At the current moment, video game movie adaptations have a success rate of 0 for 41. Perhaps this is because all of these movies failed to do one thing accurately: adapt their game. This year’s TOMB RAIDER movie plans to correct this trend by using the critically acclaimed 2013 and 2015 games as its inspiration. Here are all the ways TOMB RAIDER plans to take inspiration from these two games to create the first successful video game adaptation.

Taking a New Direction

For those who grew up in the early 2000s, the Angelina Jolie TOMB RAIDER films were guilty pleasures. They were campy, ridiculous, action-packed films which displayed Jolie at the height of her powers. They were splendidly fun. Were they good movies? Absolutely not!

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Courtesy of Square Enix

When Warner Bros. decided to go back to the well and rebooted the TOMB RAIDER franchise, they knew it needed a new angle. The movie series could not rely simply on goofy action and the star’s sexual appeal to draw butts into seats. The writers would actually have to create a compelling new premise for this new video game movie franchise.

Luckily for Warner Bros, the studio did not have to look far for their inspiration. The TOMB RAIDER video game franchise had undergone a similar transformation in 2013 with its new game TOMB RAIDER. TOMB RAIDER ’13 was special because it returned the franchise to its essential components. All of the weird gadgets from previous games? Gone. Unrealistic martial arts and movements? Gone. Impractical cargo shorts and top? Mostly gone (she has pants, and her top is more practical, but it does evoke the old costume).

TOMB RAIDER ’13 focused much more on survival than exploration. Taking inspiration from the likes of ASSASSIN’S CREED and UNCHARTED, the game contained advanced climbing, crafting, and hunting mechanics. For combat, the game encouraged stealth, finding cover, and looking for clever ways to take down your opponent.

It was much less gimmicky than its predecessors, but it did run into some controversy for having a lessened focus on actual “tomb-raiding.” Nonetheless, positive reviews and solid sales created a new path for the future of the franchise. Judging from the TOMB RAIDER movie trailers, the movie will follow TOMB RAIDER ‘13’s emphasis on survival and craftiness.

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Becoming The Tomb Raider

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Camilla Luddington vs. Lara Croft. Courtesy of Square Enix

By the time TOMB RAIDER, ’13 had come out, Lara Croft had become the brunt of a joke in the video game community. While Eidos Interactive probably intended for Lara to be a strong female character from the start, she quickly evolved into a device for male video gamers’ sexual fantasies. Her unrealistically sexy garb, large breasts, and long legs made her the perfect avatar for men to fawn over. Famously TOMB RAIDER III was rumored to have a code to make Lara Croft appear nude.

When Square Enix acquired Eidos, they were determined to reinvent not only TOMB RAIDER but also Lara. So, they opted for a new take on the classic heroine. To do this, they started with a new origin for the character. This Lara Croft wasn’t the battle-worn badass everyone knew. Instead, she was a young, intelligent recent college graduate determined to travel the world and honor her father’s legacy. This Lara was often unsure of herself, and while naturally talented and fit, she lacked much of the confidence often associated with the character.

For the new look and voice of the character Square Enix cast Camilla Luddington. Luddington breathed fantastic life into Lara with her motion capture and voice performance. Luddington portrayed Lara with a beautiful, relatable vulnerability. When Lara is first stranded on a deserted island, she is understandably terrified. Over the plot of TOMB RAIDER ’13, Lara a learns to trust herself and become a warrior. Hopefully, the movie will take a cue from the game and provide a great of a coming of age story for Lara.

Goodbye Angelina, Hello Alicia!

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Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Camilla Luddington was so awesome as Lara in TOMB RAIDER ’13, and she could’ve easily played her in the film. Understandably, Warner Bros. wanted a bigger name to portray her on the big screen. Nonetheless, the film wanted to cast an actor similar to Luddington.

Firstly, this actor had to pull off a natural British accent. They made the mistake of casting an American who couldn’t do one before. Then they needed someone with a thin frame but who also possessed power when necessary. Finally, they needed someone who could balance beauty with vulnerability and strength.

At first, Warner Bros. seemed to circle STAR WARS’ Daisy Ridley for Lara. Ridley would have been a solid choice, but perhaps it would have been too similar a role after Rey. Instead, Warner Bros. opted to cast Academy Award Alicia Vikander.

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There are a few things you have to know about Alicia Vikander that makes her a great choice for Lara. Firstly, she’s one of my primary Hollywood crushes. I don’t think that’s relevant for anyone besides me, but thought you should know. Secondly while small-framed, she totally can capture Lara’s physicality.

Vikander’s experience as a professional dancer and in the underrated MAN FROM UNCLE prove this. Thirdly movies like EX MACHINA and THE DANISH GIRL prove that she has fabulous acting chops. Finally, and most obviously, she looks a hell of a lot like Camilla Luddington.

My main wish isn’t that Vikander nails the action of Lara perfectly. Anything that she can’t do, her stunt-doubles can easily cover. I hope that Vikander can capture the same vulnerability that Luddington was able to bring to Lara. Judging from Vikander’s experience, TOMB RAIDER fans have nothing to worry about.

This Plot Seems… Familiar

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Walton Goggins as Matthias. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Critics and fans often talk about how TOMB RAIDER ’13 stylistically rebooted the franchise. They don’t mention how the terrific storytelling helped as well. TOMB RAIDER ’13 finds Lara needing to uncover a mystery about the ancient island Yamatai. According to myth, dictatorial Queen Himiko ruled the island and possessed magical storm powers. Lara is determined to complete her father’s research and discover the mystery of the island.

