Tag: tomb raider

Lara Croft is no feminist role model

Lara Croft is no feminist role model

Here’s a quick conundrum for you. Your evil arch-enemy is crossing a canyon on a thin, wobbly metal ladder which has been laid across the gap. How do you stop him reaching the other side? Do you…

(a) shake the ladder, thus ensuring that he plunges to his well-deserved doom? Or do you …

(b) leap onto the ladder yourself, thus ensuring that you’re just as likely to plummet to your doom as he is?

If you answered (a), then congratulations, you are officially cleverer than Lara Croft, the dim-witted and generally inept heroine of Tomb Raider.

When the character made her video-game debut in 1996, she was marketed as a cyber sex symbol. The media focused on her rugby ball-shaped breasts, and a waist so minuscule she could have worn a wristwatch around it. But the game’s designers liked to point out that Lara’s IQ was even more stellar than her physical attributes, and by the time Angelina Jolie played her in two films, in 2001 and 2003, they could just about get away with calling her a feminist role model.

Fourteen years on, you might assume that she would be even more capable, and the casting of Alicia Vikander, a multi-lingual Oscar-winning Swedish actress, was certainly encouraging. But, despite the fact that people keep saying how amazingly gifted Lara is, she is so useless that you end up wondering if they are being sarcastic.

We first see her in an East London gym, where she loses a kick-boxing match. She then goes on a bike race around the city, a race she concludes by crashing into a police car. And when her adventures eventually get underway, she is less like James Bond than Inspector Clouseau. In Hong Kong, she wanders around a harbour, bleating, “Excuse me, do you speak English?” She is saved from three muggers by a shotgun-toting sailor (Daniel Wu), and he immediately cracks a code that had baffled her. Some role model.

Lara Croft is no feminist role model

I appreciate that the Lara in this film is still a trainee tomb raider, so she has an excuse for not being the hyper-confident bad-ass played by Jolie. I also understand that this depiction is true to the game that relaunched the series in 2013. But it isn’t much fun to watch her obeying other people’s instructions, relying on other people to rescue her, and responding to danger with screams and yelps rather than snappy one-liners. Are there really so many proficient big-screen action heroines out there that we now need one who is rubbish at everything?

What’s worse is that Lara’s incompetence is her only distinctive characteristic. Actually, that’s not true. Vikander is absurdly gorgeous, so if you want to watch a muscular young beauty running around in a sweat-soaked camisole, you’ll get your money’s worth from Tomb Raider. But her personality is no more developed than that of Pac-Man or Sonic the Hedgehog.

It was Lara’s father (Dominic West) who trained her in archery and puzzle-solving as a girl, and it is her father’s occult research that inspires her as a woman, but apart from her devotion to daddy’s memory (never mind that he spent most of her childhood disappearing on mysterious expeditions), she doesn’t seem to have any interests or relationships. In the opening London scenes, there is a man in a restaurant kitchen who fancies her, and a woman in the gym who chats to her. Neither of them is ever seen again.

The rest of the film is just as undistinguished as its heroine. Leafing through The Bumper Book of Mystical McGuffins, the screenwriters have stuffed their script with references to “The Devil’s Sea” and “The Chasm of Souls” – which is what you have to do when other screenwriters have already claimed the Egyptian pyramids and the Ark of the Covenant – but the story is drab and predictable. And, yes, it’s all about Lara’s absent father. He vanished seven years earlier after he went in search of an ancient Japanese Empress’s tomb. The Empress, according to legend, had the power to kill anyone she touched, so her own generals buried her on an uncharted island. Now a sinister organisation calling itself The Order of Trinity wants to dig her up and harness her magic, which is why Lara’s dad tried to reach her first.

As well as being worryingly close to the plot of last year’s Tom Cruise debacle, The Mummy, this scenario doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. If, after all, the Empress’s generals could defeat her 2000 years ago, how much use could her powers possibly be in an age of nerve agents and nuclear weapons? The Order of Trinity might have been better off investing in internet start-ups instead.

