For many years, Hollywood has tried to capitalize on the success of video games. After all, according to Things Have Changed, the gaming industry has become bigger than both the film industry and music industry combined. Unfortunately, film adaptations of video game franchises have been generally poorly received. However, 2018’s Tomb Raider became an outlier, thanks to the excellent casting of Alicia Vikander in the role of Lara Croft. Before Tomb Raider, Vikander starred in film projects such as Ex Machina, The Danish Girl, and Jason Bourne. Succeeding Angelina Jolie as the new Lara Croft, Vikander impressed audiences with a new modern take on the character. The actress was set to return for a sequel before MGM lost the film rights to the Tomb Raider franchise. While her time with Tomb Raider may have already come to an end, she was able to accomplish a lot with a single film. Here are several reasons why Vikander was the perfect Lara Croft.
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When Lara Croft made her debut in the 90s, Tomb Raider received praise for representing women in what was a male-dominated market. Game designer Toby Gard wanted Lara Croft to break away from stereotypical women characters. Although she was recognized as an effective action heroine, the character was still sexualized and expected to cater to the male gaze. When Vikander was cast as the new live-action Lara Croft, as reported by Insider, some critics expressed disappointment over not finding her “curvy enough” or physically attractive. Vikander, however, was not cast to portray a character that empowered those men and objectified women.
Tomb Raider was heavily inspired by the 2013 video game series reboot of the same name. The creative team at Crystal Dynamics involved both men and women, working together to write the best Lara Croft possible. Rhianna Pratchett, who was a lead writer on the trilogy, spoke with TalkRadio AM640 (via VentureBeat) about the sexualization of the character being a thing of the past. She shared; The way Lara is marketed now is not sexualized. It’s still beautiful, it’s still strong, it’s still characterful, but it’s not sexualized in the way it was done before. Vikander’s Lara Croft represented the same approach. Her character was faithful to the games and was not defined by her sex appeal. Tomb Raider was an action-adventure film meant to completely immerse audiences in its world. Naturally, Lara Croft needed to be defined by her survival skills, aspirations, human flaws, and adventurous spirit.
Determined to solve the mystery behind her father’s disappearance, Lara Croft set out on a journey to find the island of Yamatai. She enlisted the help of Captain Lu Ren, travelling across the Devil’s Sea where she was caught in a violent storm. Upon arriving at the island, Lara immediately encountered many dangerous foes. Her enemies were members of Trinity, an underground organization seeking the tomb of Himiko to obtain Himiko’s power. Courage has never been about not having any fears, but rather, has been about rising above them. Alicia Vikander’s Lara Croft was not someone who did not struggle. She was a young woman who did not have superpowers nor experience in Indiana Jones-style adventures. Lara understood the severity of the situation but also understood that worrying would get her nowhere. She refused to allow her fears prevent her from taking action, choosing to tackle her challenges head on. The character, albeit being fictional, was a role model that people could look up to. Vikander was able to showcase the core spirit of the pop culture icon.
Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.
Lara Croft has always been an archeologist with an incredibly sharp mind. With no backup or weapons, Lara had nothing to rely on other than her wit and her will. In such a hostile environment, most people (including other fictional characters) would not be able to survive. Yet, Lara overcame difficult odds, always scanning and using the environment to her advantage. Quick thinking allowed Lara to successfully infiltrate the Trinity camp and avoid deadly booby traps. When Lara fought for her life against a guard, she focused on outmaneuvering her opponent rather than relying on brute strength. Tomb Raider only marked the start of Lara Croft’s journey, but her survival skills were already unparalleled. Additionally, it was Lara who opened the tomb in the film, something that Trinity was unable to do.
Vikander put her heart and soul into the role of Lara Croft. Before filming, Vikander got into incredible shape working with a personal trainer. Her trainer was Magnus Lygdback, who had previously worked with Ben Affleck on Justice League and went on to train Gal Gadot for Wonder Woman 1984 and Alexander Skarsgård for The Northman. Since Lara Croft is essentially a superhero without the superpowers, the actress needed to be in peak physical condition to convincingly portray the character. Throughout Tomb Raider, Vikander was seen constantly sprinting, jumping, and accomplishing physical feats. In the film, Lara Croft survived being swept along a river that led towards a waterfall, then survived falling from the wreckage of an airplane. Vikander was given another chance to show off her athleticism when Lara entered the tomb. The constant danger Lara found herself in differentiated Tomb Raider from many other modern action-adventure films.