Movies are like carnival rides. There is a beginning, middle, and end. Almost always throughout the ride, there is a thrill; a feeling that one is being lifted out of this life and experiencing another more primal plane of existence. It is generally a good feeling, one ranging from a mediocre mellowness to mouth-stretching happiness. Anything that can elicit this kind of feeling is found to be fun.
But most movies are supposed to be fun. They exist to provide an escape. Some genres lend themselves more to that than others. The action and adventure genres tend to exhibit this more so. Right from the start, these pictures go flying out of the gate like a racehorse bound and determined to win. Many video games tend to fall under those two categories. One such title is the Tomb Raider series.
Tomb Raider: An Exploration into the Series
In this title, the central character is a busty, statuesque heroine by the name of Lara Croft. She has a signature style with her puffy, pouty lips and those cargo shorts hugging her shapely hips. The circular sunglasses rested neatly on her narrow nose while the too tight t-shirt vexed the fanboys with other visions.
Strapped to each leg, She sported her signature twin Heckler & Koch pistols with unlimited ammunition. With those and various other pieces of equipment she gathers along the way of her adventures, she was prepared for any challenge. By profession, she is an archeologist born in England to a wealthy family. This is by contrast to another famous archeologist created by George Lucas. You may have heard his name once or twice. The one who was born in the United States of America and who found such lost treasures as the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail.
That’s right! It is Indiana Jones! With those differences aside, these characters are similar in their adventures which usually span the globe and wind up searching for legendary, even mythical pieces of treasure. They both have had cinematic outings: Indy with four movies and Lara with two. A third movie is on its way to the theaters soon with the title: Tomb Raider.
Laura Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
In her first adventure titled, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, she faces the most famous secret organization in history: the Illuminati. A legend tells of an artifact that when assembled at a certain time and in a special place, it will open up a rift in the time-space continuum. When that happens, one could step through the rift and change history, if one so chooses. This is appealing to Lara since her father died when she was very young. Just like another famous adventurer, her father was an archaeologist, too. He inspired her to go into the field.
The relic they are searching for is in pieces and scattered across the globe. Time was swiftly running out as the total planetary alignment was approaching in two weeks. The pieces must be assembled during this time at a temple in the Antarctic. The relic is just the key to a large machine which will open doors in the space-time continuum. It must be during the planetary alignment because space and time have come together creating bridges between all the nexus points. This allows one to cross over to another point in time.
There is a similar concept to this in the classic Star Trek episode, “The City on the Edge of Forever.” The Guardian of Forever is a living rock-like being who has the power to open portals in time. In fact, the Guardian is a large portal where time plays continuously at high speed. If one sees a point in time they like, they need only to step through the “screen” on which the images of Time are played.
It is the same concept with the contraption in the Tomb Raider movie. The main difference is that time portals are displayed simultaneously. Supposedly, it is like a corridor with an infinite amount of doors. In order to access this corridor, one needs to jump into one of the spinning globes on this machine that is modeled after the solar system. The time travel part is not really shown. Instead, a character leaps into the machine and disappears for a short while. Then, upon returning to the present, that character appears to be pushed out of the machine as if being rejected.
The Illuminati see this machine as a way to control the destiny of the human race by changing key points in time and placing themselves in the role of the gods. Lara Croft sees this as a chance to save her father from being murdered. And so a race against time evolves and forms the plot of the story.
Angelina Jolie was striking as the character. In full costume, she was like a clone of the game character brought to life. This was a part she was born to play. Not only did she look like the character, she had fun playing the character. She had a grace and elegance to every move in the movie. The fight scene where she is suspended from the ceiling illustrates it perfectly. She was fighting off ninjas while soaring through the air, attached to a tumbling rig with bungee cables.
In the movie, it’s a sleeker version of a safety rig for practicing and performing aerial stunts. In the story, it seems it is part of her workout when it is interrupted by the home invasion. Jolie jovially glides through the stunts like she was born to fly. She picked off the ninjas with ease, but there were too many of them as they swarmed in. She detached herself from the rig and fled. It was not in her nature to give up so easily. It was just a way to regroup with her team.
Overall, this movie is a good action flick. It has most of the requirements: exotic locales, memorable stunts, an interesting concept, and a serviceable story. Throw in a good hero and a decently evil adversary and the formula is complete. As far as the adversary is concerned, Iain Glenn supplies a slippery and sinister enough character to provide a high hurdle for Lara to overcome some difficulty. While it is no award-winning performance, it is a classic one.
Iain Glenn was good as the power-hungry member of the Illuminati. Being the right hand, he was responsible for executing orders. He had lots of power in the organization, but none of the recognition. He wanted all the power and the recognition that went with it.
Mr. Glenn has a knack for playing villains. His face lends itself to that type of character as well as his style of acting. It peeks through in his role on Game of Thrones. One can see he is very much in love with Daenerys Targaryen, but he makes a mistake. He went there to spy on her for King Robert Baratheon. Soon after he arrived and met her, he became devoted to her. While he was on assignment, King Robert was killed and in his mind, this nullified his duty and allowed him to follow Daenerys. His prior commitment was discovered much later and was brought to the attention of Daenerys. Even playing a fallen hero like this, Iain Glenn can use that shadowy edge to carve out a believable and realistic character from the swath of fiction presented to him.
