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After Hours: All Hail Baby Croft!

March 15, 2018

What is it that we find so appealing about ass kicking archeologists? A couple nights ago I was re-watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for maybe the billionth time, and I was amazed that it never seems to get old.  Now that doesn’t mean that all relic-hunting movies are created equal. Tom Cruise’s latest foray into the world of undead mummies was painfully dull despite all the explosions, while Brendan Fraser’s Mummy franchise was great. Well, until they got to the third one. (I mean, really, who laced the hookah with that idea?) And while we’re on the topic of Indiana Jones, I can’t even begin to take enough issue with the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which couldn’t pick a tone to save its cinema soul, especially with Shia LaBeouf, of all people, portraying Indiana’s son. (Insert eye roll emoji here!)

But why care about all of this now? Well, because Lara Croft is back in a brand new Tomb Raider movie, but it’s not the Angelina version of the early 2000’s.  Alicia Vikander, whom you may have seen in The Man from Uncle or Ex Machina, helms this film. And, short of also having brown hair and eyes, she’s about as far from Angie’s look as a girl can get. This was expected though, as the new movie is supposed to reflect the new look that the video games have taken. These games apparently focus more on Croft’s origin and less on her skill as a seasoned Tomb Raider, or at least so I’ve been told, and I’m inclined to believe it after seeing this new installment.

Think of this take on the franchise as meeting Baby Croft. Before all the knowledge about antiquities and contacts all over the world, Lara is just a girl trying to make her way in the world, while dealing with the loss of her father. For those thinking this rehashes the same storyline from the first franchise, rest assured that there is plenty of deviation to provide a fresh take on her absentee father issues. Perhaps my favorite part of the movie is the fresh attitude Vikander brings to the role when she’s interacting with real people before she get all “destined.”

Video-game-based movies are notoriously bad, cursed even, but some how Tomb Raider movies have never suffered the same fate as their compatriots. I think that what really keeps this installment out of the video-game-adapted wasteland is the fact that they make Lara’s character very real. She falls, fails, and f… uh, well, messes up, a lot. We see her vulnerable, which makes her feel more authentic. There is one scene where she’s injured, and instead of powering through with gritted teeth, we see her actually acknowledge the pain, panic, and rally, without opting for a cheap blackout scene that suggests insurmountable agony. It was a smart decision and makes us connect with her on a human level. We also get to see her struggle with her first kill and the shock of that moment.

In many ways, Tomb Raider felt like a solid nod to all the great archeological adventures of the past, especially Indiana Jones, but it also broke some of the tired aspects of the dusty adventure movies. One of the biggest flaws in the Indiana Jones movies was the forced love interest in every movie. Really no one believed that kiss with Elsa in The Last Crusade, did they? Really?

“The hero is only hot if they suck face at least once” was also a silly and unrealistic plot point in the first Tomb Raider series. Lara’s fighting for her life, but lets take time out to shag a guy on a boat, who you know you can’t trust…I mean really how counterintuitive can you get. However, this movie doesn’t pander to that idea, and I think it is stronger for it.

There is no love interest, no obligatory hook-up that “makes her desirable,” instead we get what we really wanted, a butt-kicking heroine who is just starting out on an amazing journey, which I personally hope Warner Bros. is smart enough to continue. If they don’t ruin a good thing, I’ll be happy to see the next Tomb Raider when it comes out.

For those looking for more Tomb Raider-esque movies I recommend the Indiana Jones movies, the Brendan Fraser Mummy franchise, Sahara, and the National Treasure movies.

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