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“I want to be Lara Croft but… why can’t cyberwomen have it all

by Muriel Andrin
Before anything else, it is pleasure in its barest expression. Pure fun
watching Lara’s new tricks and adrenaline-driven scenes. Punching the shark,
riding on the Chinese Wall, free diving in Chinese skies, kicking the
villain’s ass… The confrontation with the shark is not innocent or
arbitrary. Just like one of Jan De Bont’s previous film, « Speed », « Tomb
Raider II – The Cradle of Life » works as one: it’s got to keep on moving –
threatening to die at the shortest suspension of movement, contrary to one
of the film’s key moments when Shadow-Guardians hunt & kill moving bodies
and absorb them into the stones. Movement is then the first key word; boats,
cars, trucks, bikes, planes, parachutes, walking, running, swimming or
fighting help finding the true pace of the film. In a nutshell: speed.

Of course, it is pure spectatorship pleasure as well, long desired by
feminist theorists since the 70s, this delicious sensation of loosing touch
with oneself and endorse the personality of a beautiful, clever and powerful
being. No need to slip into the body builded and slimy skin of a middle-age
and monosyllabic man or to choose to be on the evil side of a perfect female
icon who ‘likes the car and the gun’ and makes her boobs look bigger in
order to escape police patrols; we are Lara – young, stubborn, gifted and
sublime Lara (or her alter-ego Angelina Jolie). This identification part
goes along with the incredible pleasure of seeing conventions exploding at
the face of the world; strange and sharply ironic transition between the
young and now wise daddy’s girl who gently accepted to wear a dress at the
end of the first episode and the “dynamitage en règle” of the Greek wedding
in the first sequence of the second part… without even mentioning the
spectacular arrival of Lara, queen of the waters.

Pleasure also to watch and identify oneself with a somehow complex
character: an action woman – whose powers seems to be endless, weaknesses
fading into the background as unimportant and unnecessary details- but also,
again, a cyber woman and a goddess. Still cyber she is, despite the
definitive « action hero » similarities, showing traces of a constantly
reconstructed body – through the extended guns hanging at her thighs, or the
applied virtual eye which allows her to reach her team. As her predecessors
(from Ellen Ripley to Allegra Galler), Lara – as the cyberwoman she is–
displays her mythical heritage; she is the magnified echo of « Mother Nature
», emerging from the sea, defying snow, walking the earth, climbing the
mountains or mastering the skies of Hong Kong in a typically cyber « free
fall ». Feminine symbols cling to her, just like in the first episode,
circularity and spheric elements reflecting her wholeness (the ‘mati’ she is
looking for which is hidden in the magical Orb, and the very precise shot
where the orb zooms and disappears into her eye).

Besides she IS Pandora, both the most beautiful woman on earth, but also the
most dangerous (first versions of the myth implied that there was no box and
that it was the woman who concealed the danger) since she threatens to open
up again the infamous box. In fact, contrary to what we may think or see
during this beautiful scene in which we see hesitation reflecting in Lara’s
eyes confronted with the glowing box, she opened this ‘box’ a long time ago,
in a narrative as well as symbolic sense – by trespassing every forbidden
rules and endorsing all the thinking, acting and evolving characteristics of
the male super-hero. Hence the ambiguity of the character is still there,
made perfectly transparent through the perfect antithesis of the title
(uniting the tomb and the cradle). Lara, saviour of the world also provokes
the death of her accomplices by her boldness in the Luna Temple sequence, or
is associated with Pandora’s box. Death and the maiden again, with the army
of stone soldiers with whom she ironically identifies in order to fight her
Chinese enemy.

Pleasure indeed. Yet, despite all, in a sad way, sex and humour seem to be
snatched away from her, denied except for a few glowing moments – especially
when taking the role of a stone soldier or interrupting the family dinner on
a Chinese bark in order to enter into communication with her staff, finding
help in a little girl who handles her chewing-gum to fix the material. The
so called « sex scene » denies her grown up feminine identity by turning her
into a reasoning and cold-headed warrior. Moreover, and once again the
predictable way of previous cyber examples, Lara has to suffer the bitter
end of such narratives. She can have the guns, fool and destroy the obvious
enemy and find the treasure. But she can’t have the man (why would she want
him in the first place is the real question considering the very tedious
performance of the Scottish actor). She has to kill the one she loves –
ironically the real box of evil in the story – in order to bury Pandora’s
Box again and see it disappear in a bath of black acid. Saving the universe,
once again, implies renouncing to the very expression of her feminine

But why deny my filmic pleasure in the first place for such a small
My advice is: Enjoy!

One Response to ““I want to be Lara Croft but… why can’t cyberwomen have it all”

  1. Alex Says:

    Hello 😉
    To read more from Muriel Andrin about cyberwomes, visit http://www.bizoum.com/cloudbusting/cyberheroines.htm