. It’s incredibly rare that you can actually learn from experience in the film world, but in an industry that notoriously dislikes taking big risks, it’s really baffling that anyone decided to invest in a franchise that already died its natural death pretty quickly once before. Betting on a toss up is one thing, but betting on a known loser is another.
8. Because The Franchise Movie Market Is Already Too Bloated
In the past few years the Marvel Comics universe has practically overtaken the mainstream film market, and DC comics is clearly trying to give them a run for their money. And like any breakout success stories, these billion dollar franchises have inspired dozens of copycats who are hoping to replicate even just a sliver of that massive success. But now that the film landscape is so oversaturated with franchises, it takes a whole lot more effort for a new contender to stand out. A lot of the super successful franchises that kicked off this craze had enormous fan bases to drive their ticket sales, and I think the fan base for Tomb Raider leans more towards the Divergent size than the Harry Potter size (and we all saw how that turned out). If the movie is good then it might be able to find its own legs, but if it isn’t then it’ll just be another tepid entry into a current trend.
7. But We Are In An Era Of Awesome Lady Characters
One thing that we can throw in the plus column for the Tomb Raider reboot is at least it’s coming about at a time where female-driven media is getting a lot of positive attention and the possibilities of what a mainstream female lead can be is expanding. There have been some surprise successes with characters like Harley Quinn and Wonder Woman, and filmmakers and filmgoers are taking notice. It feels like Tomb Raider might be coming on the scene at the tail end of the franchise trend, but it’s still a little ahead of the curve on the female hero trend, which could definitely work in its favor. When you add in the fact that the script was actually co-written by a female writer, and when you consider that said female writer has also been hired to write the upcoming Captain Marvel and Gotham City Sirens, it seems like the chances of seeing a seriously badass Lara Croft seems pretty likely.
6. Because The Adventures Of An Ultra-Rich Scion Is Totally Played Out
Bruce Wayne. Green Arrow. Mr. Fantastic. Professor X. Iron Man. Iron Fist. These are the trust fund baby heroes who have had a film or TV show adaptation that was released in the last two years. It’s an understandably popular trope; the audience certainly enjoys fantasizing about being so absurdly rich that everything in this world (and even some things outside of it) are accessible, and having a main character who can pay their way through anything definitely makes writing a relatively plausible global adventure a hell of a lot easier. But it’s also a cheap way to get around having to actually write a story, and it’s a barely believable trope that a lot of filmmakers stretch even further than they should. It’s one thing to be able to buy what you need, but a lot of these kinds of characters miraculously already own whatever super expensive and rare artifact they need, have already built whatever gadget they suddenly need in a moment of crisis, and have already learned all of those super useful skills like speaking Aramaic or learning Krav Maga at whatever fictional boarding school they attended. It’s a cheat that’s hard to deal with on its own, but it’s really boring once to have to watch it a dozen times over.
5. Because Of Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie is an icon on her own, and for all of the faults in the original Tomb Raider films, she did undeniably manage to embody an iconic character like Lara Croft in the movies. When you actually look at her in stills from the film, she is very clearly Lara; she literally looks like the video game character come to life. Whereas this new Lara Croft… kinda just looks like a young lady with a bow and arrow. If it weren’t for the title and heavy handed exposition in the trailer, you would have no idea that this movie was meant to be an adaptation of Tomb Raider. It’s rare that you can find a lead actress who can really fill the role they’re playing and who can open a movie on their name alone, but Angelina is one of those rare finds. She left behind some big shoes to fill, and I don’t know if this film can fill them.
4. But They Do Have Alicia Vikander
But on the other side of that same coin, having a Lara Croft that feels so unfamiliar to the audience and who’s being played by a relative newcomer to the American film market could work out in Tomb Raider‘s favor. Angelina Jolie leaves some big shoes to fill, but it looks like the filmmakers decided to not even try to fill them, and in the end, that might benefit the movie. While at first glance it kind of looks like a generic action heroine going off on an adventure, that disconnect between what most people think of when they hear “Lara Croft” also gives them the opportunity to do a lot of new things with the character, and putting a new spin on an old idea is something that Tomb Raider really needs to do. Plus, having a somewhat unknown actress play the lead character could work out in their favor too. Most of the audience has a passing knowledge of Alicia Vikander at best, so it will be easier for the audience to just see Lara Croft instead of an iconic actress playing Lara Croft.
3. Because Some Fantasies Should Remain Fantasies
The fun of most video games is that the player can insert themselves into this imaginary world, and they themselves are the driving force behind what happens in said imaginary world. Even if you’re playing Lara Croft, you’re the one solving the puzzles, you’re the one uncovering the mysteries, and that’s what makes the video game compelling and what makes you feel like you’re a part of it. But with a movie, you’re really not a part of it. The movie is explaining what’s happening in the story to you and you’re just passively watching it, and it sort of dims the element of fantasy that the video game gives you. Of course it’s possible for the writers to write a story that is interesting and fun to watch, but a lot of the elements of video games that specifically makes them fun are things that really don’t translate well to film.
2. Because Who In The World Was Even Asking For This?
We can think of at least ten movies that are entries in or beginnings of franchises that are extremely highly anticipated, some film adaptations that have fans who have been waiting for years or even decades. Tomb Raider is not one of them. It’s been occupying the same niche of our cultural landscape for a really long time, and absolutely nothing about that has changed in the recent past. So what actually made this movie happen? And why would a film studio want to go for this particular project when there are so many different source materials that would have as good of an audience as Tomb Raider would, if not better? From the look of the trailer, it doesn’t seem like the producers skimped on the budget, so it’s a little confusing that they would want to pour that kind of money into this particular movie instead of putting it behind an adaptation of another female action hero with a bigger fanbase.
1. But At Least The 2018 Lara Croft Might Kick Butt
With all that said, the movie could wind up being awesome. Alicia Vikander is a skilled actress, the screenwriters have projects that lend some serious credibility to their talents, and it doesn’t look like the filmmakers cut any corners when it comes to the production value of the film. Trailers aren’t everything, and while the previous film instalments of Tomb Raider were mediocre and Tomb Raider itself seems like kind of a middle of the road video game, at least no one can say that the filmmakers will inevitably fall short of high expectations. Tomb Raider could be the start of a solid new franchise, or it could at least be a fun action movie. But even in the worst case scenario, you’ll spend approximately two hours watching a hot girl do some seriously cool looking stuff, which can never really be a waste of time.
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