In 2001, Oscar winner Angelina Jolie first portrayed Lara Croft in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Directed by Simon West, coming off of Con Air and The General’s Daughter, Lara Croft: Tom Raider was based on the popular video game series that started in 1996 (by 2001 there were already six installments). Critics pretty much hated it (it currently sits at 20 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) but it was a financial success, grossing a quarter of a billion dollars worldwide. And it was successful enough to spawn a 2003 sequel (which wasn’t a given back then), with a word jumble of a title called Lara Croft Tomb Raider : The Cradle of Life. Directed by Jon de Bont (whose last two films had been The Haunting and Speed 2: Cruise Control), critics liked it a little better (it currently sits at 24 percent), but the film faltered at the box office, grossing around $100 million less than the first film.
Now, 15 years later, another Oscar winner, Alicia Vikander, steps into the role of Lara Croft. Norwegian director Roar Uthaug (best known for his 2015 film The Wave) helms what he hopes is a much different Lara Croft. And the first act of this Tomb Raider does feel much different – it’s almost more Premium Rush than Tomb Raider as we watch Lara Croft bike around London as a hotshot courier. She even enters an illegal bike race that offers an action set piece audiences probably aren’t expecting from a Tomb Raider movie.
Eventually, Lara Croft does start raiding tombs in a search for her long-missing father that everyone else just assumes is dead. As Uthaug explains it’s here that he wanted to differentiate this movie from the past films, that he wanted to ground the film in reality. Furthermore, instead of Lara fighting fantastical supernatural creatures, she’s mostly just fighting an evil man named Mathias Vogel, played by the always weird Walton Goggins.
What did you do to try to differentiate this movie from the prior films?
I think what was important, the inspiration came from the 2013 reboot game, which had a very different kind of take on Lara and on the Tomb Raider stories. So it was really important to have that kind of authenticity to the whole movie – to make it feel real and grounded and have the audience feel like, “Lara, that girl, that could be me.” And I think that’s kind of how we started out talking about the movie.
The first part of this movie is just about Lara’s life in London as a bike messenger. I enjoyed this…
That was really important to us. We were making this new origin story for the big screen, it was important for the audience to get to know Lara before we send her off on the adventure. And it was important to not have her rich, living in a mansion – but to have her on the streets of East London working as a bike courier trying to make ends meet.
She enters a bike race where everyone is chasing her.
There are actually races like that in London and New York. And that was inspired by that.
Walton Goggins is your villain…
He seems like an interesting fellow to have around.
It was really fun. He really brightens up any room he walks into. And he has so much energy and love for what he’s doing, it’s really inspiring. Making a movie like this, there’s big action stuff and fights – to have someone like him to take the edge off of everything, it’s really good. His craft and dedication is incredible.
What’s an example of him taking the edge off?
No, it’s just being able to joke around with him – and really diffusing any edginess that might be there. He’s just a wonderful, fun guy.
His evil motivation is unique. He doesn’t want to rule the world. He doesn’t believe any of the supernatural stuff is real…
He just wants to find what he’s looking for so he can go home because he’s sick of being on this island.
He mentions that he wants to go home a lot.
He tries to recruit Lara to his side by asking her, “Don’t you just want to go home?”
I think that ties in with the grounded realism we were going for. He’s not a mustache-twirling supervillain. He’s a man on a mission and he just wants to get this done and go home. And that makes him an interesting villain; he doesn’t have this big scheme of taking over the world. And that also makes him scary: that he just wants the job done and if you’re in his way, you’re out of luck.
You really did take the supernatural element out of this movie. Only one character believes in it and everyone else thinks he’s crazy. I wasn’t expecting that.
But I think going with that degree of realism we were after, we didn’t want this to end in a big kind of spectacle of sci-fi and supernatural. And I think that’s why we crafted the climax a little bit in that way as well. I think we wanted to give the audience something new, and what a Tomb Raider movie can be, was important to us.
Did you watch the prior films and make notes of how you wanted this to be different?
No. Not really. I watched the original movies when they came out and really enjoyed them and Angelina’s take on Lara Croft. But when making this movie, we wanted to start fresh, so we didn’t reference the old movies at all.
I could have watched a whole movie about Lara Croft’s life in London as a bike messenger.
Yeah, thank you. We had a lot of fun finding the locations for that a crafting the story. And shooting it, that was the end of our shoot. And it was so nice to come to that after being in the blazing sun in South Africa. It suddenly felt like we were making a completely different movie.
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