What The Movies Got Right (And Wrong) About Tomb Raider

by Jon Bowman on Mar 03, 2018 at 12:04 PM

Tomb Raider is set to hit theaters on March 16 and aims to portray Lara Croft with a similar survivalist style that we’ve seen in the most recent Tomb Raider games. However, this isn’t the first time that Lara Croft has come to the big screen. Angelina Jolie assumed the role in 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and its 2003 sequel Lara Croft: The Cradle of Life, which still stand as the first and sixth highest-grossing video game adaptations, respectively. To help prepare us for Tomb Raider, we looked back at Jolie’s take on Lara Croft to see how they lived up to one of gaming’s most famous characters.

Right – Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft
You can debate whether or not the Lara Croft movies are any good, but there is no arguing that Angelina Jolie had the Lara Croft look nailed down. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone else who better represented what we thought the pixelated heroine would look like in real life. Jolie as Lara Croft may go down as the best casting for a video game character in a movie.

Wrong – Lara Croft: Archaeologist/Hammer Smasher
During one scene in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Lara recovers an artifact and brings it back to her mansion for further study. She has a hunch that the real artifact is within the casing that Bryce, her tech engineer, is meticulously taking apart. So, what does a self-respecting archaeologist do when such a hunch arises? Simple! Smash it with a hammer. Granted, the Lara Croft in the games is encouraged to smash ancient pots to find collectibles, but at least she had more respect for the artifacts she’d pursue.

Right – Female Protagonists in Male-Dominated Mediums
When Lara Croft was first introduced in 1996’s Tomb Raider, she was catapulted towards the top of the very short list of female video game protagonists, including names like Samus Aran and Ms. Pacman. Even with her, uh, disproportionate dimensions, video games had scarcely seen any strong female lead characters before she came along. The same can be said for movies when Jolie first stepped into Croft’s shoes for 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Action movies were (and largely still are) a male-dominated genre, but she harnessed her inner Lara Croft and showed early on that any person with two guns can kick some serious ass.

Wrong – Love Interests
We get it, it’s Hollywood, so there are bound to be some love interests thrown our way. And to be fair, the casting of Daniel Craig and Gerard Butler as each movie’s charming and sarcastic hunk of man meat were both apt. But the Lara Croft we know never needed a man to help her find artifacts. She alone could handle any enemies and obstacles that stood in her way from uncovering hidden treasures. She only needed two guns for shooting and two hands for climbing through ancient ruins (and for holding the guns).

Right – Over-The-Top Action Sequences
The Lara Croft movies have plenty of gun-blazing action. Whether she’s wielding her signature dual hand cannons or bringing an unloaded rifle to a swordfight, the Lara Croft movies feel most like the games when Lara has her guns out. The action scenes in both movies are easily some of their greatest highlights, and it’s that action that helped make Lara Croft into a gaming icon.

Wrong – Brushing Off The Mystical And Puzzles
Along with her dual-wielding pistols, Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider games was known for fighting off mystical enemies and solving ancient puzzles. From undead soldiers to demonic monsters to freaking dinosaurs, she fought them all and continued on to explore and solve complex labyrinths on the way to treasure. In the movies, the mystical enemies are replaced with the Illuminati and gangsters, while the closest thing Lara comes to solving a puzzle is a scavenger hunt for a hidden letter from her father.

Right – Following In Her Father’s Footsteps
It’s loosely touched on in Tomb Raider lore, but Lara was not the first archaeologist in the Croft family. Richard Croft, the heir to the Croft family fortune, was a famous archaeologist in his own right. The movies rightly expand on the history between her and her father, showing him as a devoted father as he teaches young Lara all the history he’s uncovered. Upon his passing, she inherits her father’s estate, using it as a base of operations as she continues down the path that Richard started as an archaeologist.

Wrong – The Unrelatable Hero
While the relationship with her father tries to ground her, she still comes across as a spoiled snob who shows little gratitude to the people closest to her. It’s near impossible to relate to a character who wakes up in her mansion with a gourmet meal catered to her by her live-in butler, then goes to fight a robot programed by her live-in tech wizard, then unwinds with a spin on her trapeze harness, all without so much as a thank you. Clearly, Pappa Croft forgot to teach young Lara basic manners.

How will a modern take on Lara Croft play out on the big screen? Check out our interview with Alicia Vikander, the star of Tomb Raider, to see how her take on the character showcases the evolution of Lara Croft. Tomb Raider is coming to a theater near you on March 16.