Introduced in 1996, Tomb Raider became a staple of video game consoles and movie theaters (as well as teen boy fantasies) throughout the late 90s and early 2000s. After succeeding as a cross-media hit for nearly a decade, the series began a sharp decline in 2003 – with a one-two punch from a notoriously bad game installment (Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness) and a bland, not to mention convoluted, movie sequel (Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life). Since that time, game designers took cracks at refreshing the franchise, with largely mixed success, until Square Enix delivered a critically acclaimed, and downright gritty origin tale for the titular heroine. Titled simply, Tomb Raider, the game received wide-spread praise – through a story of self-discovery and survival as players navigate young Lara Croft through a mysterious island full of mercenaries and hostile natives, among other threats.
Despite some clumsy narrative beats, inherent to the confines of interactive storytelling, Tomb Raider provided an intriguing, and even layered, variation of the iconic adventurer – one that many players felt would be a smart starting point for a new film series. Nevertheless, while Tomb Raider movie reboot rumors crop up on a regular basis, little tangible development has been made in recent years. However, two years after MGM first acquired distribution rights for the series, the studio has now added a fresh production partner and writer to help get the reboot moving.
The new Tomb Raider update comes courtesy of Deadline – who claims (via a source familiar with the production) that MGM has partnered with Warner Bros. to finance the film and, to that end, has hired a new screenwriter for the project: Evan Daugherty. The Wrap‘s Jeff Sneider confirmed the news indicating that the studio partnership was designed to fast-track production on the project – for a quick script to screen turnaround. While Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider movies focused on the adventuring heroine mid-career, the new film reboot is expected to mesh with the storyline presented in 2013’s Tomb Raider game reboot – with a younger actress guiding viewers through the character’s early days of tomb raiding.
To that end, it shouldn’t come as an enormous surprise, though it might still be an unwelcome one for some, that Daugherty has been tapped to script the movie. The screenwriter has contributed to several high-profile adaptations, many aimed at the PG-13 teen market, that all secured solid box office returns – even if they weren’t as successful with film reviewers. As indicated the writer was instrumental in adapting the mega-successful Snow White and the Huntsman, a film that managed to accumulate nearly $400 million at the global box office, and brought young adult series Divergent for the big screen – which, despite its problems, successfully increased awareness for its source material (while turning a strong profit at the box office).
That said, even if Tomb Raider die-hards are able to overlook Daugherty’s young adult genre work, his part in rebooting another 90s franchise, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, is likely to garner the most concern – especially after the screenplay was a nominee in the 2015 Razzie Awards. No doubt, some viewers enjoyed the film as shameless popcorn entertainment (for good reason) but many others still point to the 2014 as further evidence that producer Michael Bay, and any of his collaborators, are on an unending hunt to capitalize on (and subsequently ruin) beloved childhood characters.
Still, before Tomb Raider fans get too fired up, it’s worth noting that Daughtery was only one of several contributors to the TMNT 2014 screenplay and, conversely, was the first person that Bay hired to rewrite TMNT‘s infamous “Blue Door” script – which Bay had inherited (not developed himself) when he acquired the franchise film rights. Originally, “The Blue Door” script included extremely controversial changes to the source material: Casey Jones was an eighteen-year-old hockey player, and the primary protagonist, in a troubled relationship with his girlfriend April O’Neil (an aspiring TV reporter); the Turtles, Splinter, and Shredder (who could grow blades from his skin) were all alien warriors from another dimension; and, instead of crushing on April, Michelangelo had feelings for a turtle lady (from his home dimension).
As a result, for all the heat that Bay and Daughtery take for changes to the Turtle’s personalities and origins in the final film, as well as any head-scratching ideas that crept-up along the way, the writer may have actually been one of the more vocal advocates that championed a (comparatively) traditional take on the TMNT heroes. For that reason, it’s equally possible that Daughtery will manage to improve his adaptation formula with Tomb Raider – borrowing heavily from key aspects of the series’ lore while also refreshing the format for modern moviegoing audiences. Especially since the writer was working in Michael Bay’s production house for TMNT, and will now be collaborating with Jon Berg (Edge of Tomorrow) and Oscar-winner Graham King (Argo and Hugo) on Tomb Raider – for, at the very least, a slightly more restrained approach to adaptation.
After all, even though many viewers (and gamers) might have fond memories of Tomb Raider‘s jumping puzzles and third-person shooter mechanics, the series has struggled (even in the latest installment) to give Lara Croft enough development and depth to help her transcend beyond a busty dual-gun wielding character/digital pinup model. This isn’t to say that a layered adaptation isn’t possible, or that certain game installments haven’t come close, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement within the brand.
Hopefully, the studio partnership, and interest in a quick turnaround is indication of a passion for the material – rather than a last ditch effort to get the long-in-development reboot off the ground (especially with production on competing adventure film/game adaptation Uncharted in the pipeline).
Tomb Raider does not currently have an official release date but has been fast-tracked for production.