Film discussion

Tomb Raider: breaking down the trailer

Lara Croft last raided tombs on the big screen in 2003’s misfiring sequel The Cradle of Life, when Angelina Jolie (the Jennifer Lawrence of her day) adopted a plum English accent and trotted the globe looking for Pandora’s Box. Ever since we’ve been waiting for Lara (Jolie attached or not) to return, and at last we have our first glimpse of a new Lady Croft for a new generation in Alicia Vikander.

With the first trailer now available for everyone to see, let’s break down and figure out what may be coming from 2018’s Tomb Raider reboot.


DANNY(ELLA) RAND?

There’s a hint of Iron Fist in Lara returning to a gargantuan Croft Industries conglomerate building, not looking at all like heir to the company, and talking to a disbelieving lowly desk clerk. This taps into the overarching narrative, which takes a cue from Crystal Dynamics’ 2013 video game reboot of the same name; that game eschewed the usual formula of uber rich, established Lara going after the Scion of this and the Dagger of that, and told her origin story – an origin story with more than a little Danny Rand/Oliver Queen/Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins to it.

We already knew Roar Uthaug’s film was adapting elements of that origin but now we know for sure. This is Lara Begins, without a doubt, and could well partly be recounted in flashbacks.

DADDY ISSUES

A continuing staple of the Tomb Raider video games has always been Lara being haunted by the death of her father, Lord Richard Croft, himself an Indiana Jones-type. In the Jolie films, he was awkwardly an old and hazy Jon Voight, but here the much more applicable Dominic West talks to Lara from beyond the grave, directing her after she returns to a company which clearly has moved on, to find the treasure he was after when he died in what according to the lore was an accident but almost certainly will end up being anything but – a tomb called, invitingly, the Mother of Death.

It seems old Dickie was after a sinister group called Trinity, who are looking for the tomb to, inevitably, destroy the world as we know it. Cue a mission back into the wild for Lara less about the fun of archaeology at this point, and more about finishing what her father started, saving civilisation, and almost certainly wreaking a level of revenge on whoever (probably) did her father in.


‘ADVENTURE’ IN THE DEVIL’S SEA

Choosing to accept her impossible mission (sorry, wrong franchise!), Lara puts together what looks like a somewhat unwilling team and heads off into the, again, invitingly named The Devil’s Sea, on the hunt for Trinity and the Mother of Death. The ocean has other ideas, however, and Lara soon finds herself on a sinking ship, wrecked and stranded on a remote island. This could be where the movie differs from the game, which saw Lara crashland on her parents private plane as a youngster, forced to survive and fight off a band of bad guys. 

Uthaug’s movie has Lara seeking out that island, so does she have a similar backstory of crashing in hostile terrain? Will she start the movie as someone formed by that experience only to be doomed to repeat it?

GOGGLE AT GOGGINS

Once she reaches said mysterious island in an equally enigmatic patch of sea, Lara soon finds herself facing our main antagonist – Walton Goggins, unnamed in the trailer but in fact playing Matthias Vogel, almost certainly the Belloq to Lara’s Indy – a mercenary linked to whatever or whoever Trinity are, looking to exploit whatever world-controlling or destroying MacGuffin exists inside the tomb. Lord Richard knows only closing the tomb forever can destroy the darkness within, and Lara soon figures out Vogel knew Dickie and… well, ten to one Vogel killed him. We’ve seen this before, come on?

At any rate, Vogel appears to be more of a rugged adversary for Lara than Iain Glen’s slimy (and hilariously named) Manfred Powell in the original Simon West adaptation or Ciaran Hinds’ cold scientist Dr Jonathan Reiss in Jan De Bont’s The Cradle of Life, and presumably one as invested in the mystical elements behind the tomb as Lara and her father.

THOSE BLOODY LEDGES!

One thing that felt conspicuously lacking from either of the previous Tomb Raider films was any raiding of tombs, or much particularly in the way of visuals and action set pieces that recalled the games that introduced us to Lara. Remember the original 1996 Eidos game, for example, which seemed to delight in the controls making us miss a ledge jump by inches, before letting us watch Lara horribly scream as she plunges into a vast chasm or to her death on a massive pit of spikes? Playing the games was as much a torturous than enjoyable experience and the trailer for Uthaug’s film suggests the production team have been at pains to recreate Lara’s death defying leaps through ancient, massive and complex death contraptions.

We see her sliding under spinning chains of death, leaping across rickety concrete platforms, and we even have the strangled, dare we say it slightly sexual, chasm leap cry as Lara makes that jump no other human on earth would manage. Much as enthusiasm when it comes to video games must be tempered always, the original Tomb Raider building blocks could well be present and correct here.

We could also mention Nick Frost as the new comedy light relief, akin to Chris Barrie’s butler in the first two films, but let’s not bother. We all know we’ll probably just grimace at that bit and move on.

Tomb Raider opens in the US on 18th March, 2018, with a UK airdate to be confirmed.

What did you think of the trailer? Did it meet your expectations? Let us know!

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