In 2011, GK Films acquired the movie rights to Tomb Raider, with the plans of rebooting the iconic video game franchise on the big screen. Several years later, things have finally come together: fans are getting a new Tomb Raider movie come 2018. Here's what we know about the reboot so far.
Several women have voiced Lara Croft in the various video games, but the only woman to play her on the big screen was Angelina Jolie in the early 2000s. Many actresses in Hollywood were after the iconic role, and Warner Bros. wanted to make sure it got the right person for the job. After reportedly meeting with several actresses, including Star Wars' Daisy Ridley, the studio settled on Alicia Vikander. Judging from these set photos from last week, it looks like Vikander is doing just fine so far.
Once it cast the leading role, the studio began looking into the supporting cast, which includes Dominic West as Lara's father (Lord Richard Croft), Daniel Wu as ship captain Lu Ren, and Walton Goggins as villain Father Mathias Vogel. Not much is known about the film, except for its basic premise. However, Goggins had a few words to say about his unconventional antagonist.
“[Like other characters] I have been so lucky to have the opportunity to play over the course of my career, there are real reasons behind his antagonism, and it's not what you'd expect. He is very complicated, and his motivations are pure,” Goggins told Yahoo. Talking to Collider, Goggins added that his character is “confused, angry, and desperate.”
Rounding out the crew is Norwegian director Roar Uthaug, whose 2015 disaster film The Wave put him on the map when Norway submitted it as its official entry for the 88th Academy Awards' best foreign language film. Unfortunately, it didn't make the cut. Uthaug is helming the project based on a script from industry newcomer Geneva Robertson-Dworet, with MGM and GK Films partnering to produce the films.
An origin story to define the franchise
After years of waiting, fans finally got their hands on a new Tomb Raider game in 2013, thanks to the folks at Crystal Dynamics, who rebooted the franchise with a franchise-defining origin story. Now, Warner Bros., whose interactive entertainment arm co-published the game's sequel, wants to do the same for the franchise on the movie side. And to do that, it's basing the upcoming reboot on the video game's story. After all, Tomb Raider is a video game franchise at heart.
“They told me they were doing the film based on the reboot of the game from 2013,” Vikander told Uproxx. “That is more of an origin story. You get into an emotional aspect of getting to know Lara hopefully in an in-depth way.” With the reboot following the basic premise of the video game reboot, the question arises: will the movie's sequel, should it happen, be based on the story of the game's sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider? Let's hope there are at least a few twists we don't see coming.
A psychological adventure to mess with your head
We know that the movie will take inspiration from Crystal Dynamics' video game reboot, but what kind of film will it be? According to Walton Goggins, the story is like “Raiders of the Lost Ark meets a genre version of the Joseph Conrad novel Victory: An Island Tale.” Once he read the script, he said “jumped at the chance” of doing it.
Although there have been countless adventure movies over the years, the film to beat these days is Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first Indiana Jones movie. It's the prototypical treasure-adventure flick. It's one of those movies that inspires a multitude of directors, including Roar Uthaug, to join the filmmaking industry. Uthaug expressed to IGN his desire to make an adventure movie like Indiana Jones, which is one of the reasons he signed on as director. “I think we'll want to make it feel like a modern action movie and to make what's going on feel like it's going on for real,” Uthaug said.
If you aren't familiar with the novel Goggins mentioned, Victory: An Island Tale is a 1915 psychological tale about a man who ends up living on an island in what is now Indonesia due to a business mishap. Though complex, the story deals with the effects of isolation (especially on an island) and how that can blur the lines between what is civilized and what is barbaric. Since Tomb Raider deals with someone being stranded on an island, perhaps we'll see how Lara Croft breaks through her misfortunes.
A different kind of Lara Croft
Those who don't play the Tomb Raider video games may not be well-versed in Lara Croft's history–her characteristics, her background, or her the reason she does what she does. She's an iconic video game character, but is she someone people can aspire to be (other than the abandonment on a remote island bit)? That hasn't been explored on screen before, which is something Roar Uthaug is looking to change.
“I think making Lara Croft feel like a real human being, that's definitely something we want to bring to the big screen as well,” Uthaug told IGN. “I think we'll want to make people relate to Lara as a character.”
It's no secret that the video game industry tends to oversexualize its female characters, a trend that arguably began with the first Tomb Raider game over 20 years ago. Critics can't seem to agree on whether Lara is a positive or negative female role model for young girls (and gamers). Sure, she's a strong character who relies heavily on her wits to survive extraordinary situations, and that is what drew Uthaug to the project in the first place.
“I've always been a fan of strong female characters,” Uthaug added, “and I think I've had strong female characters in all my previous movies.” Perhaps the new reboot will purge the belief that Lara might be a “cyberbimbo” and restore her image as a strong female human character.
Potential shared universe?
Shared universes are all the rage in Hollywood these days. Thanks to the overwhelming success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, everyone's getting in on the trend–Warner Bros. with its DC Extended Universe and MonsterVerse (Godzilla, King Kong, etc.), as well as Universal with the plainly and cyclically named Universal's Monsters Universe. If producer Adrian Askarieh had his way, there would be a shared universe consisting of Tomb Raider, Hitman, Deus Ex, Thief, and Just Cause–all Square Enix-published video games that have film adaptations already released or in development.
He said he would put Just Cause, Hitman, and Tomb Raider in the present time frame of the universe. “Deus Ex would be the future of that universe and Thief would be the past,” Askarieh told IGN. “Unfortunately, I don't have Lara Croft, and [Hitman: Agent 47] needs to be a big hit for that to happen.” Unfortunately, Hitman: Agent 47 scored an abysmal 8 percent critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Another problem is that the movie rights for most of those properties have been sold to multiple Hollywood studios, not just one. And if watching the MCU pass right by all those years of X-Men movies taught us anything, it's that it's hard to make crossovers happen under these circumstances. for now how difficult it can be for stories to cross over when the characters exist with different studios (see: X-Men and MCU). But hey, Spider-Man made it in, so maybe there's a chance.
The release date is right around the corner
Tomb Raider began filming on January 23, 2017, right on schedule for the film to meet its March 16, 2018, release date. Upcoming superhero movie The Flash was previously slated for a March 2018 release date, but The Flash's numerous production delays and director changes have made that unlikely. And it's good for Warner Bros., which is distributing both The Flash and Tomb Raider–and dropping them too close to each other would hurt both films. So we get Tomb Raider first, and we even get it in IMAX.