I was never a huge fan of Angelina Jolie’s rendition of Lara Croft.
Okay yes, when comparing Jolie to the skinny, busty, original version of Lara, the pair have a lot in common but, considering all of the intensely athletic things that Lara is forced to do during her adventures, Alicia Vikander is a much more realistic choice. Whether you’re a fan of Jolie or Vikander’s rendition of Lara Croft, it has to be said that, no matter what, Lara is always a badass and this year’s Tomb Raider holds up to this necessity.
Let’s compare and contrast 2018’s Tomb Raider movie to 2013’s Tomb Raider video game as well as how it fits into the Tomb Raider universe.
Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for both the game series and the movie.
For those that have played 2013’s Tomb Raider, there’s no question that the movie takes dozens of different elements for its plot, characters, action sequences and more. One of the most prominent similarities between the two is the general storyline. In both the movie and the game, Lara travels to the lost kingdom of Yamatai which was home to the Sun Queen Himiko. In both versions, much of the story focuses on the legend of Himiko and why those on her island worship and/or fear her. The huge difference, of course, is that in the game it is believed that Himiko brings storms to the island of Yamatai trapping people there. In the film, Himiko brings a plague upon anyone that comes near her.
In the video game, Lara is searching for Yamatai as part of an archaeological expedition. She is accompanied by five friends including her mentor and father figure Conrad Roth and her best friend Sam Nishimura, descendant of Himiko. In the film, Lara goes to Yamatai in search of her father who she believes may still be alive. She is accompanied only by a fisherman named Lu Ren whose father also went missing after making a trip to the island.
Both versions of Tomb Raider have the same antagonist – Mathias. In 2013’s Tomb Raider, Mathias has been stranded on Yamatai for 31 years. He worships Himiko and wishes to bring her back to life in order to escape the island. 2018’s Mathias is the leader of an archaeological expedition that Lara’s father was a part of. In order to be able to leave the island, he has to find Himiko’s tomb for his employer.
Some scenes are even taken directly from the video game into the movie. The scene where Lara jumps onto a plane that hovers over a rushing river was more than a little familiar, as was the scene where Lara takes an injury in her side from a sharpened stick.
You could spend hours comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences between the film and the game but, the more important discussion is how the movie fits into the Tomb Raider universe.
Unfortunately, due to some pretty severe changes, 2018’s Tomb Raider doesn’t exactly fit with the tone of the video games. One big reason is Lara’s sense of drive. What drives Lara to the island in the film is her father. Despite being gone since she was a child, Lara is determined that her father is still alive, and when she finds his secret hideout revealing that he has gone to Yamatai, she goes to find him. By actually putting her father on Yamatai, the film gives and simultaneously takes away her drive to continue after the events of Yamatai are concluded.
Of course, the ending of the film does suggest that Lara will investigate the company Trinity who her father warns her about, but up until she found her father's secret hideout, Lara had no idea what her father was up to. At the start of the film, she’s depicted as something of a dropout, struggling to accept the loss of her father and abandoning her family’s fortune to instead barely make ends meet by delivering fast food for a living. As far as the audience can tell, Lara has no passion for archaeology or history, making the title "Tomb Raider" unfitting. She went to Yamatai looking of her father, finds him, solves the mystery of Himiko, and after losing her father all over again, decides to take his inheritance. Who’s to say what she’ll do with it? Investigate Trinity, yes. Confront Anna, probably, but raid tombs? Who knows.
Video game Lara, on the other hand, is an archaeology graduate with a passion for the undiscovered. She convinces the Nishimura family to fund the trip to find Yamatai. Throughout the game she narrates the story of Himiko as well as what the different types of architecture and treasures are by giving the players little history lessons about the time period when Himiko lived. She is driven by her curiosity as well as the adventurous spirit she inherited from her father. Video game Lara is a tomb raider at heart, and over the course of the game and indeed over the course of its sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, we see her becoming closer and closer to that title.
2018’s Tomb Raider was not a bad movie. In fact, I thought that it was fantastically done. Alicia Vikander portrays Lara loyally as a caring, intelligent, badass woman. The action scenes reflect the ones found in the video game and will have viewers biting their nails in suspense just like they do gripping their controllers – but, in this writer’s opinion, it just doesn’t fit alongside the video game quite well enough.
There’s one too many big differences. Video game Lara relies on her passion, her family and her friends to drive her through those tough moments, whereas film Lara uses only her father to push her forward. With the changes made to the story already, I’m not sure where the Tomb Raider films will go next if they decide to do another instalment. I’d be happy to see another one for no other reason than to see Vikander pull off some more mind blowing stunts. In the meantime, I’ll be holding my breath until Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the third instalment of Crystal Dynamics' video game series, comes out in September later this year.