I love adventure stories. As a fan of the genre I think we don't get nearly enough good jungle treasure hunt stories these days - the last one that comes readily to my mind is 'Kong: Skull Island' - and not to split hairs but that one didn't really have any treasure hunts in it. As a fan of the genre the rebooted 'Tomb Raider' movie was my most anticipated movie for this year. It got to a point where my friends were asking me: "So, are you exited for Avengers: Infinity War?" and I was like - "No, I've used up all the excitement I can spare on Tomb Raider."
So a lot of people who are only familiar with Tomb Raider from the Angelina Jolie movies had a built in prejudice against this movie for not being the Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider. I wasn't a gamer kid, and I've only really been introduced to the gaming subculture fairly recently when my big brother went and married into a family of gamers - so Angelina Jolie was my introduction to Tomb Raider as well. I like those movies, but comparing this reboot to those is an apples and oranges type comparison. It'd be like comparing 'Batman Forever' and 'Batman Begins'.
Like Batman Forever, those early Tomb Raider movies still have a fanbase who look on those movies with rose tinted goggles. I'm a part of that fanbase, but I watch Angelina Jolie for the same reason I'd watch a big name action star like say, Arnold Schwarzenegger - for a cheesy check-your-brain-at-the-door action movie. And quite frankly I've loved Alicia Vikander in everything I've seen her in, and she can act circles around Jolie.
This particular Tomb Raider movie is kind of an adaption of the recent games 'Tomb Raider (2013)' and 'Rise of the Tomb Raider' smooshed together. If you're curious as to how it holds up as an adaption, this video is worth a watch. I've heard a fair bit of criticism from people saying that the movie just kind of copy-pasted elements from the games whilst making a whole bunch of changes to the story. So, people think it's too loyal and too disloyal an adaption at the same time. Personally I thought the action set-pieces they adapted from the games - such as the shipwreck and rickety derelict WW2 airplane - were visually stunning and the changes to the story really made things fresh and kept the movie from being predictable.
There have been a lot of different takes of Lara Croft over the years - between Games, Movies, and those late 90's early 2000's comics I was really into in my teen years. I've built up sort of a head-canon of what sort of character Lara Croft is from these different sources, and I thought it would be fun to see how the Lara of the movie matched my head-canon. Spoilers for the new movie by the way.
In my opinion one of the defining characteristics of Lara Croft is loss and/or betrayal. One of reasons she's such a loner is that she doesn't let people get too close because everyone she cares about either dies or ends up betraying her. This movie deals with Lara dealing with - or rather choosing NOT to deal with - the loss of her Father who disappeared looking for the tomb of Himiko seven years prior to the beginning of the story.
The other big defining characteristic of the Lara Croft I built up in my head is that she's something of an eccentric thrill-seaker. She's an obsessive treasure hunter - she's not in it for academic discovery, she's not in it for the money (She's already crazy rich) She's in it for the adrenaline rush. Remember the part in the 2001 movie where she's bungee jumping from the vaulted ceiling of Croft Manner? Yeah, she's bored and rich.
My head canon for Lara Croft is also that she has zero love life. Why? A). Because of her trust issues - like I've mentioned earlier she's been betrayed and hurt before. Rival Treasure Hunter/Ex-Boyfriend Chase Caver from those 90's comics comes to mind. B). Because she doesn't have time. Being the obsessive treasure hunter that she is she's married to her hobby. I was really happy this movie didn't try to give Lara a love interest. The 'guy of the week' approach is one of the things I don't like as much about the Angelina Jolie movies.
The new movie subverts this a little bit: She's not rich yet. She WILL be - the Croft fortune is waiting for her - but she refuses to accept it, just as she refuses to accept that her Father is dead. As for being a thrill seeking treasure hunter - well she's not a treasure hunter yet. And while she never bungee jumps from the ceiling, bits of that thrill seeking Lara shine through. She has multiple athletic pursuits - including archery, boxing, and bike racing. Backlashes to kid-Lara practicing archery were a particularly nice touch as it foreshadowed her use of the bow later on.
According to my research, in every version of the Tomb Raider canon since the 1999 comic 'Saga of the Medusa Mask' Lara Croft has been an orphan. Makes sense that that started in the comics - ask any Batman fan, all the best comic book characters are rich orphans. This was written into the 2001 movie 'Lara Croft: Tomb Raider' and was adopted into canon in the games as well starting with 2006's 'Tomb Raider: Legend'. So as a Tomb Raider fan when you hear this new movie is about Lara Croft searching for her missing father you know from the get-go Lord Richard Croft is dead. So when Lara finds him living like a modern day Ben Gunn on the island it was quite a plot twist. On the other hand, it makes Lord Croft's inevitable demise a little predicable. Because we've got to maintain that status quo of orphan Lara. Also, this ties back into that Lara dealing with loss story-line.
I really like that the entire end game of a movie called Tomb Raider is that people want to raid a tomb. Thinking back on the previous movies, I don't think Angelina Jolie's Lara Croft raided a single tomb. A couple lost temples maybe, but she's not 'Lara Croft: Temple Raider' now is she?
Like Indiana Jones, the Tomb Raider movies often deal with the supernatural. And this is the other way this movie subverts our expectations. Himiko - the mummy in the tomb that everybody is so keen on raiding - is just a dead lady. There's nothing supernatural about her in this version. Bwuuu? What's going on here? This is a change from the source material. In the 2013 game, Himiko was an undead queen with the mystical ability to control the weather. This is why the waters in the devil's triangle are so treacherous, and is the whole reason Lara got shipwrecked in the first place. I get why fans are upset about this change. It's a cool idea (Although one has to ask, what about all the shipwrecks and plane crashes in the Bermuda triangle, hmm? What's causing those, hmm?) so I can see why people wouldn't like the change. I thought it worked well, and like I said a non-supernatural explanation subverted my expectations.
And remember what I said about Lara being defined by loss and betrayal? There's a last minute stinger suggesting that somebody close to her is the leader of the shadowy organization Trinity - y'know the guys looking for Himiko's tomb - and Lara will presumably become that obsessive treasure hunter we know and love in an attempt to take down Trinity.
I've heard people complain that this was just a paint-by-the-numbers adventure movie and I really didn't think that was the case. This was a fun jungle romp that subverted my expectations while more or less staying true to the character I picture when I think of Lara Croft. And it temporarily satisfied my desire for more adventure movies. Seriously Hollywood, more adventure movies?