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Your Cineworld guide to the history of Tomb Raider icon Lara Croft


Adventure calls on 16th March when everyone’s favourite adventurer, Lara Croft, backflips her way into Cineworld in Tomb Raider.

Lara has been part of our lives for over 20 years now (that’s a lot of tomb raiding for one person), and has become a pop-culture phenomenon. The release of her latest cinematic adventure, starring Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander in the title role, is set to remind us why we adore her so much.

With over 20 video game adventures to her name, plus two previous movies, Lara has been on so many epic adventures, they’re hard to keep track of. Well, we’re giving it a bash: here’s your Cineworld guide to the history of Tomb Raider icon Lara Croft.

Birth of a legend

Lara debuted in 1996 in the first Tomb Raider PlayStation videogame. Originally called Laura Cruz, Lara was created by Toby Gard who was part of the small Derby-based development team at Core Design. The six-person team initially had some success with small projects in the early 90s.

Although the original game may not have aged well, the heavily polygonal heroine (originally voiced by Shelley Blond) captured gamers' attention to become a huge hit. The game was praised for its innovative level design and controls, and was one of the bestselling games on the PlayStation. Lara's popularity saw her her appear in magazines, billboards, and even advertisements for Lucozade. She really was unstoppable.

Lara's (brief) downfall

Tomb Raider II (the one where you could lock the butler in the fridge) was released in 1997. As the series went on, (encompassing Tomb Raider III in 1998 and The Last Revelation in 1999), there wasn’t much innovation. By the time Tomb Raider: Chronicles was released in 2000, consumers were tired of playing the same thing again. Following poor reviews, Chronicles remains the worst-selling Tomb Raider game to date. From herein, things only worsened for Core. 

Its next game, The Angel of Darkness, was supposed to rejuvenate the series. It was to take control of the PlayStation 2’s new hardware and Lara (now voiced by Jonell Elliot) was given a slick new look. But due to development issues, it was delayed until 2003 when it was rushed out to coincide with the release of the second Angelina Jolie film (more on that soon). Core Design closed in 2010.

Lara's cinema debut

Due to the huge popularity of the Tomb Raider series in the late 90s, it’s not surprising that Lara was given a big-screen adventure in 2001 in the form of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

Starring Angelina Jolie as the eponymous hero, the film was a huge commercial success: grossing almost $275 million, it remains the most successful video game movie to date. Jolie’s performance as Lara is so well-known that it’s become synonymous with the franchise.

After the disaster of The Angel of Darkness, Jolie’s second film, The Cradle of Life, struggled to reach the box office heights of the its predecessor. Despite the somewhat more positive reviews, it saw the end of Jolie’s stint as Lara.

Lara's comeback

In 2006 developer Crystal Dynamics rebooted the franchise with Tomb Raider: Legend with Keeley Hawes as the voice of Lara.

Legend was released to enormous success and Crystal Dynamics went on to release a remake of the first game in 2007, alongside a sequel to Legend, Tomb Raider: Underworld, in 2008. Despite excellent reviews, however, the series still never reached the success of the first games.

The new Lara

With Lara in new hands, she was about to get her second reboot in 2010 with the announcement of Tomb Raider, the character now voiced by Camilla Luddington. The game was eventually released in 2013 and sold over one million copies in 48 hours.

This was a whole new vision of Lara. Being an origin story, she was more vulnerable and thrown into a grittier environment than anything we’d seen before. A sequel followed in 2015, Rise of the Tomb Raider, with a third instalment rumoured to be in development.

The return to the big screen

Lara’s third cinematic outing is due with 2018’s Tomb Raider. It looks to be taking a lot of inspiration from the success of the rebooted game series – no surprise considering Square Enix is involved in the film’s production.

Many images from the film explicitly recall the glossy look of the recent games, from a shipwreck on a deserted island to Lara using a bow and arrow. Lara’s now being portrayed by the incredible Oscar-winning Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina and Oscar-winner for The Danish Girl), who’s the perfect choice to portray the all-action heroine.

Vikander threw herself into the role by performing many of the stunts herself and her acting talents ensure she’ll give Lara the level of humanity and vulnerability we’ve grown to love from her character in recent years.

Moreover, Vikander has expressed her admiration for the character. Having grown up with the original games, Vikander told The Hollywood Reporter that she aims to honour the character’s legacy, while also emerging from the shadow of Jolie’s cinematic portrayal.

Will Alicia Vikander become the definitive big-screen Lara Croft? Drop us your thoughts @Cineworld.

Andy Murray is an Unlimited card holder who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.