To be clear this is specifically a character study of the latest rendition of Lara Croft from the new Tomb Raider game. David had suggested I do a review of the game, but I feel like the reviews are in and there is not much to add on that point. The game is phenomenal. My biggest gripe is that it is a bit of a slow start, but once you get into the game the story just keeps building. Thus ends my review of the game, it was great, I enjoyed playing it and it felt like I was playing a movie.
Instead I want to do a character study of Lara Croft. Doing it based on this game is particularly interesting because it is an earlier Lara Croft, instead of the already established Lara. We are there when she kills her first animal, kills her first human, and watches those she knows die. She goes through so much in the game and thus, in many ways, we get a lot of glimpses at her character and her attitude. The other reason I want to discuss this topic is a reflection on some of the initial comments made by people just based on the previews for the game. Some were saying that she was just another female to be rescued and that males playing the Lara would want to rescue her because she is a hapless female. I think we need to examine this idea again after playing the whole game. (Spoilers for Tomb Raider after the jump)
In the Face of Hardship
The game starts with Lara, along with the entire film and boat crew, getting stranded on an island. The boat gets broken up and Lara runs to try and stay with everyone, but ends up alone in the ocean. Once on shore she tries to find everyone else, but while she is heading where she thinks everyone is she gets jumped and ends up tied up. Now obviously the player is controlling Lara so if the player just gave up the game would be over and it would not matter. At the same time Lara is talking about how do I get out of her. She is planning and scheming to try and figure a way out of her situation.
Early on it could be said that she tries to give up the reigns to let someone else find a way off the island. At the same time this is understandable, if you have never had to face real hardship would you want to pick up the reigns? Would you be willing to hunt and be hunted, or would you gladly let someone else take up that task? I know if there was someone else to do it I would want them to, just as Lara does. When she realizes that there is no one else, she takes up the mantle.
In the game they start her out slowly, which maybe is not like reality, but makes sense for playing a game. When learning to fight we do not start by killing other people because just starting out Lara would not have experience killing people. It is an idea she has to build to a bit. Starting out she hunts game, deer, in order to get food to survive. She is understandable shaken early on about everything that is happening, but it takes a lot of strength for her to continue on in the face of the immense danger she faces around every corner.
As the story continues Lara grows in strength, power, and, most importantly, confidence. She finds her stride and begins not just defending herself, but fighting back. She seeks out opportunities to trip up the bad guys plans, partly because they want to kill her friend, but I think also because they are just bad people. She has made a stand of what she is willing to do to survive. There is another character that plays along with the mad men, because his life is more important to him and he just wants to survive. If you survive, but lose your humanity is there any point to your survival.
With her increased confidence Lara becomes the leader. Even though it is a bit of a rocky claim to leadership at first because she is young and just out of school, why should those more experienced follow her lead. Especially when the direction she wants to take them seems pretty crazy, further in toward the bad guys. At the same time she does not back down and is willing to steal the only working ship they have found because she is so confident in her belief for what they need to do. She goes from a lost girl struggling to find her way and becomes a hero.
Strong Female Character
So back to one of the questions that people had about Lara Croft from the previews was her being a female in need of protection, which is totally false. Just as anyone who had never faced life and death situations before would be shaken, so is Lara at first. She has a very sane reaction to the situation that befalls her. She came on an adventure, but really ended up with more than she bargained for. She could have complained, said this is not what I signed up for, etc, but instead she keeps moving and the experience makes her stronger.
Lara Croft is a great example of a good female character because she is a character with depth. She is not overly strong or weak for no apparent reason. She is a person dealing with extraordinary circumstances. She has a view point on the circumstances she is in and even takes the lead at moments. It is great to see the development of Lara Croft into the badass that she becomes.