Lara Croft is back.
But you might not recognize her right away. Gone are the massive breasts, microscopic shorts and garter-like gun holsters. The latest Lara, played by Oscar winner Alicia Vikander, follows in the footsteps of other recent heroines, who have turned away from the skin-baring spandex that makes fighting crime look like a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen.
Vikander’s Lara Croft wears a filthy tank top, cargo pants and sensible boots. The first time we see her on-screen, she’s in the middle of losing a kickboxing match wearing jogging shorts and a sports bra, but pretty soon she’s changing into a hoodie, black pants and sneakers so that she can go to work as a London bike messenger.
Like Gal Godot’s muscular lead in “Wonder Woman” and Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in the Hunger Games series, this Lara is a more believable combatant. They’ve proven that somehow, a female action star could kick butt without showing cleavage.
In 2001 and 2003, when Angelina Jolie played Lara Croft, the approach to her character was different. They added padding to her breasts, making them so large, it became a real conundrum for the first movie’s director, Simon West.
“The main decision was whether to shoot above the breasts or below the breasts,” he told Entertainment Weekly at the time. “They’re such a big thing to frame around.”
Jolie resembled some iterations of the Lara Croft who appeared in the video game that invented her. These characters were so top heavy, it was sometimes hard to imagine they could walk upright, much less engage with an enemy.
Vikander’s version of Lara was also inspired by the video game, which was rebooted in 2013. It also features a protagonist who wears a tank top and pants. She is, however, more voluptuous than Vikander, who told Vogue that, “what little I have I kind of pushed up.”
Vikander transformed her body for the role, working hard to get in shape. Vikander’s trainer, Magnus Lygdbak told Entertainment Tonight she put on about 12 pounds of muscle during three months of hardcore training. It was all part of the plan to present a “Tomb Raider” that was “less boobs, more fighting,” as actor Dominic West, who plays Lara’s father, told Vogue.
Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood was in charge of the wardrobe, which put an emphasis on practicality over sexuality. Vikander’s pants, for example, had stretchy seams so that she could more easily free climb cliffs and take down villains three times her size. Vikander also had 20 pairs of boots to choose from, based on which ones worked best for the task at hand.
Some had more of a platform to make her look taller for wide shots. Another pair was secretly running shoes underneath a boot-like facade so that Vikander — who did many of her own stunts — could sprint through the jungle more easily.
The costume wasn’t “trying to be sexy,” Atwood said. “It was sexy because of the quality of the person wearing it, as opposed to the style of the costume.”