Throngs of fans of the original Tomb Raider video game, and the dozens of fans of the 2001 movie, had a rude awakening this week.
The new trailer for the Tomb Raider reboot, released Tuesday, shows a Lara Croft (played by Alicia Vikander) who seems to have evolved into a complex character than the one portrayed by Angelina Jolie; a transformation that can be credited the newer, grittier video games that have been released in the 16 years since Lara Croft first hit the big screen..
Two recent video games, Tomb Raider (2013) and Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015), were acclaimed for the usual video game reasons (tight controls, exciting set pieces, etc.) as well as its story, which grounded Lara Croft into something closer to reality. This was where Tomb Raider ditched its ‘90s baggage and paved the way for the more realistic, interesting Lara we’re seeing in the trailer for the new reboot.
With respect to the admittedly fun — if dumb — Jolie Tomb Raider movies (there was a 2003 sequel), here are five reasons why the new Tomb Raider will be nothing like the old movies, and why that’s a very good thing.
5. Lara Croft Will Be Re-imagined
As all good reboots should, Tomb Raider won’t just “update” Lara Croft into 2018. Instead, it’s changing what Lara Croft represents: She’s not a superhero, she’s a survivor.
Old Lara used to just be “Girl James Bond.” New Lara, however, is an archaeologist first, killer second. That was the biggest fundamental change in the 2013 game, which portrayed a young Lara who learns to become a warrior because she has to. Shipwrecked on a remote island in Japan, Lara overcomes both the natural and human elements in order to prove that her father wasn’t just some kook with kooky ideas.
At the start of the game, Lara wasn’t a fully-formed badass who knew how to backflip while shooting guns. Instead, learned with Lara how to forge weapons, build tools, hunt animals, and even find shelter. While gamers did this in the comfort of their sofas, the new games successfully communicated just how different Lara had to be in the 2010s. (The end of the film’s trailer, with Lara taking two guns, looks more like an homage than an actual promise of what Lara will become.)
4. The Action Will Be More Faithful to the Games
While the Angelina Jolie films had all the crazy stuff the classic Tomb Raider games were known for, few movies based on video games manage to recreate the purest experience of the source material. Based on the trailer, the new film adheres closely to the new games: Lara forges her own bow and arrow and uses a mountain pick as both a climbing tool and a makeshift killing tool.
The big set piece of the trailer, in which Lara has to make a desperate long jump or else fall to the waterfall below, is also a pretty faithful recreation of the game’s quick-time events in which players have to act fast or else let Lara meet a gruesome fate.
3. No More Supernatural Stuff
The original Tomb Raider films had Angelina Jolie square off against mummy robots or some stuff. The new games still have their feet in the supernatural — in the 2013 game, Lara Croft actually fights zombie samurai — but for the most part, her true enemies have been human men who seek power. Trinity, who will be in the film as antagonists, come directly from Rise of the Tomb Raider and are descendants of a knightly order who now operate as a paramilitary group.
The new movie has Lara seek an ancient power, sure, and it shouldn’t be surprising if there is a big CGI climax with ghosts and demons and whatnot. But unlike the old movies and the old games, moviegoers don’t have to expect Lara shooting down T-rexes.
2. It’s Got Heroic People of Color
Here’s one surprising way Tomb Raider is progressive: Daniel Wu, the star of AMC’s Into the Badlands, plays one of Lara’s trusted allies who helps Lara on her quest. Wu’s role, loosely inspired by the diverse group of nerds who accompanied Lara in the first game, isn’t stereotypical of Asian men. He doesn’t speak with a broken accent, nor is he a kung fu master. Wu’s character is just some hot guy who sails boats a lot. It’s a small but welcome breath of fresh air in a big Hollywood film, which just hasn’t figured out how to include Asian-American performers.
1. It’s Set to Be the Best Video Game Movie Ever
There’s such a low bar for video game movies, that even being remotely competent could let Tomb Raider outshine everything that’s come before it. All Tomb Raider has to do is tell an engaging story within the frame of an action-adventure movie. That’s it! That’s like, a mandatory expectation for every action movie ever. Yet somehow, this goal has eluded even some of the biggest blockbusters lately, like Suicide Squad and Power Rangers.
While the film’s director Roar Uthaug is largely unknown, his previous film The Wave earned critical praise — enough that the country of Norway even submitted it for a Best Foreign Language Film nomination at the 88th Oscars. The effort was fruitless, but its till showed confidence in Uthaug as a filmmaker. Hopefully, Uthaug pulls off the challenge in Tomb Raider.
Tomb Raider will be released on March 16, 2018.*