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Why the new Tomb Raider film will be nothing like the 2001 version


A new Tomb Raider movie is fast approaching our cinemas with a March 2018 release pencilled in.

And if you’re thinking “been there, done that” because of the 2001 and 2003 Angelina Jolie films, then we need to politely inform you that you’re very much mistaken.

There’s many things setting the upcoming Tomb Raider apart from its predecessors, and this time around we’ve a sneaky suspicion that Lara Croft will make a bigger impression than ever before. Here’s why...

Video games have matured

If you don’t follow the Tomb Raider video games, you may be surprised to hear that the upcoming 2018 film is based on different source material compared to the 2001 adaptation.

While the Angelina Jolie efforts were based on the original Tomb Raider PlayStation series that began in 1996, the new one will instead be based on the 2013 reboot of the franchise. But what does this mean for the film?

Well, storytelling has matured drastically in video games within those 17 years. They no longer use a narrative to simply fill the gaps between action sequences – the story is now an integral component to the game, with more believable characters, a coherent plot and underlying themes than ever before.

This should mean games should translate to film much easier than in previous decades, and this bodes well for a story-driven Tomb Raider movie capable of surprising us.

Lara Croft has changed

Originally there was not much to Lara Croft’s character than being a badass action heroine who was also an intelligent archaeologist. Oh, and she was good looking too… hardly the foundations of an engrossing character for a movie.

Fast-forward to the present, though, and the Lara Croft of the latest games has a fully fleshed-out character. Rather than being the invulnerable super-heroine of before, Lara's haunted past now has more of an airing. 

Throughout the story, we get to see her develop into a more mature and ruthless woman, as she must do the unthinkable to survive. Fingers crossed this will translate into the new movie as Lara (played by Alicia Vikander) is greeted by a message from her father, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), one that sets her on a quest to find a mysterious artefact thought lost on an island in the South China Sea.

Star Alicia Vikander is less action, more drama

Firstly, we must say what a fantastic actress Angelina Jolie is. It was a shame it never really worked out for her as Lara Croft, but it was far from her fault. What we will say, though, is that the casting of Alicia Vikander signals a new approach for the character on the big screen.

Warner Bros. could have easily flung money at a famous actress who has already nailed the action heroine role such as Emilia Clarke, Jennifer Lawrence or Megan Fox. Instead, they went for Alicia who usually stars in more drama-focused films such as Ex Machina and A Royal Affair rather than action-heavy blockbusters.

Perhaps this is a hint that the new Tomb Raider will focus just as much on character development as gun-toting action? Either way, there’s no question regarding Alicia’s quality, considering she won an Oscar for her role in The Danish Girl.

Director Roar Uthaug suggests a new approach

Tomb Raider is in fact Uthaug's first movie he's made outside of his native Norway. You’ve likely never heard of him, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a great fit for the role: his last film, gripping disaster epic The Wave, was officially put forward for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film.

Despite not being nominated, it still showed how highly Norway viewed this catastrophe drama film. Uthaug has also previously directed action-thriller Escape and horror-slasher Cold Prey. The fact that he’s tried so many different genres this early in his career shows his willingness to experiment.

It’s hard to say what this means for the new Tomb Raider, but let’s contrast him with the director of 2001’s Tomb Raider film, Simon West, who has directed several films including Expendables 2, The Mechanic and Nic Cage favourite Con Air.

Notice the pattern? They’re all action flicks, and so it comes as no surprise why the original Tomb Raider turned out to be so action-heavy. Perhaps with Uthaug helming the new project, we’ll see less run-and-gun this time round, and a bit more of the atmosphere we love in the games.

It's now a survival film

The previous Tomb Raider films were straightforward action epics. Lara Croft finds some bad guys, a shootout takes place and she’s the last one standing; repeat. There’s nothing wrong with that, as that’s essentially the formula for action epics Taken, John Wick and almost every James Bond film.

The new Tomb Raider, however, will take on a different approach. Rather than being an ultra-strong heroine, Lara will be the one being hunted as she’s shipwrecked on a tropical island with a bunch of crazy baddies after the same artifact that she's looking for.

Plus, the fact that the film takes place almost entirely on this island means there won’t be any sudden location changes like in the previous movies, which will hopefully give the narrative more focus and intensity. 

Surely it's time for a truly great video game movie?

Surely Hollywood has finally figured out how to successfully adapt a video game for the cinema after 20 years of attempts?

Sadly not. Recent attempts such as Assassin’s Creed, Prince of Persia and Hitman haven’t enjoyed much success; however, that doesn’t mean we’ve given up hope.

Given the disappointing revenue of 2003's Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, Warner Bros. will know that they can’t depend on the Tomb Raider name alone if the upcoming film is to be a success.

However it should be noted the previous Tomb Raider films were among the earliest big screen video game movies, so distributor Paramount was treading on venturing into somewhat uncharted territory.

Now, though, Warner Bros. has plenty of examples to study so they can figure out how to make a successful video game adaptation. After all, it’s only a question of time until a video game adaptation is met with universal acclaim… right?

Well, if anyone is going to succeed, surely it’s going to be the iconic Lara Croft. Tomb Raider is released on 16th March 2018.

Ryan Jones is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.

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