Look, video game to movie adaptations haven’t had a great history. Super Mario Bros. is infamous for putting Nintendo off the whole movie thing for a long time (they are now developing a new Mario movie), and other attempts like the recent Assassin’s Creed didn’t do much better.
Now, the Tomb Raider franchise is giving it another shot. The Angelina Jolie incarnation of Lara Croft has a fanbase, but now Alicia Vikander is taking up the mantle in a movie based off of the successful – and brilliant – 2013 reboot that has since been followed by a sequel (Rise of the Tomb Raider) and a trailer for a third game (Shadow of the Tomb Raider). This version of Lara Croft that Vikander portrays is not yet the fully formed Tomb Raider – she is learning and developing as she tries to discover what happened to her missing father. This week on Tanuki Talk, Ashley Harrison and I discuss the new movie and the possibility of it being a good video game adaptation!
William Robinson: Another year, another video game movie attempt, eh? This year it’s Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider franchise giving it another go, based on the brilliant 2013 reboot; and instead of Angelia Jolie as the star, we have Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina). My first question to you, Ash, is simple: has the video game movie curse finally been broken?
Ashley Harrison: I wouldn’t say that the curse has finally been broken in my opinion. Whilst Tomb Raider is an incredible film, and Vikander does a great job bringing Lara to life, I think it’ll take more than just one good film for me to have faith in any more game to movie projects.
WR: That’s a fair point. The genre feels young though, and like it is finally developing into something with credibility. Whilst not groundbreaking in terms of films as a medium, I think Tomb Raider was a solid action film that harnessed the spirit of the game.
AH: Definitely so. I think even without the Tomb Raider branding, it would’ve been a solid action film that I’d have eventually gotten around to seeing.
WR: I’m a pretty massive fan of the rebooted games, including the sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider and the upcoming Shadow of the Tomb Raider. So for me, it was elevated by the links to the source material – what’s your history with Lara Croft, and how did you approach this film?
AH: Obviously I’ve played some of the games, as I think most people have done, but to be completely honest with you I’ve never actually completed one or played enough to give much of an opinion on them. As such, I approached it with a basic knowledge of what to expect from it, but went into it with a completely open mind pretty much.
WR: For me, Alicia Vikander managed to embody the determined and self-dependant, yet vulnerable, Lara we see in the origin-style new games. I mean, Alicia clearly brings her A-game as far as im concerned; from her losing a boxing fight at the start to doing whatever it takes to survive on the island, she brings that character to life.
AH: Indeed. She got into the role perfectly and I can’t imagine a better choice than her to have played Lara. The fact she put on 10lbs of muscle to play Lara shows to me that she’s dedicated to the role for sure.
WR: The emotional heart of the film is her search for what happened to her father, which is what brings her to the island of Yamatai. Let’s have a quick review from you of the general story. Yes, I’m putting you on the spot here!
AH: It’s a story of redemption and friendship to me. I’m not really sure how to elaborate more on that without giving away spoilers for the movie.
WR: I mean, I think now is a decent time to go into spoilers. Let loose, I say.
SPOILER WARNING: From this point on, spoilers for Tomb Raider are discussed.
AH: Alright, well, if you’re sure. As I said, to me it’s a story of redemption, and we see this with both Lara and her Dad (Dominic West). Lara wants redemption and the truth after being told her Dad was dead, which is what causes her to go on the journey to find him in the first place. Lara’s Dad feels guilty for leaving Lara, and his redemption is sacrificing himself to save Lara and the world from the curse of Himoko. And of course, the friendship that builds between Lara and the Asian dude (Lu Ren, played by Daniel Wu) and becomes a major point in the movie with both helping the other when really they have no reason to.
WR: Great job, Ash. Her father being alive is a departure from the games that kinda threw me for a second, but it worked, and him sacrificing himself was a powerful moment. What did you think of the actual tomb raiding at the end, and the revelation of the magic actually being a disease of sorts?
Ashley Harrison: I loved the actual tomb raiding at the end, it was a perfect combination of action and puzzle…
AH: I loved the actual tomb raiding at the end, it was a perfect combination of action and puzzle which worked really well together; more than I expected, actually. It wasn’t so simple it was insulting, and actually felt believable as to being stressed under the pressure. The “magic” actually being a disease threw me, I’m not going to lie. I didn’t expect it at all, but at the same time, it makes sense as to why she would have been buried so deep with so many traps as to prevent anyone using the disease for their own purpose, and to stop the disease spreading itself.
WR: I agree, it generally worked for me- I would maybe have liked more insight into how Lara is working out puzzles like the door to the tomb, but that could also be the kind of obtuse sequence that would have derailed this into a generically bad game movie. What I did love was a sequence where, just after finding her father alive, Lara takes her now-signature bow and ducks and dives through a manned camp, using cover to stay hidden. It felt like the game come to life, and it was AWESOME.