However, Lara shipwrecks on the island and a radical cult capture her. A man named Mathias leads this cult in the worship of Himiko. In the movie TOMB RAIDER, much of the plot remains the same. Lara travels to the Devil’s Sea to uncover the island of Yamatai. There a storm shipwrecks her and Matthias, played by Walton Goggins, and his cult abduct Lara.

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TOMB RAIDER won’t be a complete copy of the first game, however. A major change is that Matthias is a member of the international society, Trinity. These antagonists don’t appear until TOMB RAIDER ‘13’s sequel, RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER. Trinity is TOMB RAIDER’s Spectre – an international evil society bent on world domination. Much of the group’s power and intelligence in RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER stems from Lara’s father’s own research.

TOMB RAIDER looks like it’s fusing many elements from the two newest games in the series. The setting, emphasis on survival, and villain of the movie are ripped right from the first game. The group Trinity, Lara’s ex-stepmother Ana, and the crucial role of Lara’s father are from the second game. Nonetheless, this looks like as close of an adaptation of a video game plot as any movie before it. Games have some fantastic storylines that are often overlooked. Luckily TOMB RAIDER is not making this mistake.

Capturing the Look

As is the case with comic book movies, video game movies need to look like their game. Fans will freak out if it doesn’t pull visually from the source material. WARCRAFT, while not the best-executed film, did manage to capture the look of that series. TOMB RAIDER looks to 1-up WARCRAFT with cinematography, visual effects, and sets that almost perfectly match the game.

Much like Zack Snyder’s WATCHMEN, TOMB RAIDER seems to recreate scenes directly from its source. The most obvious example is the shot of Lara jumping off her boat. It is slightly different in the game. There the boat rips in half, and she attempts to jump to the other side to safety. In the movie, she jumps from the boat into the water. Still, the similarities are uncanny.

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Comparison between TOMB RAIDER film and TOMB RAIDER (2013)

The film also recreates Yamatai island with stunning detail. The island has the same design with a giant waterfall and biplane perched in the center. Furthermore, the film amazingly manages to light Croft similarly to how she is in the game. Finally, the segments of Lara plunging in the water, parachuting through the trees, climbing across the biplane are taken precisely from TOMB RAIDER ’13.

This film looks so interested in maintaining the details of the game. The second trailer has already showcased Lara using some of her classic weapons from the game. She runs with her makeshift bow, utilizes her climbing axe, and takes on her classic handguns. Loyalty to the source material won’t make or break a movie, but it is greatly appreciated.

Dark But Adventurous

The new movie TOMB RAIDER looks inspired by the successful reboot of the video game. Ironically, TOMB RAIDER ’13 seemed inspired by successful movie reboots. Particularly TOMB RAIDER ’13 takes a cue from BATMAN BEGINS and CASINO ROYALE, well-received reboots of long-running franchises.

These movies took franchises known for campy adventure and created a gritty, realistic action flick. They ushered their heroes into a darker world. Moreover, they focused on the human traits of their main characters while telling an origin story. TOMB RAIDER ’13 did much the same with Lara Croft.

Now TOMB RAIDER is following suit as another gritty reboot. Its clearly taking elements from CASINO ROYALE AND BATMAN BEGINS as well. The trailer even recreates the scene of Croft entering her parent’s old company that featured similarly with Wayne Enterprises in BATMAN BEGINS.

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What’s crucial for any gritty reboot to realize is that they have to be dark but fun. Yes, BATMAN BEGINS was much darker than previous installments. However, it also had playful moments like when Batman brings in bats as “backup” to stop the Scarecrow. CASINO ROYALE depicts Bond as a merciless killer but ends with him uttering his classic catchphrase.

I’m glad to see that TOMB RAIDER isn’t abandoning all its adventurous tone for darker themes. TOMB RAIDER is an adventure series related to INDIANA JONES. That’s why I’m glad the trailers included moments in which Lara brandishes her old double handguns. It’s a perfect wink to the audience that doesn’t condemn but acknowledges the campier TOMB RAIDER days.

She’s A Survivor

Lara Croft has had so many different looks and iterations throughout the years; she changes as much as James Franco’s acting talent. This makes her an incredibly adaptable hero, much like James Bond. She can be whatever the writer wants her to be. This adaptability makes her a perfect contender to be the hero to save the video game movie industry. I don’t want to jinx our chances since many games before TOMB RAIDER have tried and failed to succeed.

Nonetheless, I truly believe TOMB RAIDER will break the trend and become the first good (and possibly great) video game movie. Much like WONDER WOMAN before it, TOMB RAIDER will profit from telling a simple story directly based on the source material. If this movie and Alicia Vikander can display a fraction of what makes Lara Croft so cool in the 2013 game, I think Warner Bros. has a major success on its hands.

TOMB RAIDER comes out March 16, 2018

2 Comments

  1. Jhoan Suriel

    February 11, 2018 at 11:13 pm

    @Chad, The Resident Evil films are the highest grossing video game films of all time so from a financial standpoint, yes it was a success. However, it wasn’t critically liked by critics and fans of the series, But sequels did include heroes and villains from the games. For the most part, it took a ton of liberties. If anything, I think guilty pleasure put butts into seats. WB has uphill battle with Tomb Raider because Assassin’s Creed–the last game adaption–failed to light up the box office.

    On the small screen, Castlevania S1 was a quite good video game adaptation that was faithful to the source material.

    Reply

  2. Chad

    February 10, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    Just out of curiosity, is 7 Resident Evil Movies not considered a succesful game adaptation?

    Reply

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