The internet has engaged in a lively Lara Croft versus Katniss Everdeen debate for years, comparing their looks, their outfits, and musing over who would win in a fight.
I’m not here to pit one woman against another, especially because these two are so alike that they would be way more powerful together than as nemeses. And in the new Tomb Raider, starring Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft, the video game heroine is even more reminiscent of her imagined Hunger Games competitor than ever before.
As all of the marketing materials for Tomb Raider reveals, Vikander’s Lara Croft doesn’t have the same buxom shape as the video game rendering of her character or her franchise predecessor, Angelina Jolie. (For the record, Jolie admitted that she had a little help achieving that aspect of the look.)
Vikander joked about shirking the typical look while keeping Lara’s personality on The Graham Norton Show in February. “My breasts are not as pointy as the first Lara, but I had a clear vision of how I wanted to play her,” she said.
And how she wanted to play her was more like Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss, apparently. The newest rendition of Lara is strong and capable — and not in the overused “Strong Female Character” sense; she’s physically strong, someone who finds herself in damning situations and then scrapes together ways to get out of them.
Tomb Raider also introduces a Lara who is sensibly dressed for raiding tombs in shapeless cargo pants and a dirty old tank top. Just like Katniss, she’s more comfortable in practical garb than she is modeling a fire dress or booty shorts. And then there’s the most obvious comparison of all: both women cite a bow and arrow as their weapon of choice.
But the resemblance goes beyond these superficial identifiers and into their characters, as they both push the limits of who they are in the name of their loved ones.
Presented as an origin story, Tomb Raider rewrites what we learned from the 2001 iteration. The film introduces Lara as she’s losing a fight at a boxing gym, where she’s failing to pay her dues and stealing apples for sustenance. The scrappy star goes from the ring straight to her lackluster job as a bike courier, and it seems she is getting by on grit alone.
Cut to a few scenes later when we learn that Lara is poised to inherit her exceedingly wealthy father’s fortune, who has been presumed dead by everyone except his daughter after he went missing seven years ago. Lara’s about to throw in the towel and sign paperwork declaring him dead — thus allowing her to inherit the family fortune and business — when she’s presented with a puzzle from her father that was to be given to her upon his death. This is our first glimpse of Lara’s incredible mind. She quickly solves this ancient puzzle and finds her father’s secret office, revealing to her his clandestine life of securing ancient artifacts.
Motivated by the possibility that she could find her dad, Lara ignores the instructions he left for her to destroy his work and instead follows the dangerous trail he left behind.
A clever, strong woman entering danger in the name of her family? That sounds familiar.
Still, whereas The Hunger Games started as a trilogy of novels, Tomb Raider hailed from a ’90s video game, and that’s a difference worth noting since the movie subtly moves in a video game-like progression.
Rather than banking on luck or hope, Lara survives a series of raids that require quick thinking and extraordinary physical feats. In one such scene, Lara falls into a river and is rushing toward a certain-death waterfall, but at the very last moment, with her hands bound together, she grabs onto a rusted old airplane and save herself — until that airplane starts to break down and fall too. I won’t spoiling the ending, but you can imagine the triangle-circle-circle-cross combos that would be required to save her.
The things Lara needs — weapons, allies, hidden buttons — she finds along the way because she keeps her eyes peeled, just like Katniss does in the arena. She makes choices in that choose-your-own-adventure kind of way, and sometimes she can’t move on until she solves a puzzle with the clock ticking. But ultimately, it’s her character that determines her ability to survive. And just like the trailer says, she’s a survivor.
Tomb Raider hits theaters Friday, March 16.1 of 1