Derek Johnson Muses

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Batman to Tomb Raider: a New Lara Croft

I recently have been reading Tales from Development Hell by David Hughes, who recounts the struggles of some recent high profile films that got made and some that didn’t, even after ten years of  false starts and rewriting. One that particularly interests me is the miserable Lara Croft series. There seemed to be two opinions from the people who worked on making the two films in the early 2000’s: one, there was something more to the adventuress than most video game characters, and two, no one has any idea on how to make it a good film. But here’s my shot.

Most video games don’t translate we’ll as films. Sometimes, you do get a Resident Evil franchise, which has its cult fans but makes no impact beyond the younger, tone-deaf crowd. But Croft is a character that is familiar, even if she’s an Indiana Jones rip-off. The modern cinema is riff with familiar but remodeled characters. You just have to follow the right model.

If it were me, I’d look at Lara the way Christopher Nolan looked at Batman, or the way the 1960’s were re-imagined through Don Draper. The ideal woman to play Croft would be someone with a mix of skills, toughness, intelligence, and woundedness. Instead of Megan Fox, I would write with Maggie Gyllenhaal in mind. And I wouldn’t make her someone who had to be a mean girl, but who just happened to be so.

For the story, I would start with a small flashback with Lara as a 12 year-old girl with her father and/or mother, right upon recovery of an artifact. Then a villain comes in and steals the artifact and kills Lara’s parent(s), leaving her with a fragment of the artifact, like a “penny”. Then, after flashing forward to an introductory action sequence, I’d show her in England, teaching children.

In the mid-point of the film, I’d insert a male lead who has been betrayed by the villain, and who Lara is forced to trust, but doesn’t trust. The plot would be about finding artifact which the “penny” would fit into, opening the door to another world, and thus, Lara finding out what her parent(s) died for. And strongly consider an ending akin to Casino Royale, with (spoiler alert) Lara’s love interest dying to save her towards the end of the film.

Driving the main points in the script would be character, choices, and the question of who Lara would be in real life.  I don’t know if this approach would yield a great movie, but it would minimize the risk of an embarrassing failure. If a serious movie fails, no one cares. When an action comedy fail, it can look horrid. Just look at The Killers; Ashton Kutcher had to go back to TV after that. Or consider the first Batman franchise. Probably wont happen but I can dream.

Lady Croft, I presume?

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