Lara Croft has been a videogame institution for over twenty years, and in that time she’s seen countless iterations across multiple forms of other media; comic books, novels, web-series, and – yes – films. Memorably brought to life by Angelina Jolie in both 2001 and 2003, Lara Croft’s adventures saw a fair amount of financial success, even if they were dismissed critically. With the big screen reboot out this week, based on the supremely well-received videogame reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise in 2013, we at OnScreen thought it would be a good idea to run through four things that the forthcoming reboot absolutely must do, and two things we’re really hoping it doesn’t.
DO Make Lara a Person
As fun as the original Lara Croft series of films were, they didn’t really show Lara as a person, so much as an icon. Sure, there was lip-service paid to her past, and some focus on the relationship with her father in the first film (something the reboot also seems to focus on rather heavily), but all-in-all Angelina Jolie’s portrayal was about being badass and looking damn fine doing it.
DO Show Her Struggle
One of the most fun elements of the previous Tomb Raider flicks was that, whilst the men around her quibbled and bickered and generally looked lost, Jolie’s Croft would storm in, roll her eyes, and do exactly what needed to be done. Occasionally whilst tutting. But the narrative issue with this (admittedly fun) dynamic was that Lara never felt like she was in any danger. Even when all hell was breaking loose, and it seemed like the whole world was about to crash down around her, “Ah-ha” the bad guys left some dogs and a sled, off we go then.
DO Keep It Simple
When it comes to big, pulp-style adventure stories, there can be a great urge to load the narrative up on mythology, on grandiose possibilities and historical name-dropping. Something the Indiana Jones trilogy (yes, trilogy, what fourth film?) did so well was keeping the core plot fuss-free; get the magic box away from the Nazis, save the children from the temple, find the Holy Grail. The set-up isn’t nearly as important as the adventure itself. It’s the journey, not the prologue, that we’re interested in.
DO Give Lara a Core Group of Allies
If nothing else, the greatest ongoing addition to the Tomb Raider canon from the Jolie films was giving Lara a team. Prior to those instances, any allies she’d ever known had always been fleeting – either betraying her or facing narrative-spurring deaths. And whilst that’s certainly fine for early PlayStation games in which ‘go to place, find the thing’ was all the plot one needed for two hours of gameplay, it did make the character a rather lonely one in later years with even the comic books of the time struggling to give Lara a consistent supporting cast beyond Winston the butler.
DON’T Lay on the References Too Thick
With the iconography of the Tomb Raider franchise being burned into the retinas of thousands of square-eyed gamers from across two decades, there is of course going to be a temptation to lay on the references to get a quick grin from franchise fans. And whilst the odd call-back is expected, and will absolutely get the intended reaction, over-doing it would seem lazy and unconfident.
DON’T Fall into the Franchise Trap
With a series and character as beloved as Tomb Raider and Lara Croft, it’s obvious that studio Warner Bros. are hoping for a franchise here. The nature of the character’s episodic adventures lend themselves as easily to serialised storytelling as Bond or Batman. But, like so many franchise-starters in Hollywood lately, there’s the possibility of scuppering things at the first hurdle by prioritising sequels.