Break­ing the curse

Could this year’s Tomb Raider be the first great video-game movie?

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TOMB RAIDER IS a big deal for Nor­we­gian di­rec­tor Roar Uthaug. He’s made fea­tures be­fore, but only in his na­tive tongue — this Lara Croft re­boot, star­ring Ali­cia Vikan­der, is his first big stu­dio pic­ture. And if that didn’t in­vite enough pres­sure, he also has to con­tend with the is­sue that there’s never been a good film based on a game. But he thinks he knows how to crack it.

“It’s about mak­ing the char­ac­ter the fo­cus,” he says. “It’s about what she ex­pe­ri­ences, and not just ac­tion for ac­tion’s sake. I love how they made Lara Croft vul­ner­a­ble in the game, and that’s some­thing we’re bring­ing to the movie. But there’s lots of great stuff in the game that’s in­spired us — the au­then­tic­ity and the grit­ti­ness. That’s some­thing you haven’t seen in a Tomb Raider movie be­fore.”

“The game” is the 2013 Tomb Raider, it­self a re­boot, which showed Lara’s first ad­ven­ture where she learned the tombraid­ing skills with which we’re all so fa­mil­iar. Ship­wrecked on an is­land off the coast of Ja­pan, she’s at­tacked by the is­land’s in­hab­i­tants and dis­cov­ers there are su­per­nat­u­ral go­ings-on. It’s that story that’s the jump­ing-off point for this film.

Film­ing started last Jan­uary in

South Africa, with the cast and crew spend­ing months in and around the pic­turesque Cape Winelands dur­ing the south­ern hemi­sphere’s sum­mer.

By the time Em­pire vis­its the set, they’ve re­lo­cated. To Wat­ford. And it’s pour­ing with rain. But — and thank good­ness for small mer­cies — they’re shoot­ing in­side today. As a tes­ta­ment to the more story-first vi­sion of this ver­sion, the scene we wit­ness is re­fresh­ingly down-to-earth, with Lara en­joy­ing mu­sic in her east Lon­don apart­ment.

Which doesn’t mean to say there’s no ac­tion in the film. “All the re­sources are nice. It means you can dream big­ger. We had a big boat on a gi­ant gim­ble, with rain tow­ers, wind ma­chines and wa­ter can­nons. We also shot at the Olympic raft­ing course in Lea Val­ley. We threw Ali­cia down the course with her hands tied. But she never com­plains. You’re used to see­ing her in cos­tume dra­mas, but she can fight. She’s just fe­ro­cious.”

Strong char­ac­ters, great ac­tion and a well-cast star: three good rea­sons to be ex­cited. Curse? What curse?


We braved the rain with Roar Uthaug at Leaves­den on 6 June, then met again in Lon­don on 17 Novem­ber.

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