Tomb Raider: How Lara Croft Left the ’90s Behind | NowThis

Is it 'Laura' or is it 'Lara?' Laura? Lara? Lara Croft! Hello adventurers, I’m Andrew, and beyond the ‘Tomb Raider’ games, I’ve always been fascinated by Lara Croft and what she means to the entire industry Is she a trailblazer for women in games? A badass, take-no-bullshit action hero from a time where most female characters were eye-candy or damsels in distress? Or is she a relic from a bygone era where games were marketed solely to sweaty adolescent males? It’s a complicated question, and one you can only really answer by looking at Lara’s 22-year history, and seeing how she’s evolved along with the times

So before checking out the new movie, I want to talk about How Lara Left the ‘90s Behind Lara Croft wears a lot of hats Well, not literally, but she’s an archaeologist, a movie star, a spokeswoman, but most importantly, she’s a video game character, so that’s where we’ll start Let’s talk about The Games ‘Tomb Raider’ was birthed by a British game developer called Core Design who made their name on solid but unremarkable side-scrollers When it came time to make the leap to 3D, They came up with an archaeological adventure involving lush jungles ancient ruins, a bunch of wolves, and treacherous traps, gorgeously rendered with three, yes three, whole megabytes of RAM

I miss the '90s Oh, this is great! At 300 megahertz and 16 megs of RAM, I can– Dexter, honey You're boring us again, sweetie Oh, sorry It was a great concept, now they just needed a character

Artist Toby Gard’s first concept was a whip-cracking male protagonist in a fedora, which was nixed pretty-much instantaneously, although for the life of me I can’t imagine why No ticket They toyed with the idea of having two playable heroes, A man and a woman, but Core killed that for two reasons: One, it would literally double their workload, and two, Gard was a big fan of ‘Virtua Fighter,’ and he noticed that players gravitated way more towards the female warriors Inspired by the comic book character ‘Tank Girl,’ and a Swedish singer named Neneh Cherry, Gard came up with a badass South American mercenary named Laura Cruz Core and their parent company Eidos knew they had a winner, but they balked on the name at the last minute

Worried that it wouldn’t appeal to their US and UK audiences, they changed her to the very British Lara Croft, and added an aristocratic background and posh personality

I woke up this morning and I just hated everythingRight

Thanks It’s a bummer to think about what might have been, having an awesome South American mercenary kicking ass and taking names, but when ‘Tomb Raider’ released in 1996, it was a huge hit regardless The game itself looks pretty primitive today Seriously, I played it over the weekend in preparation for this video, and let's just say the cutting edge visuals are a janky, jaggy mess, and the grid-based gameplay just doesn’t hold up next to Super Mario 64, which came out just six weeks earlier Here we go! The game sold on the strength of its protagonist, and the tiny resolution of the 32-bit consoles couldn’t contain her for long

Soon, Lara was Raiding the Real World Let's do this Yes, ma'am Let’s nip this in the bud right now, there was never a nude code, and no, Lara’s chest size didn’t come out of a practical joke by the developers Those were just urban legends, 1990s urban legends Homer, that's just an urban legend

People don't do that type of thing with fish but they just go to show that sex appeal was a huge part of Lara’s popularity, and the marketing exploited it at every opportunity Does mom know about this? I can't put into words how cringey and embarassing it is to see a centerfold where the model is made of 540 polygons, It's freakin' weird! It's just weird But in the ‘90s, that was apparently enough I'll tell ya something, I hate the freakin' '90s

'90s freakin' sucked '90s freakin' sucked Lara appeared on magazine covers, music videos, and commercials for everything from sports cars to credit cards Gaming culture has changed a lot since then, but even back in the day, people were rightfully calling out Lara’s objectification and impossible proportions, and I’m not talking about her neck Zing! That's a poster joke! Show 'em the poster! Toby Gard didn’t create Lara to be a bikini model and shill energy drinks, she’s an archaeologist, a historian

