Lara Croft has been in 13 Tomb Raider video games and two films. She made a full-fledged superstar. She might be one of the most divisive digital figure ever; you generally either love her or loathe her. Depending on your interpretation, she's either a post-feminist icon or a melon-chested caricature. That's what makes her so fascinating. Despite Croft's strong appeal, Tomb Raider still became an overexposed franchise after a bad sequel and even some awful games.
But, if you thought Lara would swan dive into an early grave with the likes of Crash Bandicoot, think again. She's been resurrected by a truly great gaming reboot that strips the character back to her basics, and not in a pervy way. Everyone's favorite English archaeologist is a naive 21-year-old with fewer guns, curves, and no braid. She's stranded on an island and uses her brains and brawn to survive. It's an empowering new take that rivals what did with James Bond.
With the game's critical and cultural success, it's no surprise that a movie reboot is in the works as well. According to Variety, video game developer Crystal Dynamics is working closely with 's GK Films to develop this empowering new vision.
Still, when movie adaptations struggle to maintain their core gaming audience and attract new filmgoers, it's hard to see any hope.
That's especially true for those of us who had our own survival test sitting through 2001's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and 2003's Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. If you're anything like me, you left the theater feeling depressed with a case of the creeps. Maybe we can forgive the game's ridiculous portrayal of womanhood, but watching sport wholly unrealistic measurements should only appeal to a particular, wet dreamy crowd.
When you're rounding out 90 minutes of ridiculous backflips, incessant moaning, and scenes where Lara punches a shark in the face, it all ends up being too much.
Because of that, I'm approaching this new reboot with extreme caution. And yet, I can't help but feel excited for this new vision of Lara.
Crystal Dynamics and GK Films are well aware of the debacles that plagued Tomb Raider. If Lara Croft's previous iterations were still popular, then we'd still be talking about "Nude Raider" patches while she runs into the walls of a polystyrene crypt making orgasm sounds. But, she's not. Lara's a different, engaging lady.
Again, the Lara we meet at the beginning of the new Tomb Raider is an idealistic 21-year-old who has never killed. This is particularly evident in the game's opening, which has her escaping a sinking ship, only to wash up on a mysterious island populated by a vicious cult.
From a philosophical standpoint the clear difference between this Tomb Raider and all the ones that have come before is that Lara has morphed into a real character. She has emotions, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. She cares more about the safety of her companions than her own wellbeing (something to do with the fact that the studio employed the services of female script writer Rhianna Pratchett, perhaps?).
She's not the unbreakable goddess we're used to seeing. This opens up a number of intriguing possibilities for the movie. It has vastly more potential than anything else that came before it.
Crystal Dynamics created a media firestorm after their announcement that Lara Croft would now have a backstory that includes an attempted sexual assault. This obviously caused a lot of concerns from gamers. People didn't want her to go from being a hyper-sexualized character to a victim and poster-child for rape. Despite this one instance, the game luckily treats Croft as human who overcomes the threat of criminals due to her own survival skills. The elements that shape her explain why she became the way she is.
The new game has also been compared to 's 2005 hardcore horror movie The Descent. The similarities between the game and the movie are apparent from the get-go: torches, axes, tank-tops, vulnerable women in caves hunted by a horrifying group of male antagonists. And eventually, female characters who seek revenge and fight back. Oh, and blood. Lots of blood. Before the revamped version of Tomb Raider, I wouldn't think it would be possible to have Lara in such a dark world. However, there's work to be done; if they keep the same victim thread going for the film (and it sounds like they will), with all these naturalistic horror elements, we're going to need a truly solid actress to pull off the role.
Even though she's an incredible actress, Angelina Jolie doesn't fit the bill anymore. We need someone relatable like . She's a no brainer. Lawrence has an Oscar statue to back up her acting chops. She's a worldwide icon thanks to the humongous success of The Hunger Games, as Katniss Everdeen. She has that subtle strength mixed with innocence perfect for playing a 21-year-old Croft. It's hard to imagine anyone else pull off the role as well as she could.
If that's not a possibility, would be a surprising and solid choice. We've mostly seen her as Hermione or in smaller, increasingly edgy dramas, but she's a smart, independent woman who can pack a punch. The fact that she's a young Brit means the accent wouldn't be hard to master (sorry, Ange).
We need to really buckle down on what makes Lara Croft such an intriguing character. We need to remember why she's still around after 17 years. The new game is evidence that something fresh can be done with an iconic character, figuring out what makes Croft tick, and turning out a solid new movie that we'll all enjoy.
What do you think a Tomb Raider reboot needs to raise the movie franchise from the dead? Drop your thoughts and suggestions below.