Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Finally, the long wait is over! Hollywood has graced us with another ass-kicking action-adventure filled movie that has been the talk of the town since the trailer blazed our screens last year. I was one of the lucky few to attend the Los Angeles movie premiere of Tomb Raider at the TCL Chinese Theatre and it’s safe to say that it did not disappoint.
Before diving into the nitty gritty of the movie, let’s get to know how Tomb Raider came into existence. In 1996, a one-of-a-kind action-adventure video game was developed by Core Design known as Tomb Raider. Yes, the adventures of English archaeologist, Lara Croft, started as a video game that was instantly dubbed by critics as the greatest video game ever made, which sold 7 million copies worldwide. The concept of the game revolves around guiding Lara through her adventure around the world as she explores various tombs and places by solving puzzles, fighting human foes and dangerous creatures in search of hidden treasures and artifacts.
What makes Tomb Raider a cut above the rest? While female characters in video games first appeared in the 80s, Lara Croft broke stereotypes for being the first female heroine to exhibit and represent great strength and bravery of independent women. It proved that female characters in video games are worth so much more than simply being damsels in distress; turning heads across the globe including Hollywood studio executives. Hence, the first Tomb Raider film adaptation was released in 2001 with Angelina Jolie starring as Lara Croft.
If we put the original and reboot side by side, you could easily pick up on its similarities and differences in terms of plot, character arcs, action scenes, and themes. Both versions remained faithful to the father-daughter relationship that served as the emotional spine and reason that drove the narrative forward. Moreover, the complexity of the action scenes kept you on the edge of your seats, allowing you to experience the thrill of solving mysteries and defeating opponents alongside the character.
However, the original version seemed to be more stylized and plot-driven rather than emotionally compelling, which is an important factor in powerful storytelling by maintaining the connection and relatability factor with the audience throughout the hero’s journey. And this is what the reboot has successfully mastered and at the same time preserving the exhilarating voyages, which I believe spoke volumes both visually and emotionally, especially with the character development of Lara Croft.
…the original version seemed to be more stylized and plot-driven rather than emotionally compelling…this is what the reboot has successfully mastered and at the same time preserving the exhilarating voyages…
Played by Alicia Vikander, Lara was depicted as a rebellious and struggling independent woman who has a mediocre job as a food courier that could hardly sustain her needs – far from the upper-class persona who lived in a mansion with butlers and sidekicks to do the dirty work for her in the opening scene of the original version. By humanizing her, we sympathize with her from the get-go, which is what the writers have brilliantly done to hook the audience. They created a strong female character who embodies what it’s like to be human – going through pain, loss, and vulnerability, but at the same time having tenacity, the will to persevere through adversity, and the courage to fight for justice.
In a nutshell, Lara’s adventures revolved around solving the mysteries that her father has been deciphering in his own research. Although, his quest for answers led to his disappearance, which left Lara alone growing up. One thing they did differently in the reboot, which I personally think was monumental, was enabling Lara to find and reunite with her father in an inhabited island where he was trying to locate the tomb of Himiko – the powerful queen of Japan. After years of uncertainty, she is able to find closure in that chapter of her life even if in the end, her father sacrificed his life to save humanity from being infected by the deadly disease contained in the tomb, which the enemy wanted to unleash for his personal gain.
Despite some forgivable over the top stunts and action scene clichés, the character motives and subplots seamlessly coincide with the central story, which goes to show that every element was carefully pieced together to create a memorable story that will stand the test of time. Not to mention, the character-driven movie also gave us a taste of the actual obstacles included in the video game that enabled us to explore the extraordinary capabilities of Lara Croft.
But wait, there’s more! Towards the ending, we get a glimpse of another mystery that Lara has to debunk, which implies that the tale of this legendary female icon has only begun and I’ll definitely run along with her through the next adventure.