AH: The door to the tomb puzzle was explained superbly yet so unobvious. It was the same as the spy glass that Lara’s Dad gave her, so through a process of trial and error she learned to unlock the spyglass, and she just remembered that pattern naturally over time. For sure that scene especially was awesome! As you said, it felt like the game come to life and for me, that’s all that matters. It felt like I was watching someone actually engaging in combat knowing they’re at a severe disadvantage from the start, and using their brain to work around it rather than just going in all guns blazing and somehow miraculously surviving.
WR: Yeah, the film never went over the edge into completely ridiculous, game-y action. What were your favourite action scenes?
AH: It’s between the camp scene we’ve just been discussing, and the escape from the tomb for me. What about you?
WR: The plane sequence might’ve been up there, but it was so heavily promoted that I knew it was coming. If you go back to the start of the film, I actually might say the London bike chase sequence where, if Lara evades the other riders, she wins a load of money; it shows her feisty but perhaps arrogant mindset whilst also being a thrilling – and unique – chase scene. It would make me wanna try that, but it’s apparently illegal, so…
AH: It’s only illegal if you get caught, sooo….
WR: We gotta be balanced, though – any negatives or things you weren’t so wild on?
AH: To be honest with you, no, not really. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole movie.
WR: Oh, wow. I think some of the middle act moved a bit quickened was quite straightforward, but that approach also works for the movie, I think. It lets the characters develop and take centre stage. Different question, then – disregarding box office (where it is doing okay, the movie should at least make the budget back), would you like a sequel, and what would you like to see if one happened?
AH: I’d love to see a sequel, and I’d definitely go watch it. As for what I’d want to see, just give us more of everything. More tombs, more action, more puzzles, more guns. And of course, more Alicia Vikander.
WR: Don’t pine over her too much there, Ash… haha!
AH: Shush haha! Even though people weren’t particularly too keen on it, I’d also like more of Lara’s non-tomb raiding life in there. It’d give the writers and directors more ways of fleshing out her character.
WR: I’d like a little more of her relationships with the side characters, too. Developing her relationship with Ana Miller (Kristin Scott Thomas) is a big part of Rise of the Tomb Raider, so I can see that being a natural route for the sequel. Also, more Nick Frost, please.
AH: Oh, definitely more Nick Frost. And have Simon Pegg in there for good measure too, but never have them interact.
WR: Leaning into the snow-covered locations of Rise of the Tomb Raider would be awesome cinematically, too. Poor Vikander might have to suffer some cold, though… Let’s circle back to the start, then – this is a good game movie, but do you see it changing anything? Do you expect the upwards trend to continue, with films based on properties such as Uncharted supposedly in development?
AH: I think this could be the start of a good change in the genre, and Uncharted could do nothing but continue that. Hopefully this encourages more film makers to pitch game to movie projects and they become as frequent and high quality as superhero films are right now.
William Robinson: Films took their time to properly embrace the rich comic source material, and games have a similarly massive well to draw from.
WR: That’s a really good point. Films took their time to properly embrace the rich comic source material, and games have a similarly massive well to draw from. If audiences start liking what they see, we could have so many stories finding new opportunities. Imagine say, Life is Strange or other story based games being used as a source!
AH: I’m not really sure how a Life is Strange movie would work, but hell, I’d be up for it. I think the best course of action would be to stick to mainly action games personally, but I’d love to see every genre given at least one chance to shine.
WR: In the case of Life is Strange, I think a TV series would work best, but I digress. There’s mixed reactions out there to the 2018 Tomb Raider film, but overall I think he reception is definitely a step forward. There is positivity out there which seemed massively lacking for the likes of Assassin’s Creed.
AH: Yeah, there’s definitely more positivity towards this than Assassin’s Creed, and that can only be a good thing.
WR: Poor Michael Fassbender *realises Alicia Vikander is his partner* OK, actually, maybe he’ll be fine.
AH: Maybe he will. Or maybe he’ll be even more upset his wife made a better movie.
WR: Closing thoughts then: Give us an arbitrary score out of 10 for Tomb Raider, and will you be getting a Blu-ray? Or do you hate physical media and want us to lose any sense of justifiable media? HUH?
AH: I give it a solid 8/10. It’s not the best movie in the world, but it’s still a solid movie definitely worth watching, I’ll be getting the blu-ray at some point, though just not when it releases.
WR: I’ll agree with that, 8/10 is a good score. Not groundbreaking in terms of the medium, but perhaps in terms of the genre and where game movies can go from here. Give me that steelbook, Warner Bros.; oh, and that soundtrack vinyl, too. Junkie XL is such an awesome composer.
AH: You’re not allowed anything until you’ve played Mario Odyssey.
WR: One of these weeks I’ll have played it. One week. See you next time!
That’s right – the 2018 Tomb Raider film is great! Oh, you disagree? Well, you can let us know in the comments below. Also, you can go here for more Tanuki Talk!