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Daniel Wu Just Got Cast in the Tomb Raider Movie. Here’s Why I Hope He’s Playing Roth

daniel wu

Daniel Wu has just been tapped to join the Tomb Raider movie, and based on the description of his role, many have drawn the conclusion that he’ll be playing a character similar to Conrad Roth from the 2013 Tomb Raider game.

According to Variety, Wu will be playing a character named Lu Ren, which is not the name of a character who has ever appeared in any Tomb Raider story before. The description says that Lu Ren is “a ship captain who partners with Croft on a quest to find her father,” which would definitely be equivalent to the role served by Conrad Roth, the captain of the ship in the 2013 Tomb Raider story.

There are a lot of reasons why this might serve as an interesting change to the format of the story in the game. Although I ultimately did enjoy the 2013 Tomb Raider game, I did think it had some problems, the most notable of which is that the game struggles with some of the same imperialist messages of Indiana Jones stories, which serve as an obvious inspiration.

In the game, Lara Croft ends up visiting the hidden island of Yamatai, which was a land mass that once existed but that–as far as experts know–does not exist anymore. Once she finds the island, Lara ends up facing off against some supernatural forces, led by the ghost of Queen Himiko, who is a historical figure that appears in ancient Japanese, Chinese and Korean sources. There are a lot of different legends about Himiko, and obviously in the game, those legends are extrapolated into a story about Himiko having magical powers… which, as far as we know, she didn’t in real life.

Unfortunately, though, Tomb Raider (2013) mostly revolves around a white woman’s perspective, and it’s lacking because of that. The game has one significant Asian character in it, who is Lara’s best friend Samantha. Sam serves the “damsel in distress” role in the game, and although I would love to see her as the love interest (I totally ship Lara/Sam), she’s really more of a sidelined character in the narrative. There’s also the Polynesian shipmate, Jonah Maiava, who was one of my favorite characters in the game, but who has an undeniably small role in the story.

By casting the ship captain as an Asian man, the Tomb Raider movie could be going in a much more progressive direction with its story and overall framing. In the game, Roth has a big part in the story, serving as both a father figure and important friend and ally to Lara–not to mention an action hero in his own right. Assuming that Samantha is still in this story, then that means that we could end up seeing two different Asian actors taking on “action hero” roles. For the record, I’m also hoping that in the movie, Samantha ends up getting a lot more to do!

Since the story of Yamatai and of Queen Himiko is an Asian legend, it seems only fair to assume that Asian archaeologists would be important experts for Lara Croft to bring on her journey–particularly since, at this stage in her career, she’s still just a student and she has a lot to learn. I think the 2013 game serves as a good narrative template for the story the movie could use, and in terms of the direction they’ve taken with casting so far, I think this looks like a promising way to improve upon that story and make it even better.

(via Polygon, image via Ingrid Richter on Flickr)

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Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (relay.fm/isometric), and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (robotknights.com).