STOP THE HATE: Michael B. Jordan Should Not Be Human Torch
I don’t often fall into the trap of hating a movie before it’s released, but I fucking hate the new Fantastic Four movie. I do, I hate it. I want it to fail. I want it to be an embarrassing, Green Lantern level disaster that makes the property toxic long enough for Marvel to get the rights back and finally bring its first family to the big screen in the MCU.
My desire to see Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, and the Thing in the same world as the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy is not the only reason I want this new film to bomb. I hate the tone. Say what you will about the Tim Story movies, but they were fun, colorful comic book films. This new film looks like yet another attempt to ape the Christopher Nolan “dark and gritty” thing. I’m sorry, but when your main character is essentially Stretch Armstrong, you can’t go Dark Knight.
There are other reasons this movie is on my shit-list. If rumors are true and Doom is a blogger than it would seem once again they’ve ruined one of my all time favorite bad guys. I also hate his look in the movie, yet another thing the Tim Story movies got right even if they did screw up everything else regarding Doom. I hate how young the actors are, I hate how generic the whole enterprise looks, I hate the suits, I hate everything about this goddamn movie.
Yes, I also hate that Human Torch is now black.
Now before I go on, let me say that I don’t have a problem with changing up race in movies. Michael Clark Duncan was perfect as the Kingpin. Laurence Fishburne was an engaging Perry White, and is also a great Jack Crawford on Hannibal. Hell, I even always thought that the perfect Thing for a Fantastic Four movie was Ice Cube. So why do I have a problem, like so many angry message board commentors do, with with Michael B. Jordan playing the traditionally white Human Torch? Truth is, I don’t.
The problem isn’t that Johnny Storm is black, the problem is that the characters sister, Sue Storm, is played by a white actress. In order to accommodate casting Jordan in the role, they’ve had to invent a whole new mythology for these characters where Sue is adopted. Why not just cast a black actress as Sue? Or why not make Reed Richards black? Or why not make all four of them black? I would have been fine with that.
So lets take a look at the reasons for casting Michael B. Jordan. The studio recognizes him, rightfully so, as a talented up-and-comer. They are hoping to attract African American viewers (or, as Hollywood calls them, “the urban demographic”) who might otherwise have no interest in a Fantastic Four movie. You know what? Those are okay reasons for casting someone.
So why not cast a black actress as Sue? Well because she and Reed have a love story and you wouldn’t want a (gasp!) interracial couple as the lead of a big budget movie, would you? Then why not cast Jordan as Reed Richards? Maybe the studio thought he worked better as the wise cracking hot head then the serious, studious scientist. After all, Reed Richards is a genius. You can’t cast a black actor in the lead role of a big budget movie and expect people to buy him as a genius, right?
Are you starting to see why I have a problem with this casting choice? While the studio, the director, and Jordan himself continue to tout the casting as a “brave choice,” it’s anything but. This is yet another cynical move in a long line of cynical moves on Fox’s part when it comes to this Fantastic Four reboot. The only reason they’re making this movie at all is so the rights don’t lapse back to Marvel. There is virtually no difference in what they’re doing with this movie compared to what Roger Corman did with his on-the-cheap 1994 film.
I have no problem with Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, but this just feels like token casting. While everyone involved with the production claims Jordan’s casting is somehow ground breaking, they miss the point entirely. What would have really been ground breaking is if they had the guts to cast a talented black actress as Sue Storm and had her in an interracial relationship with a white Reed Richards. Or if they had cast an intelligent black actor as Reed and had him in an interracial relationship with a white Sue Storm. Or hell, just make all four of them black! That would have been ground breaking – the first all black super hero movie.
Instead Fox played it safe, cast a talented black actor in a supporting role as the smooth talking comic relief, and re-wrote decades old mythology so they could cast an attractive white actress as his sister. That doesn’t sound brave to me.
As for the movie itself, should it tank, maybe Fox will make some sort of deal with Marvel. Maybe in phase 4 we can see the Silver Surfer soaring the skies, have a proper Doctor Doom ruling from his throne in Latveria, and the Fantastic Four working alongside Spider-man, Star Lord and Bruce Banner, as they were meant to. Hell, maybe they’ll all be black. I would be perfectly okay with that.