A History of the Tomb Raider Franchise


Lara Croft is back, she’s looking for answers, and this time, she’s… Alicia Vikander? In March this year, the vine-swinging, arrow-shooting heroine returns to our screens with a new look and a new mission – clearing her deceased father’s name. Directed by the brilliantly-named Roar Uthaug, it’s mostly based on the 2013 video game Tomb Raider and its 2015 follow-up, Rise of the Tomb Raider, essentially sticking along the lines of an origin reboot in an effort to give the character of Lara Croft a new lease of life. Raiding tombs. Hunting things. It’s a winning formula, but just how different will this new offering be from the twelve games and two films floating around in the pop culture ether?

The first Tomb Raider game was released in 1966, over 20 years ago, defining the action-adventure genre and breathing new life into the previously two-dimensional heroines that games had to offer. Lara has come far since beginning her pixellated life as a series of pointy polygons, metamorphosing into the more human form we see today in the latest video game title in the franchise, 2015’s Rise of the Tomb Raider. The game allows you to play as the aristocratic Miss Croft, giving you control of the copious amount of shiny things at her disposal in order to hunt for arcane, valuable treasures while being pursued by equally wealthy bad guys. Although Tomb Raider II received as much attention as the first game, Tomb Raider III signalled a snowballing downturn in the success of the franchise, with both players and critics complaining that there was a lack of attention to the story and the gameplay felt too similar to the previous games. Lara even returned from the dead, being killed off in The Last Revelation in 1999 and springing back to life in Tomb Raider Chronicles in 2000.

2001 marked the first time that everyone’s favourite video game heroine would appear on cinema screens in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, played by Angelina Jolie. Although it was criticised for its bland plot, Jolie was praised for her portrayal of Lara, and the film remains one of the most successful films based on a video game to date. The second film, 2003’s Cradle of Life, was ironically received more favourably by critics, but was a commercial failure in comparison to the first film. Whereas Jolie’s Lara was an experienced and confident adventurer, the new film may yet avoid the curse of video game to film adaptations, with Alicia Vikander’s portrayal aiming to show a more vulnerable, aimless young woman who grows and learns as the film goes on. Vikander told Entertainment Weekly that she’s keen to see more female-led films with complex heroines, wanting to emulate the seismic impact of Wonder Woman and even surpass it. The turquoise tank top and incredibly tiny shorts are gone in favour of more practical tomb raiding attire for the woman about town, and the emphasis in the new films appears to be creating a more human Lara, rather than the walking, wisecracking arsenal she was in the older games. Seeing the latest Tomb Raider titles adapted for the big screen will be a step in the right direction for female-led films, enhancing the character that everybody recognises into a nuanced, likeable heroine who will hopefully go down in cinema history.

Here’s a trailer for Lara’s latest adventure in Rise of the Tomb Raider. 


About Author


Third year History student with a flair for the dramatic, generally found writing articles in search of the interesting. Connoisseur of cats, M&M's and quotations. "When people ask if I went to film school, I tell them 'no, I went to films'" - Quentin Tarantino

Leave A Reply