WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the new Tomb Raider film and the video game of the same name.
Tomb Raider‘s first trailer featured a sequence with Alicia Vikander’s Lara Croft acquiring her signature dual pistols from a pawn shop in what we now know to be the film’s final scene. While that might have been exciting to some viewers who recognize how integral the weapons are to the video game icon, for others it was undoubtedly disappointing. That’s because the purchase of the guns means the emotionally powerful story behind them hasn’t been adapted from the 2013 game A Survivor Is Born.
Director Roar Uthaug’s franchise reboot introduces those pistols just before the credits roll, after one of them is recommended to her by a pawn shop owner, played for comedy relief by Nick Frost. Despite never using a firearm in the film, Lara resolves to buy those dual pistols after discovering she’s up against an ancient and well-armed organization; they’re little more than fan service.
However, in the rebooted video game franchise, the weapons aren’t merely a wink to the classic series. They’re attached to a larger story that helps to shape Lara as a character in an arc that’s dismissed for the film. In A Survivor Is Born, the research vessel Endurance is shipwrecked, leaving Lara and the other survivors stranded on an island with no hope of rescue. One of those survivors is Conrad Roth, a close friend of Richard Croft, and the man who taught Lara the basic skills she’d need for a situation like this. As we find out in the game, after the loss of Richard, Roth became a surrogate father to Lara.
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The events on the island of Yamatai are opportunities for Lara to prove to herself and everyone around her that she has what it takes to do more than she previously believed she could. That becomes clear when Roth sacrifices his life to save Lara, telling her with his last breath that she can, and will, go on because she has the strength within her. It’s the motivation she needs to keep going, even after enduring a hail of bullets from merciless Solarii maniacs, supernatural storms and unforgiving coarseness of the wild.
As Roth dies, he leaves his dual pistols beside him, a parting gift to Lara. Still, we don’t see her use them together until the end, when she opens fire in her iconic pose to save her friend from being consumed by an immortal goddess.
When she fires those guns, it’s a powerful moment for the character and for fans, for numerous reasons — the first being that it symbolizes Lara’s readiness to face the world head on. It’s her embracing the potential Roth saw within her. The second reason it’s so powerful is that it momentarily reunites players with the Lara Croft they recognize from earlier games; a moment that signifies the reboot’s intention to not only explore Lara’s origins, but augment the mythos by binding the elements fans loved with new meaning. Now those pistols aren’t simply iconic because they’re so recognizable, but because there’s a deeper emotional attachment to them, for Lara Croft and for players.
The film has gone in a different direction by removing all deeper meaning. In its place, Tomb Raider offers only an admittedly funny character and a small nod to the classic video games. It should seem like a great moment, but instead it’s a step backward.
In theaters now, director Roar Uthaug’s Tomb Raider stars Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft, Dominic West as Richard Croft, Daniel Wu as Lu Ren, Kristin Scott Thomas as Ana Miller, Hannah John-Kamen as Sophie and Walton Goggins as Mathias Vogel.
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