Still, this bog-standard premise is sufficient to send Lara to a remote, jungly island, where she is captured by a bog-standard villain (Walton Goggins). And this just-about-good-enough quality runs through the film. None of the digitally-assisted stunts will make you gasp, none of the dialogue will make you laugh, none of the twists will shock you, and none of the elaborate subterranean traps will seem as fiendish as they did when Indiana Jones faced them decades ago.

The London scenes deserve credit for their contemporary, untouristy vision of the city, with glass office blocks around the corner from graffitied alleys. But once Lara washes up on the Empress’s island, the cinematographer sticks to a palette of dingy greys, greens and browns, as if he wasn’t sure whether Tomb Raider was meant to be a blockbuster or a camouflage jacket. Vikander’s earnest performance gives Lara more life and emotion than the screenplay does, but the only truly exciting thing about the film is its director’s name, Roar Uthaug.

Unlike Jolie’s Tomb Raider outings, though, this one is not an incomprehensible mess. Nor is it as terrible as Assassin’s Creed, the recent video-game adaptation starring Vikander’s husband, Michael Fassbender. It’s an efficient franchise-starter and a passable Raiders of the Lost Ark rip-off. It’s competent. And while that’s not saying much, it’s more than can be said for its heroine.

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Surprising facts about Lara Croft

Surprising facts about Lara Croft

Angelina Jolie isn’t the only woman to portray the Tomb Raider game heroine.

Star of the multi-million-selling Tomb Raider game series and successful movie franchise, Lara Croft is by far gaming’s most recognizable heroine. The acrobatic aristocrat’s adventures traveling the globe, exterminating wildlife, fighting villains, and swiping ancient artifacts are well documented, but there’s more to the character than feats of derring-do. Read on for a few lesser-known Croft tidbits.

She’s been played by more people than just Angelina.

Without question, Angelina Jolie is the most famous person to ever step into Croft’s crop-top and shorts. Indeed, Lara would earn Jolie a nomination for the coveted Worst Actress gong at the Golden Raspberry anti-Oscar ceremony. (She would lose to Mariah Carey’s woeful showing in Glitter.) But Lara’s also been portrayed by a string of other women over her 15-year history, including one, model Nell McAndrew, who was fired after leveraging her Lara cred into a Playboy appearance. She wasn’t clad in the costume, though. Or much else. Most recently, Lara’s shoes have been filled by a genuine gymnast, Alison Carroll.

She’s a real world record holder.

In her universe, we don’t doubt globe-trotting Lara has plenty of world records. Coolest mansion (containing her own obstacle course and indoor pool), perhaps. Most endangered species slaughtered in one expedition, maybe.

But she holds a real-life record, too: she’s officially recognized by Guinness as (deep breath) the world’s most successful human video game heroine. Sorry, Samus.

She has her own tribute album.

Released on CD and vinyl in Germany, A Tribute to Lara Croft contains cuts from artists as eminent as Underworld and Yello, some of which feature audio samples from the games. Lara didn’t stop there — she’s also graced the covers of countless magazines, and even has a street named after her: Lara Croft Way, in Derby, England, the city where her original creators, Core Design, were based.

She doesn’t do anything immodest.

If you were playing video games during the mid-90s, you were sure to know about an infamous Tomb Raider cheat code that, when entered, would supposedly cause Ms. Croft to tackle the game’s levels in the buff. Legendary among teenage boys, the code was a myth…although it was nearly a reality. According to Paul Douglas, one of the original game’s creators, higher-ups once asked the team to add it to the game, but they refused, crushing the dreams of thousands of adolescents in the process.

She used to be a man.

Yes, really. Lara Croft’s designer Toby Gard first envisioned the Tomb Raider star as a hat-sporting, whip-toting male archaeologist. Astonishingly, his design was rejected as too derivative. Can’t imagine why.

After opting to create a strong female character instead, Gard found inspiration from pop culture figures including singer Neneh Cherry and 80s comic book star Tank Girl. But Lara’s most recognizable feature, her impressive bust, was inadvertently created when Gard scaled up her cleavage by accident. The team liked the new Lara so much that he kept the “enhanced” version.

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