Tom Raider (2018) starring Alicia Vikander

Tom Raider (2018) starring Alicia Vikander

Full disclosure, I’ve never played a Tomb Raider game in my life.  But I remember when the original movies came out; and I’ve been told numerous times that its protagonist, Lara Croft, is practically Lady Indiana Jones.  This film has piqued my curiosity ever since I started getting ads for it on Instagram. 😀

Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft

Recently, I tried watching the original 2001 Tomb Raider film with Angelina Jolie.  I found the first 20 minutes of it to be thoroughly unpleasant.  I ended up skipping over several uncomfortable minutes of straight-up objectification of Lara Croft’s unnervingly Barbie-like physique before I gave up entirely.  (She can look like whatever she pleases; what I take issue with is the objectification.)  This aspect of Lara’s presentation seemed to overshadow the archeological quest premise they were leading into — which sounded incredibly silly. The Illuminati, really?  Perhaps kitsch and camp are elements retained from the videogames; I wouldn’t know, but as a new viewer with a background in Indiana Jones movies, I wasn’t buying it.

 

The 2018 version made me feel a lot better. Tall, gangling Alicia Vikander strikes me as a much more respectable and respectful Lara.  By that, I mean she is portrayed in a way that respects women, and she is also a character who grows throughout the film to command respect.

The film introduces Lara as a young woman earning minimum wage as a bicycle courier in London; her father, Lord Richard Croft, been missing for the past seven years, but Lara refuses to presume him dead as the rest of the world has, thus depriving herself of a tremendous inheritance.  A series of unfortunate events convinces her to sign the papers acknowledging her father’s death and finally accepting her inheritance: the first item from it being an ancient puzzle box from her father.

This puzzle box unlocks a sequence of clues pointing to the circumstances of Lord Richard’s disappearance: his lifelong quest for the mythical tomb of the Japanese Queen Himiko, legendary for her ability to kill whole armies with the touch of her hand!  Lara travels the world to find her father’s last known location, find that tomb, and (of course) raid it.

The character lives on the wild side, but her initial, introductory exploits and conflicts seem more real-worldly.  Everything is so grounded.  This is clearly a serious adventure film, dare I say a grittier, genderbent Indiana Jones film — a delightful contrast to the pulpy content viewers accepted in 2001.

While Jolie’s Croft was apparently well on in her tomb-raiding years, Vikander’s Croft is young, naive, and vulnerable.  This is her origin story on a personal level just as much as it’s an introduction to this iteration of her character, so as a viewer I found her much easier to connect with.  In this Lara Croft’s character development arc, there are moments where I expected cinematic drama, but instead, events played out with a lot less pizzazz; with real-world emotional responses like subtle, numb shock when she is made to confront her father’s alleged killer.  Unlike the typical problematic “strong female characters” of the modern age, Lara is neither overemotional to the point of weakness, nor an overcompensating half-Vulcan.

Lara, with an iconic weapon: a bow and arrows

There are, however, plenty of other moments that played out like a videogame might, where liberties are thrillingly taken with the laws of physics.  Lara’s athleticism is explained away by an active lifestyle back home, working as a bicycle courier during the day and boxing recreationally.   But falling into a river from the height she did halfway through the film would probably kill someone!

Like a 3D model in a videogame, Lara only sustains so many superficial injuries as is aesthetically pleasing; and yet, there are moments where it’s clear she’s trudging on despite the obvious pain she’s in.  As this movie is based on a computer game, I’m not complaining too much.  Unrealistic physics is far better “fan service” to the gamer demographic than what the 2001 movie had to offer.

The movie ends on a very satisfying note, yet it leaves just enough room for continuation without sounding desperate.  What sets this Lara’s story apart from that of her male counterpart, Indiana Jones, is how her quest resolves itself in (pseudo)science, while Indy is shown that in his world, supernatural “hocus pocus” is real.  That was a plus for me, as I don’t enjoy supernatural, spiritual content in films.

Overall, I enjoyed this relatively wholesome film adaptation of a videogame franchise I’ve never played.  Alicia Vikander, to me, is Lara Croft as she should be for the new generation of gamers, geeks, and little girls who could use a more relatable globe-trotting hero to go alongside Indiana Jones.

Back to the Future, Re-Imagined for Young Readers

Back to the Future, Re-Imagined for Young Readers

I received a free copy of this book from Beyond the Marquee, as part of a giveaway they ran in collaboration with Quirk Books.

Back to the Future is one of my favorite sci-fi / time travel movie franchises of all time.  (Sorry, Doctor Who, but you’d best stick to television.)  The three-part film series follows the intertemporal exploits of eighties-born teenager Marty McFly and his mad scientist mentor “Doc” Emmet Brown in their time-traveling DeLorean — because if you’re going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?  (I happen to think phone boxes are fairly non-heinous myself, but nobody asked me…)

There are a few reasons why the original film (and then its sequel) might not be ideal for viewing by the youngest members of a family.  It’s rated PG-13 for good reason, and its sequels venture into even darker territory.  But great Scott! Worry not, because the first installment of the Back to the Future film trilogy is now available in storybook form, re-imagined for an audience of children (or collectors who are children at heart).

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Art credit: Kim Smith

Back to the Future, written and illustrated by Kim Smith, is just one volume in the POP Classics storybook series from Quirk Books.  Other titles include Home Alone, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The X-Files, sources that range from family-friendly to made the kids hide behind the couch in terms of mature or disturbing content.  At first glance, Kim Smith’s charmingly whimsical illustrations and the easy-to-read blocks of text stand out as incredibly kid-friendly.  The story is condensed in all the right places for optimum G-rated-ness (the scene where Biff attacks Lorraine during prom night is handled particularly effectively), and then some to improve the flow.

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Art credit: Kim Smith

At my age, with no one to read it to, I enjoyed occasionally chuckling at what and how the book abridged, and marveling over the resplendent little details Smith included in the pictures.  Just because they aren’t talked about doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  I’m also very impressed that someone had the great idea of making these very mature fandoms palatable to a young audience. (Do I like the potential consequence that now these kids will be more inclined to consume the original, less kid-friendly media in the future?  Not as much.)

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Art credit: Kim Smith

Adults can’t be expected to immerse themselves fulltime in the Teletubby fandom alongside the toddlers in their lives.  Sometimes they’re going to turn on the TV and watch something more grownup-appropriate, coincidentally in front of their children.  And kids are perceptive and inquisitive, so you may find yourself having to explain the premise of a show that’s waaaay over their heads.  In that respect, I feel it’s especially good for younger kids who clearly have some exposure to “grownup” fandoms they don’t fully understand.

I think POP Classic storybooks like Back to the Future are a great way parents or older siblings can bond with the young, aspiring geeks in their lives.  The story is told in a cute, quirky, kid-friendly way, but due to its novelty factor, the book can surely be appreciated at any age.

 

What movie or television series would you like to see adapted into a children’s book?  Let us know in a comment down below!

Dazzling Gleam Cosplay Music Video [Pokemon Cosplay Group – Katsucon 2018]

Dazzling Gleam Cosplay Music Video [Pokemon Cosplay Group – Katsucon 2018]

Cosplay Showcase featuring cosplayers MidgeScully, NatalieFuinha, MinktheSatyr, and RemembertheFaceCosplay. Footage was shot from Katsucon 2018

Follow them on Instagram at:
Jigglypuff – @MidgeScully
Mawile – @NatalieFuinha
Mimikyu – @MinktheSatyr
Whimsicott – @RemembertheFaceCosplay

Want your own cosplay showcase? Contact William at william@geekkind.tv for availability and rates