Whether playing a video game or releasing a blockbuster movie, timing is everything. And there's no denying that the new Tomb Raider film is arriving at a time when female-led action movies are being embraced and celebrated like never before.

It's an aspect of the film that excites Alicia Vikander, the Oscar-winning Swedish actor who stars as a nascent version of globe-trotting adventurer Lara Croft.

"When we finished this, that was around the time I saw Wonder Woman," she tells TimeOut during a sit-down in Los Angeles. "Watching that film and realising that they actually had to turn it on its head for me to realise I've never seen this before. I'd never seen these action sequences with women. And why hadn't I? I'm so happy to know that we're living in a positive time, a very creative time I think, where we are finally gonna see a lot of these female stories come to the surface."

Angelina Jolie was the first actress to bring Lara Croft to the big screen in 2001.
Angelina Jolie was the first actress to bring Lara Croft to the big screen in 2001.

Most people know Lara Croft from the two Angelina Jolie films released in 2001 and 2003.


"I saw them when they came out," says Vikander. "[Jolie] made her into an icon."

So much so, Vikander originally questioned the need to reboot the franchise.

"When they called up my agents the first time, I was like 'they made those films already' and they said 'well, it's these new rebooted games that have come out and it's a very different take, it's very different' and that's when I saw that there's a reason for doing something new."

Instead, she says her version of Lara Croft is a "parallel journey" to that of Jolie.

Vikander's familiarity with Lara Croft goes back further than that, to the original video games from which the character sprung, the first of which was released in 1996.

"She was the first girl in a video game. I remember I was 9 or 10 years old and was so curious, like 'What's that?', because I just hadn't seen it [before]."

The video game franchise underwent a major reboot in 2013, introducing players to a younger, more vulnerable, and less gun-centric version of Lara Croft. While many video game movie adaptations do everything they can to separate themselves from the source material, the new Tomb Raider really leans into the 2013 game and it's 2015 sequel, making it very different to the Jolie films.

"I took a lot of inspiration from the rebooted game," says Vikander. "I think they did a good job with integrating much more story, much more possibility for an actress to develop the character. It's an origin story too, that helps, the fact that we get to see her on her journey becoming this well-known action hero. And she is also human and maybe the biggest superpower for 2018 is when someone dares to show themselves vulnerable because then you relate to them."

When we meet Lara Croft in the new film, she's a London bicycle courier who enjoys mixed martial arts training. She can handle herself but has yet to raid any tombs. Then a coded message from her deceased father (Dominic West) sends her on her way towards a perilous island adventure.

"She's not on top in the beginning of this film, and that makes you see someone who actually needs to fight. It's a young woman who hasn't really found her footing in the world, which is really common, I did not what I was doing when I was 20. Step by step you can have this character grow and discover the traits within her. She's able to kind of refine and define herself. When she goes through obstacles, it's tough and it hurts and it makes us root for her."

Although Vikander has spent the majority of her acting career so far appearing in "serious" films like 2015's The Danish Girl, for which she won her Oscar, she carries with her from childhood an affection for the cinematic tradition Tomb Raider taps into.

"I grew up loving adventure films. I loved Indiana Jones, I saw all the Mummy films back in the 90s. Plus, as a dancer, I've been curious about what it is like to make these big stunts or action sequences."

Vikander says her dance background helped with the physical demands of the role, but she still had to whip herself into shape to play Lara Croft.

"I trained for about three or four months before the shoot. Because I'm naturally very petite, and I was like 'No, I want her to be a strong girl'. She's feminine but I wanted her to be strong. So I love that it was integrated into the s ry that she likes to train with the MMA fighting, and that she's a bicycle courier. So even though she's thrown out on this adventure without knowing that it's coming, you will understand that she probably has tools within her that are not defined for her just yet."

Alicia Vikander says she wanted Lara Croft to be
Alicia Vikander says she wanted Lara Croft to be "a strong girl" and deliberately bulked up for the role.

Vikander's last major role before Tomb Raider was in The Light Between Oceans, a historical drama partially shot in New Zealand.

"Oh I love New Zealand!" says the actor, positively beaming when our TimeOut asks about her Aotearoa experience. She admits she hasn't been back since then, as much as she'd like to.

"I'm lucky in the sense that I'm getting closer, I have a sister who lives in Australia, so at least I come down that way. I loved it. The nature is fantastic."

Who: Alicia Vikander
What: Tomb Raider
When: In cinemas next Thursday