I am still pretty riled up about the Tomb Raider movie. It has been two weeks and my disdain for Roar Uthaug’s take on Lara Croft is getting moodier by the day. As a Tomb Raider fan, I understand my moaning is coming from a place of wounded pride – as the gaming series I cherish gets thrown to the public and chewed up by critics. However, as I removed myself from the critique of the movie as a fan, I realised that the main flaws that Tomb Raider suffered can be traced back to a lot of other big blockbuster movies right now.
To me, Tomb Raider was a movie with the passion pulled out of it. That is a pretty abominable crime coming from someone who wants to see a Tomb Raider lovingly choreographed and pieced together. From the outside perspective, it is pretty inventive with Lara reworked from a bored aristocrat, to an adrenaline-seeking twenty-something, driven by an instinct of survival and wit, rather than an elegant coolness. While some fans don’t like the original hero touched, this I do not mind. Someone taking the time to break Lara apart and piece her back together in an attempt to see what makes her tick is not something to complain about in my book. But there is one problem with Uthaug’s Croft: the game rebooted her first. Uthaug’s movie is so heavily based off of the game that that spark of imagination really is gone. It feels like a fan film with a budget far above its station; Uthaug has rebuilt the game in his image, not quite grasping that USP that the audiences wanted to see. And the end result feels slightly hollow. To me, Tomb Raider feels like a production company realising that Lara Croft was breaking out of its sexist origins and embodying a feminist persona, so it became worth trying to make a buck out of. Tomb Raider feels like a forgery of the game, rather than a piece of art within itself. Uthaug is trying to please a production company out to be the owners of the next big feminist movie, or perhaps franchise-maker. I wouldn’t be surprised if the director never really thought about making a Tomb Raider movie until the job was handed over to him.
The same can be said for quite a few movies out there. These days, production companies are in the habit of buying up rights, before thinking about how they can make them. Joss Whedon recently walked out of a Batgirl movie because he was given the job, before he had that spark of creativity. He stepped away, because, in being forced to get those creative juices flowing, the narrative process was stifled and tainted. The 50 Shades Movies were handed to every actor and director who wanted the job – passing hands more often than a relay baton – because a production company wanted to cash in on the success of the book. No one thought to themselves one day that a 50 Shades movie would be a good idea. It was a decision completely based on money. DC are the big examples. In trying to chase the money that the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), is making, they have forgotten to actually think up what they are doing before they do it. Hence the disposable villains, the convoluted plots and the smattering ideas, rather than a formulated narrative. These are film-makers with guns to their heads, rather than imaginative film-makers, filled with ideas. Whenever a new film or remake gets mentioned, our first thoughts are that they are going to be another example of greedy franchise-consuming: Fast and Furious spin-offs, Lion King, The Grinch…
But the thing is I am not against franchises. I love them. I love that Marvel Studios have found a platform to tell these amazing stories about beloved heroes. I love that Star Wars has finally got its act together. But the thing is that the story-tellers need to think up the story, before they jump on a franchise. I want the next Tomb Raider movie to be made by a director walking into a room with a power-point presentation and pitching the hell out of why he is the right man for the job. Why he has a story that needs to be told! I want people to fight to get these projects out there. DC need to stop modelling themselves on Marvel and look to Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man. He was a nerdy director who really, really wanted to make a Spider-Man movie and convinced a studio to finance his creation. Look at Ryan Reynolds battling through an exhausting amount of red tape to get us the Deadpool film that he believed should be made. The MCU have it right, because they find those passionate directors. They let the likes of Ryan Coogler turn their next movie into a celebration of black culture, because it enthuses his film with a bursting amount of creativity. As much as I disliked Thor: Ragnarok, it wasn’t a dull movie, because director Taika Wahiti cherished every moment of making it. Essentially, I want every director making a film right now to re-evaluate why they are making the film they are making. And that is how we can avoid flops like Tomb Raider happening again.