Feature Article

How Tomb Raider Wound Up Doing One Thing Differently From Every Adventure Movie

No magic, no problem.

Spoilers for Tomb Raider below!

Audiences have come to expect a little supernatural flair in their adventure movies and games, from the monsters running around in Uncharted to the divine, face-melting forces in any Indiana Jones film. Even the 2013 Tomb Raider game, which rebooted the series on a more realistic path with a younger, more relatable Lara Croft, fell back on the supernatural in its final act. That's one of the things that sets the new Tomb Raider movie apart: It remains grounded in reality right up through the post-credits stinger.

Given how similar the movie is in many respects to the 2013 game, the lack of a magical climax is a major change. It makes the new Tomb Raider unique among its contemporaries, and provides a neat little twist by playing against audience expectations.

So how did it wind up this way? We asked Tomb Raider producer Graham King, who bought the rights to make this movie way back in 2010, years before the game was even released.

"We spoke about it. 'Which way should we go?' And I think if we would have had a third act that turned into that, it would have taken away from the characters that people have been watching for the last hour and 25 minutes," King told GameSpot. "It would have completely changed it. And I think you've got to be really careful in films not to change genres too much in the third act. I made a film that we did, and it didn't do too well."

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Tomb Raider could have easily gone in a different direction toward the end, and there was even some pressure for that to happen. "The studios analyze that a lot, and there were some people saying we should go with like, they all melt, the coffin opens, everything changes," King said. "There was a lot of experimental stuff at the beginning."

But "the movie doesn't end there," he continued. "She goes back to London. She goes back to her life. So how do we keep an audience buying that? If we take it too far into the supernatural or too far into these moments in the tomb turning into something unrealistic, then the audience won't be with us for the set-up of the next movie."

Tomb Raider turned out to be a pretty good action movie and a better-than-average adaptation, but King wasn't always so confident in it.

"All my paranoia from when I first bought the rights to this back in 2010, I think has paid off," he said. "All the, we can't just be a film for the gamers, it just has to stand up on its own, whether people play the Tomb Raider games or not, we have to have the right story to tell, we have to have the right actors playing these characters, and I think everything came together and it was all driven by how different this story is in a genre picture. The heart, the emotion, the father daughter story, the transformation of a girl in London who's delivering food for a living, how believable it is that she then becomes Lara Croft and goes through what she goes through to become Lara Croft."

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He said getting Alicia Vikander to play Lara Croft was one of the big victories for the movie's production. "We were kind of joking around, 'Let's go after Alicia Vikander!'" he recounted. "Well, she just played The Danish Girl. She just won the Oscar. Is she really going to want to play Lara Croft? You know? Who knew, right?"

"She worked her butt off every single day in the most extreme heat in Africa, and physically, mentally--people don't quite know how exhausting it is, they think actors, oh, they get paid a lot of money, they come and show up, and they get in front of the camera," he continued. "I mean, 15-16 hours a day for 100 days straight, is mentally draining, physically...and wow did she have it. If she didn't have the passion it would have shown. But it shows how committed she was in her performance."

Speaking of the potential for a sequel, I had one final question for King, about a small detail toward the end: Was Lord Richard Croft aware that he owned the company that was fronting for the evil organization Trinity?

"That's what we're going to have to talk about in the next one," King replied, "if we're lucky enough to make it."

Tomb Raider is in theaters now.

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mrougeau

Michael Rougeau

Mike Rougeau is GameSpot's Managing Editor of Entertainment, with over 10 years of pop culture journalism experience. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two dogs.

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