Review by C.J. Bunce
For a niche area of publishing, you might be surprised how diverse the range of coverage you can find in art books delving behind the scenes of the latest movies. In Titan Books latest artbook Tomb Raider: The Art and Making of the Film, two key elements stand out compared to prior examinations of film. First, the cast and crew were deeply passionate about the film, reflected in their great contributions to the book. Second, audiences have probably not seen production sets and stunt sequences that created realism in the adventure genre as much as Tomb Raider since the Raiders of the Lost Ark series, although it’s no secret that Raiders of the Lost Ark was the principal inspiration for many key sequences. In the theater it’s easy to get into the story and not hone in on the background details, but thanks to this latest entry in the artbook realm fans of the film will see how it became a mix of James Bond-level stunt work built on a classic adventure style full of exciting special effects.
As with Guillermo del Toro’s significant contributions to The Shape of Water artbook, Tomb Raider director Roar Uthaug contributes insight into his vision in nearly every segment of the book. He references his love for Raiders of the Lost Ark when creating his film for its mix of action, humor, archaeology, mystery, and great characters. He also looked back to Ripley and Sarah Connor in Alien and Terminator 2 as he carved out the lead role for Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft. Other executives and crew members explain significant aspects of the creation of the film: producer Graham King was perhaps the earliest advocate for a reboot film in the series, production designer Gary Freeman (Maleficent, Everest) knew exactly how he wanted to create the major environments for the adventure, cinematographer George Richmond (Kingsman 1 and 2) discusses challenges filming the visual effects sequences, costume designer Colleen Atwood (Arrow, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) provides particular insight into her creation of the look of each character and how she sourced materials, and stunt coordinator Frank Henson (Never Let Me Go, Sherlock Holmes) had a greater responsibility in this stunt-heavy film than a stunt coordinator in most movies with its variety of action scenes. Star Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) recounts the experience of playing the popular character as a sort of prequel or origin story for the character. Vikander contributes heavily to the behind the scenes detail of the book, in addition to the other key players in the film, including co-stars Daniel Wu and Walton Goggins.
The film all centered around leaving the past films in the past and honing in on the 2013 video game reboot of Tomb Raider. It is not likely any prior adaptation of a video game has come as close to its source as the new film, which included many storyboarded scenes from the 2013 game sequences. From the London training facility where Lara trains in MMA fighting, to the planning and execution of the exciting fox-and-hound bicycle race on the back streets of London (one of the few scenes where Vikander didn’t do her own stunts was the crash), to the very Indy Jones-esque crypt under Croft Manor, to the chase scene at a full-scale mock-up of Hong Kong’s Aberdine Harbor, to building the cargo ship from the game–the weathered vessel Endurance–on a giant hydraulic gimble (set dresser Raffaella Giovannetti used real materials from similar ships to give it the realistic appearance), to Vikander’s twelve days submerged under water in a tank–the book is filled with production how-to knowledge for any aspiring filmmaker, movie aficionado, or anyone who is just a fan of Lara Croft. Roughly half of the volume covers the scenes that take place on the island. Author Sharon Gosling points out Vikander was filmed in the raging rapids sequence in the facility where the 2012 Olympics were held, and the parachute drop scene came straight from the game.
Tomb Raider: The Art and Making of the Film, is full of double-page spreads of painted concept art. The artwork for the tomb, the skeleton room, and the sarcophagus room is striking, and similar to the concept art for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Beautiful, lavish concept art illustrations by creators Andre Human, Randolph Watson, Gary Freeman, and Chester Carr fills the book, in addition to a great volume of full-color photos from both the film and behind the scenes.
Here are some excerpt pages courtesy of the publisher:
A nostalgic trip back to adventure films from the days of Raiders of the Lost Ark and a great companion to a fun action film, Tomb Raider: The Art and Making of the Film is available for order at your local comic book shop or via Amazon here. Tomb Raider (reviewed here) is in theaters now.