Despite dozens of attempts across multiple decades, Hollywood has yet to produce a truly successful movie based on a video game. There was a chance it could’ve happened last year with Assassin’s Creed, which had the pedigree to be something special, but reviews were tepid and box office sales disappointing.
It came as a surprise to no one when plans were announced for a rebooted Tomb Raider film series based on the outstanding 2013 video game. That Tomb Raider, from studio Crystal Dynamics, dialed down the sillier parts of Lara Croft’s universe (along with certain parts of her anatomy) in favor of a grittier take on the character’s origin. She started the game as an untested yet brave young adult who is forced to survive on a hostile, savage island, and in doing so she became the tomb raider we all know and love.
The upcoming movie was directed by Roar Uthaug and stars Alicia Vikander in the title role, and based on the brand new trailer it looks to be an extremely faithful adaptation of that very story with enough similarities to suit game fans, and some new material added in that’s probably necessary to make the story work for film audiences. Let’s break it down — with an eye to similarities to and differences from the video game.
It looks just like the game
If you only had a peripheral knowledge of the 2013 game, it would be easy to think that the movie might be a shot-for-shot remake. Everything from the production design to the costumes looks like it was lifted straight out of the game. Vikander’s costume — unfussy tank top, cargo pants, boots, bandages applied here and there, long hair pulled back but askew — is practically a carbon copy of Lara’s look from the game. The boat she sails to the island on, taking out bad guys with her simple bow and arrow, Lara’s trusty climbing axe… these are all elements that will be immediately recognizable to anyone who played through the Tomb Raider reboot. This is a radically different approach to the one taken in Assassin’s Creed, which shared a similar story structure to the first Assassin’s Creed game but otherwise featured predominantly new characters and a different setting.
Several major action sequences featured in the trailer appear to be based on the game as well. Lara’s dramatic leap from the boat into the stormy sea, which comes very early on in the story, mirrors a nearly identical shot from the game. In the game, the storm is so violent that it rips the ship in half. Lara finds herself on the back half, so she tries to jump from there to the front half. This doesn’t go so well and she lands in the sea instead, where she nearly drowns. Just as in the movie, she wakes up on the shore of an island, only to be knocked out by a bad guy.
Lara’s desperate jump from the crumbling wing of an old plane comes from the game, too, and the trailer also shows glimpses of a terrifying fall into rapid waters that, when navigated incorrectly in the game, resulted in an infamously gruesome death sequence where Lara’s head was impaled on a spike. Let’s hope Vikander’s Lara has better luck!
Does this sound familiar?
In the 2013 game, Lara is a young archaeologist who sails to a patch of sea called the “Dragon’s Triangle” in search of adventure. There, she’s shipwrecked on a cursed island called Yamatai, where she runs afoul of a Colonel Kurtz-esque leader named Mathias. He’s working towards a mysterious goal, and has hundreds of men called the Solarii who fight for him and follow his orders. Lara fights her way through one dazzling action set piece after another, until she finally confronts Mathias and learns that he’s trying to resurrect the ancient, immortal ruler of Yamatai – an evil and extremely powerful “Sun Queen” named Himiko. In the game, Himiko’s legacy was bound up with the destiny of Lara’s best friend, Sam Nishimura, but for the movie that character’s name has been changed to “Sophie” and she is no longer Japanese-American, instead being played by British actress Hannah John-Kamen. Whether this change means that the movie’s ending will take a different direction remains to be seen.
Plot déjà vu
The movie appears to follow the same basic structure as the game, but with some intriguing twists. In the trailer, it looks as if Lara is a young adult not so much looking for archaeological adventure as trying to find herself. When her father dies, she’s tasked with carrying on his legacy.
In a hidden room behind his grave, Lara discovers a recording by her dad, where he refers to an evil entity called “the Mother of Death” – which is undoubtedly the Sun Queen, Himiko, under a different moniker. She sets out to finish her dad’s work, sailing to an area now called the “Devil’s Sea,” which is how she ends up on what one assumes is still the island of Yamatai. She encounters Mathias (played by Walton Goggins) there (he’s the one that says “You shouldn’t have come here”), has one near-death close call after another, takes out a bunch of native bad guys, and it’s a safe bet that in the end she comes face to face with the Mother of Death herself.
The connection between Lara’s adventure on Yamatai and her father is a plot point invented for the movie. It’s understandable that the filmmakers would want to give their main character a more personal motivation for taking this trip, but you have to wonder why they came up with something with such strong similarities to the impetus of the 2001 Angelina Jolie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie. Both films have Lara’s deceased father (here played by Dominic West, and played in 2001 by Jolie’s real-life father Jon Voight) charging her with stopping a shadowy organization who will bring about the end of the world if they gain access to an ancient, mystical power.
Missing in Action
Lara’s mentor, a man named Conrad Roth, is an important part of the game, turning up at one point in particular to save her life. But he’s nowhere to be found in the movie’s trailer, or the official cast list. The ship that carries Lara to Yamatai, the Endeavor, is even owned by Roth in the game. The film instead introduces us to a new character named Lu Ren, played by Daniel Wu (Into the Badlands). Ren is much closer in age to Lara than Roth was, and thus far there’s no indication that he’s a mentor to her. He appears to be more of a partner in adventure, or possibly even a love interest.
The twin pistols
One of the best-known elements of Lara Croft’s character in the video games are the dual pistols she wields when fighting bad guys. In the early video games they were attached to holsters that were strapped to her hips, just below her shorts.
The 2013 reboot played with this iconic piece of the Tomb Raider puzzle in a clever and unexpected way. In the final fight, Lara is using a single pistol against Mathias when she spots a second gun attached to her foe. A terrific moment unfolds almost (but not quite) in slow motion as Lara stands and brings both guns to bear, side-by-side.
The tag at the end of the movie trailer suggests that this brilliant moment won’t be mimicked by Vikander in the film. Instead, she appears to simply purchase two pistols at a weapons store(run by Nick Frost). There’s a good chance that this scene will also take place at the end of the movie – note that Lara’s hair is in the traditional plaited ponytail worn by the character in the earlier games, indicating that by this point in the movie she has completed her “transformation” into a full-fledged tomb raider.
Spot any exciting Tomb Raider Easter eggs that we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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