30 January 2013

Kate Sykes is a dedicated Tomb Raider fan and avid Lara Croft cosplayer. She's also incredibly talented; pursuing her dreams as filmmaker, writer, cosplayer, video editor and photographer. You can follow her adventures through her Facebook Page! In the Tomb Raider community she continuously helps promote new projects and provides much needed encouragement and inspiration. Below is an awesome article she wrote regarding the creativity of the community...

Since its first release as a Playstation 1 game in 1996, Tomb Raider and its enigmatic lead character, Lara Croft, have been a great source of inspiration for an enormous variety of interpretation and personal expression. From being portrayed by a gymnast to an extreme sports adventurer, to being reinvented and having her story told many times and ways through the screen and on paper.

As the Tomb Raider franchise is being re-imagined in the new game to come out this year, this article explores the many other reincarnations and perceptions of Lara from the people she inspired.

Cosplay (costume play) is a great and unique way to embody the character. It encompasses a variety of skills to bring it to life. Constructing costumes, props and photoshoots - choosing surroundings which bring more depth to the visualisation, enabling you to create a moment that draws the viewer in - bridging the gap between modelling and film acting.

Jenn Finaldi from California is one of the most famous Lara Croft cosplayers in the world. She is an adventurer, stunt woman and personal fitness trainer. Her many skills include base jumping, sky diving, stunt combat, fire arms, rock climbing and abseiling - a lot of which she uses to bring the action side of Lara to life excellently.

As well as that, in 2005, she starred in a short Tomb Raider stunt fan film called "Banes Relic: Staking Claim" in which she showcased her impressive skills in martial arts.

Several countries have presented their own fan films over the years, with many different, interesting takes on Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider story.

"Tomb Raider Ascension" is a fan film that was made in 2007 by British filmmaker, Stephen Reynolds. The non-profit film was made as a showcase for its production company, AquilaTV. The production had a completely professional cast, all of whom volunteered their services. I was lucky enough to attend the premiere, and I was very impressed with the level of the film's quality. Anna Tyrie portrays a damaged Lara, who has a difficult and emotional journey to become the hardened heroine she is today.

It's a moving story, that explores more deeply her roots and family relationships. As well as the story's different approach, Anna brings a vulnerability to the role superbly along with a very different look for Lara. Writer/director and cast have been recognised world wide in the Tomb Raider community since the film's online release in 2008. Anna still receives fan mail for her performance in the film.

Before the world premiere, Eidos (Tomb Raider publisher) initially took interest in the film but eventually couldn't commit.

Hollywood delivered its take on Lara's story in 2001 - a year after the release of the final game in the Playstation 1 series. The leading role was famously portrayed by Angelina Jolie (who many people now associate with the character).

A new direction was taken with Lara's character including a new look - which was significantly influenced by Angelina herself. She wore mainly black throughout the film and her general wardrobe had a rock and roll twist. This reflected an edginess to her personality, as she also appeared more youthful and wild.

Lara no longer works alone and now has tech assistant, Bryce (Noah Taylor) and re-imagined butler, Hillary (Chris Barry).

The film also introduced a love interest into Lara's life with American Tomb Raider, Alex West (Daniel Craig). Both as restrained as each other - neither one of them admitting the feelings they had toward one and other - nothing developed from it. The truth of Lara's feelings were revealed towards the end of the film when Alex's life is at stake. We also briefly saw an emotional side to Lara for the first time when she grieves the loss of her father on the anniversary of his death.

Two years on, a second film arrived: "Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life". The first film was the start of bringing more humanity to Lara; no longer as invincible, she could bleed and be beaten, though it was still very much like a game character in live form.

In The Cradle of Life, her humanity was explored in greater depth in terms of her emotions. This was particularly shown in the relationship between Lara and ex military mercenary, Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler) - in which Lara's romantic side was also explored more than before.

Her character had a considerable amount of growth in the second film, in that she was more grounded. This made her feel a lot more real. There was also a feminine elegance about her - which again added realism, particularly with regard to her upbringing.

Over the years, Tomb Raider publishers have hired official models or "live-action Lara Crofts" to promote the games. There have been 7 internationally - traditionally one for each new game - and 2 locally hired to help promote the games in their countries: Ellen Roche (Brazil 2000 - 2001) and Diana Maria Dorow (Germany 2002 - 2010). Each model had an individual look to suit the ever changing looks of Lara throughout the games, and as it was policy for the models not to speak while in character, the portrayal relied purely on costume and movement.

Actress, Rhona Mitra was the first to officially take on the role for the release of the second game in 1997. Then followed model and upcoming fitness personality, Nell McAndrew in 1998. The job mainly consisted of touring around the world on promotional appearances and doing photoshoots. Through this, we saw many different styles and signature qualities the models brought to the role. As the game character became more realistic and her movements became more fluid (due to the advancements in technology), so the models performances evolved.

It wasn't until the time of the sixth model for Tomb Raider Legend and Anniversary - when model/actress, Karima Adebibe came to the role - that it was decided to have a fuller embodiment of the character. Karima was the first speaking Lara Croft, and underwent extensive training to become a "real Lara Croft". She took courses in fire arms and combat (for which she trained with the SAS), elocution and deportment, and got a motorcycle licence.

Then for Tomb Raider Underworld, for the 7th and what would be the final official Lara Croft model, the standards heightened. This time, a different approach was taken with the auditions - focusing on the authenticity of the skills Lara had in the games, and had women with various different specialities and talents that were suitable for the role - including martial artists, kick boxers, traceurs ("Parkour" practitioners), rock climbers and stunt women.

Actress/gymnast, Alison Carroll took on the role the following year in 2008 after first appearing as Lara Croft in the "Tomb Raider: Anniversary" Wii game commercial the year before. She, again took on all the training as Karima before her, and took a course in archaeology - though her role as Lara was quite different. Alison and a choreographer collaborated on a routine that combined her skills. She performed on tour on convention stages and at press calls around the world. Lara was also motion captured in the game for the first time by American gymnast and Hollywood stunt woman, Heidi Moneymaker (among others). This allowed Alison to give a more authentic portrayal by using her abilities to mimic the game character's movements more closely. Alison's costume was also tailored specifically for her to give her flexibility and ease of movement, but also to equip her with all she needed for the things she was required to do.

Fan art makes it's own important contribution, as it frees the illustrator from the bounds of reality, allowing limitless possibilities. Being able to play with facial features and body proportions - along with an infinite variety of backdrops, gives the artist's imagination an incredible palette of choices. There have been countless pieces of Tomb Raider fan art, from artists both professional and amateur of all ages. Not just in illustration but in various other forms. This is just a fragment of the talent the world has to offer.

To some, Lara Croft is merely a game character. Some see her as a sex symbol and a fantasy figure. She's been targeted for glamorising weapons and violence. For many though, Lara is seen as a symbol of strength, independence and empowerment. Whatever the opinion, she has made an impact in one way or another. She is a timeless and ageless icon that will continue to inspire people for generations to come.

Thank you to everyone who gave me permission to feature their work.
- Photos of Jenn by Charbuul and Adam Jay (Super Hero Photography)
- Fan Art: "Surreal Valley" painting by Michal Matczak.
-CG art by Chinese CG artist, Yan Yu who sadly passed away in 2008. Supplied by Tomb Raider China (www.tombraider.ch).
- Comic art by Courtney Rose.


  1. Great article,Kate!

    And thank you for mentioning Ascension, I knew about it but haven't watched it yet.

    1. Thank you very much, Ricardo!
      You can watch Ascension through clicking the title. :)