WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the new Tomb Raider film and the video game of the same name.
The Tomb Raider reboot incorporates a lot of elements from the video games, which blend well with the film’s inventions. We see Lara Croft not as a wealthy archaeologist or a student, but as a courier trying to make her own way in the world, all the while holding on to the hope that her father, missing for seven years, is still alive. Just when she’s about to give up, she discovers a hidden message left for her by Lord Croft that leads her to ship captain Lu Ren, who takes her to Yamatai, the lost island housing the tomb of the Mother of Death.
The island is uninhabited, save for Trinity agents, led by Mathias Vogel, and the unfortunate sailors forced into slavery to help uncover the tomb. After escaping Vogel’s clutches, Lara finds her father alive, evading capture and covertly sabotaging Trinity’s progress. The rest of the story goes as you might expect: Lara loses her father for a final time, but stops Trinity’s ill-defined, by certainly evil, plan.
There are a variety of action sequences, some of which have been adapted straight from the video games, and a surprising number of puzzles and riddles, which help to capture the spirit of franchise. The problem is that the film fails to capture the spirit of Lara Croft. The rebooted franchise isn’t just about curses, puzzles and taking on an army with nothing but a bow and arrow; it’s about survival, and growth.
A Survivor Is Born, the 2013 game that inspires much of the film, depicts Lara as a student who’s driven by a curiosity and a desire for adventure but is ultimately too inexperienced and unequipped to handle the dangers. Much like the Solarii Brotherhood she encounters on the island, Lara is just trying to find a way to escape the cursed shores.
Aside from the mystically conjured storms that prevent ships from leaving, the island contains plenty of lethal locations, creatures and people. Lara faces off against packs of wolves, a full-grown bear and the crazed members of the Solarii, who seek nothing more than a means to please Queen Himiko so she’ll allow them to leave Yamatai. In the beginning of the game, Lara proves that she’s not much of a fighter. She certainly doesn’t want to kill anything, but the island forces her to become a keen hunter and a practiced killer.
Even when there aren’t any predatory animals or desperate castaways after her, Lara has to prevent starvation and dehydration, and endure the island’s debris-filled rivers, icy mountains and treacherous cliffs, which keep her from her comrades or the next crucial location. She learns that nature is as deadly as it is beautiful, but that she can overcome its crueler aspects.
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