It's difficult to think of Lara Croft as ordinary. She's the Tomb Raider, after all, a gun-slinging, cliff-climbing, insouciant stealer of artifacts and slayer of mercenaries. But she wasn't always like that. As the recent reboot illustrated, she started off as something else entirely - just a girl with a penchant for myths and histories, more comfortable trying to puzzle out ancient mysteries than hanging out with her peers. Still not ordinary, really - she's an extremely well-educated and wealthy woman, someone who's had the best opportunities in life - but not the larger-than-life action figure we've known from previous games.
The reboot showed a different Lara, a more relatable Lara. One who was frightened and calling for help, but who rose to the challenge when she realized help wasn't coming. In those moments of strife, one does what one must, but what happens when those moments are over? How do you go back to the normalcy of life once you've gone so far outside of it? That's a question raised by the trailer for Rise of the Tomb Raider, as we see Lara in a psychiatrist's office, foot bouncing with anxious energy as a therapist uses his most soothing voice to help try and guide her focus toward making sense of the turmoil in her mind.
Let's sit back for a moment and remember everything that Lara has gone through. First, she's suffering guilt, because the events of Tomb Raider are all pretty much her fault. Is her guilt justified? Not really. Everyone wanted to find the Dragon's Triangle, but they never would've located it without Lara's help. Several of her friends died, including the man who filled the place in her heart vacated by her missing father. Her best friend was terrorized and nearly died. Lara herself was forced to kill, repeatedly. She was broken, battered, escaping capture more than once, and forced to cauterize a hole punched through her abdomen in order to survive. She saw and did things that no-one should have to see or do, and it was all, essentially, her fault. Because she wanted to have an adventure and find something no-one else could.
At the end of Tomb Raider, her surviving friends are more than ready to put everything behind them and head home, but Lara herself isn't. If we consider Lara not as a video game character who can simply flip a switch and become Super Action Lara, it's easy to see why she might not feel ready to rejoin the real world. Imagine trying to do something as mundane as have dinner with a colleague after enduring the events on Yamatai. Lovely to see you, Lara, how've you been? Oh, fine, thanks, had to save my friends from crazed zealots and nearly died myself. Fought the spirit of a long-dead queen, too. So, how're the kids?
We rarely get to see our action heroes go through any kind of growth or change. On those rare occasions that we do see the emotional toll their actions take on them, it's a brief glimpse; just enough to remind us that we're meant to be seeing a real person, but not enough to distract from all the excitement. That's not a criticism, necessarily, because we enjoy the escapism these heroes provide. But I, for one, appreciate the possibility of watching the process that Lara is going through - her evolution from Lara to Tomb Raider. I'm excited to see a video game character being given an opportunity to explore their humanity - to be more than just an action figure for our play time.
It would be very easy to simply gloss over those uncomfortable moments of mental anguish, shrugging it off with a few lines of voice over before the opening credits of the next adventure. The trailer for Rise of the Tomb Raider implies that Lara's journey will not be so easy, however. It will be ugly and painful, full of confusion and conflict, because actions have consequences, and action heroes have to live with them.