In all, this movie was a fun ride to experience. There were lots of action scenes with some slow moments to catch one’s breath. It was a bit light on development, but it was worth it. It was an excellent popcorn movie, and possibly a date-night movie if both parties are into video games and just movies in general.
Laura Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)
In the second movie, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, Lara was on a quest to find the cradle of life. This was a bit misleading since one would think it would be the source of all life on Earth, or at the very least human life. Instead, it winds up to be Pandora’s Box: the source of all misery for life on Earth. It just so happens to rest in a cave named The Cradle of Life.
This movie is rather bland and has an easily forgettable story. The pacing is slow, and the stunts are really the only thing that saves this movie from being a total failure. The best scene is Lara trying to escape from a group of bad guys. She climbs up to the top of an unfinished building. She finds a box there and opens it. With the group of bad guys in hot pursuit, she takes the time to un-package the contents and examine them. By the time the bad guys find her, she is dressed in this parachute-type suit. She leaps off the building and plummets to her doom.
After a time, she spreads her arms and legs to reveal webbing which allows her to glide through the air like a flying squirrel. The camera follows her flight for a long time as she seemingly crosses to the other side of the city in a matter of minutes. All of this was captured very skillfully by the camera. Impressive camera angles allowed the viewer to partake in the experience.
Another disappointing thing about this movie is the replacement of Daniel Craig with Gerard Butler. One would think a good actor such as he would be able to help the movie, but it wasn’t the case here. It is due to poor writing. Though they were two separate characters, they both had relationships with Lara Croft. With this in mind, these two characters seemed like they were supposed to be one character originally.
Some distinctions were made for these characters, seemingly at the last minute. One such change was for Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler). He was more antagonistic than Alex was and no explanation was given as to why. It seems he and Lara were former lovers that now compete against each other in treasure hunting. Her and Alex’s relationship was a lukewarm one in which they respected each other and once in a while; if not reluctantly, would help the other person out with a problem.
Terry and Lara’s relationship was like fire and ice. Through the lines said and the actions portrayed, it felt like the character despised Lara and everything she stood for. When Terry and Lara were on the ship, he was ready and just about succeeded in killing her.
What happened to him that made him want to do this? It would have been nice to have seen this in the movie. Yes, the relationship was rocky, but for him to do that was a bit of a stretch. This was a lackluster follow up to the first movie. It had its moments and while not a total failure, it needed some polishing. Maybe one more draft of the script would have helped, or possibly one less draft of the script. Either way, there was something missing in this outing from the first.
Though the first two movies should be thought of as extensions, or continuations of the story from the games. They are not literal translations of any one of the ten games in existence. The producers extracted key elements from the games and inserted a story around them.
Tomb Raider (2018)
The third movie, titled Tomb Raider, looks to be a direct adaptation of the 2013 game by the same name. The game was intended to reboot the franchise, and so too is this movie. The story has a much younger Lara Croft, in her mid-teens. In the game, she and her friends are traveling by plane to an island for some fun and adventure.
Lara insists they fly through the Dragon’s Triangle whereupon a storm assaults the plane. They crash on an island which appears out of nowhere. She wakes up on a mysterious island not knowing much else. She discovers her friends are missing. She must search the island to find clues as to the mystery of how she came to be stranded there.
As she probes into the mystery and finds her friends, she discovers this is the same island where her father disappeared. When she finds her friends, they build a raft and set sail only to see a powerful storm crop up and prevent their departure. Lara Croft must figure out why they cannot leave the island. Then, she must find her father who has been missing for some time. Are these two mysteries linked?
The story unfolds as more clues are collected. As for how closely the film will stick to the story in the game remains to be seen. Some liberties will be taken since the movie has only about a two-hour time frame to tell the story.
The casting of Alicia Vikander, while not everyone’s first choice reflects the fact this is a reboot. She is a young and rising star who has proven herself in a few roles; Seventh Son, The Man From UNCLE, The Danish Girl, and Ex Machina to name a few. Ex Machina was an interesting and intense romance. It was also a slow-burn character study that sparks interest and builds throughout the film; slowly waking up the senses until the very end when much of the real action occurs.
In the film, she was an android that believed she was real. It was a Pinocchio story with a twist. From that performance alone, she demonstrated talent and skill enough to tackle any role thrown at her. In The Danish Girl, she received critical acclaim for her performance. In that movie, she struggled with her emotions over her husband’s decision to transition into a female.
While much of the praise from the critics was launched at Eddie Redmayne, for his mesmerizing performance in that role, some of that praise was targeted at Ms. Vikander for her strong portrayal of the resistant spouse. She won an Academy Award for the performance. Based on just these performances alone, Ms. Vikander is a rising force in the industry. She should prove to be a worthy Lara Croft. If all goes well, she may be in a sequel or two continuing the story of this daring damsel.