She’d rather be cracking the books, or at least dinosaur skulls, not gushing over wedding dresses Gard had no control over the character he created, and when Eidos ignored his issues with the marketing, he left the company shortly after the first game That didn’t stop the gravy train from rolling, though, peaking with the release of Lara’s first film in 2001 I don’t want to get too much into the old movies here, because we’re gonna do a deep dive on our show ‘Cut/Scene’ once the new one comes out, You should watch it! But as far as game adaptations go, you could do a lot worse They made Angelina Jolie an action superstar, and today, they’re still goofy, fun, turn-of-the-millenium popcorn flicks

But when the sequel, ‘Cradle of Life,’ bombed, it marked a decline in Lara’s popularity that took her years to recover from After 9 main games and two movies, she needed more than a reboot She needed Raider Rejuvenation After the first game in ‘96 Core Design pumped out a sequel every year, for four years Laugh with me! [LAUGHING] The graphics and controls improved, and new features like driving and rope-swinging helped keep things interesting, but the formula was becoming stale, and Core was getting sick of Lara Croft

That’s why they killed her off at the end of ‘The Last Revelation,’ only to bring her back for her PS2 debut with no explanation ‘Angel of Darkness’ was a big flop, so Eidos handed off the IP to a new dev team, who rebooted the franchise for the first time with ‘Tomb Raider: Legend’ Not a ton changed, Lara’s family was a little more fleshed out, and she got a slightly-more modest makeover to bring her more in line with, y’know, the laws of physics But the new trilogy failed to rekindle that old magic The times had changed, and Lara was starting to feel like a fossil from a bygone age

When Lara first debuted, 90% of the video game audience was male, but as the medium expanded and more women and girls discovered the joys of gaming, the community outgrew the cheesecake style Lara became a joke, a trope, a caricature, even the new Jumanji movie has a character who basically exists just to point out how dumb and impractical her outfit was Why am I wearing this outfit in a jungle? Tiny little shorts and leather halter top, I mean, what is this?! When Final Fantasy developers Square-Enix purchased Eidos in 2009, along with the rights to ‘Tomb Raider’ they quickly started on another series reboot One that would have a heavy emphasis on realism, survival, and the brutality of the wilderness

And one that feels suspiciously similar to an 'Uncharted' game Which is funny considering that you can make the argument that 'Uncharted' ripped off Lara Croft, so who should we be mad at? Ladies first

Haha Cute To usher in the new era, Squeenix gave Lara a top-to-bottom redesign, that evokes the classic tank and short-shorts look, but makes a lot more sense for a serious island expedition Her new face was based on model Megan Farquhar, with a voice and motion-capture performance from Camilla Luddington, giving weight to Lara’s actions and emotion This is a younger, less-experienced Lara, before she becomes a tomb raider

I hate tombs! she’s not a gunslinger, she’s a grad student, who’s never even killed a human, let alone a giant Samurai ghost She feels like a real person stuck in an impossible situation, like John McClain or Ellen Ripley Her vulnerability doesn’t stop her from being a badass, it just makes her survival even more impressive And it's cool, because you get to play that, and you get to feel that, and it feels so much better than the original games The rebooted Lara is grounded and relatable, just like the characters who inspired her, and the ones she paved the way for

Samus Aran might have been one of the first female protagonists in games, but Lara Croft quickly became the poster child As flawed as her original portrayal was, she still broke new ground in a male-dominated medium, and modern heroes like Aloy, Chloe Frasier, Bayonetta, and more owe her a huge debt We’re finally starting to see some equality in our action heroes, both in game and on the big screen, and no matter how you feel about it, let's be real, we really need it In the new ‘Tomb Raider’ movie, based heavily on the 2013 game, Alicia Vikander joins the ranks of Tessa Thompson, Danai Gurira, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron, and dozens of other trailblazing women who are kicking down the doors of the action movie genre At the end of the day, I don’t know if Lara’s original incarnation hurts the cause or helps it, but that’s the past

Lara’s managed to do what so many ‘90s relics couldn’t: she changed with the times, and evolved into a hero the entire gaming world can be proud of CTA Hey everyone, thanks for watching I’m really excited about the new Tomb Raider movie, And I wanna know what your favorite version of Lara is The original 32-bit era? The Angelina Jolie version? The 2013 reboot? Let me know in the comments, And please subscribe to NTN

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