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14 May 2014 @ 01:58 pm
2013: Lara Croft, Before and After  

So the last couple days I've been in a Tomb Raider mood, and that got me thinking about the 2013 reboot. I enjoyed the game a lot, but something about it had always felt a little off, in particular something about Lara's characterization. It'd been bothering me since the game came out, but I only fully realized what bothered me about it a few days ago.

In her original backstory, (as described in the booklet for the very first game) Lara is the wealthy, pampered daughter of an aristocratic family. After surviving a plane crash that leaves her stranded in the Himalayas, she finds herself profoundly changed, and discovers that the danger and excitement of cheating death makes her feel more alive than anything she's ever felt. She enjoys it; enjoys it so much that in the first game's opening, after a collector tries to buy her treasure-finding services, she replies that she "only plays for sport."

In the years since, her origins have been altered and ret-conned a number of times, but all of them have contained that original core, portraying a Lara who despite whatever difficulty or pain she's put through on her adventures, still sees them as adventures; a character for whom the thrill of "tomb raiding" is such that she's going to keep coming back to it, regardless of how uncomfortable it might be at times.

This is a sentiment entirely lacking in the 2013 game. This Lara survives a series of brutal, traumatic, and increasingly horrible events, and finds herself capable of things (good and bad) she never expected. But even in her occasional moments of triumph, we never really get the feeling that she actually likes anything she's doing.

For old-school Lara jumping pits, outrunning boulders, escaping falling platforms-- basically anything that pits her against death-- that all excited her, was something she got a kick out of. But for this new Lara, that's stuff that frightens, hurts, and exhausts her; sure, it drives her, but only in the survival-sense.

Both the original and the reboot origin-stories begin with her surviving a traumatic event that leaves her too changed to go back to her former life; but in the end old Lara keeps going because she honestly loves at least part of what she's doing; reboot-Lara keeps going because it seems the only thing she can do.

So as interesting and well-acted as this new Lara is, she's missing that one aspect that-- even over several decades and multiple incarnations-- has always made Lara, Lara.

 
 
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Evachikalita on May 22nd, 2014 01:29 am (UTC)
Hi Olivia,

WOW your sentiments are exactly what I've been feeling! My sister gave me a copy of the game over Steam a few months ago. When I got around to playing it I was a bit heartbroken. This isn't the Lara I grew up with! It felt a bit like she was tripping into adventures, not storming headfirst into them.
Oliviaswanwhite on May 30th, 2014 04:21 pm (UTC)
Hey there! I was kind of stunned to get a message from a real person, I'd assumed there was no one left on here, at least not anywhere near my old circle.

As far as "tripping" into adventures, the new game opens very suddenly and in a rather horrific manner, so I get Lara being frightened and overwhelmed at first. Up to her first fire-building, and her first hunt etc. the weakness and fear is believable. But her reaction should change at some point, and while 2013 Lara does change, she changes by growing HARDER. Old-school Lara would come to realize she doesn't have to harden herself because, harrowing as her experiences have been, she's actually feeding off them, not being broken by them. By the time she reaches the top of that radio tower, she should have come to a point where she's excited not just for surviving, or even for reaching her goal, but should actually be revelling in experience of the climb itself.

The developers are quoted as saying that they wanted you to be protective of her, and I feel they tried to make her more relatable, more "human". But Lara was never relatable. Most people don't find near-death experiences exciting, or want to suffer through cold, hunger, and exhaustion, or have the will or interest to push themselves to anything realistically akin to her (superhuman) athleticism. Furthermore, few people even really understand their passions, let alone live them. Yet as unorthodox as Lara's passions are, she's found them, has the time and the means and the desire to fully immerse herself in them, and is relishing every minute of it. There's nothing "relatable" in that. Rather, there's something inspirational.

I think new Lara represents the most common means of facing challenges and traumas; of breaking, and re-making in a changed shape, and surviving to live on, scars and all. I've experienced enough myself to know that I have the strength to get through things and survive; but I've never been able to OWN what I go through. The old Lara has been through a lot, but it's never gotten the better of her. She's used it for her own ends from the first, bent it to her, made it part of her, and she partakes in it with almost ridiculous joi de vivre. Old-school Lara is in control of her own suffering; she transmutes it into herself until it's a part of her. She wasn't truly CHANGED by her experiences; rather SHE changed events to suit herself, and discovered herself through them, and I miss that about the new one.

Edited at 2014-05-30 06:48 pm (UTC)