The Fantastic Four Quandary
Ron Seifried | On 12, Mar 2014
Once again, Marvel’s the Fantastic Four franchise will be rebooted for the big screen. This will make the third time in the last 25 years that a new team of the dynamic-quadro of Thing, Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman and the Human Torch will be brought to life. One bit of controversy floating around is that the Human Torch will be portrayed by African-American Michael B. Jordan, flaming (no pun intended) online buzz that this breaks 50+ year tradition the Fantastic Four.
The “outrage” from the mostly anonymous community is that the Human Torch was white in the comics, thereby should remain white for the feature films. The more, nuanced argument from graphic novel aficionados is that the Human Torch and the Invisible Woman are brother and sister which will be played by Kate Mara.
Jordan himself shrugs off the criticism. “It was expected. You kinda know going into it that people are used to seeing something one way, it’s a continuity thing more than anything. People don’t like change too much. But annoyed? Eh, you just kinda accept it, it is what it is. You can’t make everybody happy. You just gotta accept that and know. I’m an actor, I have to do my job. I’m going to do my job the best I can and the way I’ve been doing it my entire life, my entire career. I grew up a comic book guy, I read comic books as a kid growing up, and the Fantastic Four/Human Torch is one of my favorite characters so I’m going to give it my everything. I can’t wait. I don’t really let it bother me at all. I just want to go into it and do the best job I can. We’ll see what happens.”
2oth Century Fox studio execs need to plug some life into one of the few Marvel franchises not fully controlled by Marvel Studios. Without an upcoming film in the near future, the rights would revert back to Marvel. It has also been rumored that the new Fantastic Four will take place in the same universe as the X-Men, the other Fox-controlled Marvel creation, leading to speculation to a franchise crossover.
Every comic-book casting announcement is treated like the return of the Messiah, and the faithful disciples are always outraged when casting doesn’t meet their expectations. There is never an uproar when other fables are cast. Was there as much mud-flinging when Aussie Russell Crowe was cast as Noah in Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming film? I think not, but I do love the disclaimer that will be accompanying its release.
Nothing will satisfy the geek/nerd culture we live in. I should know. As an avid Star Wars fan, my concerns are running high with Episode VII, the expanded universe and upcoming TV series. But I digress.
When Starbuck was recast as a woman (with boobies, no less!) in the “Battlestar: Galactica” reboot a few years ago, traditionalists were in a moral panic and expressed it with their fingers tapping on QWERTY keyboards. Then the series kicked some serious ass, especially Katee Sackoff as Starbuck and we were all better people for it.
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ben Affleck as Batman and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor has delivered a trifecta of negative publicity, but “Man of Steel 2” (or whatever it will be called) is still moving forward.
George Clooney in his homo-erotic, hard nippled Batsuit was laughable and killed that franchise. But at least director Joel Schumacher apologized and we didn’t lose any sleep.
The black/white brother & sister arc can easily be explained to today’s multi-racial youth, who are much more accepting than middle-aged comic book readers. Who remembers the last “Fantastic Four” movie and its horrible sequel? Not the average ticket-buying public today.
For any film to be appealing, the audience needs to identify with the characters onscreen. For too long, African-American’s have been left out of the superhero renaissance of the last 15 years. The exception of Wesley Snipes in “Blade”, black males have been supporting bit players or villains in graphic novel films. Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury is one of those supporting parts, and there aren’t any plans for a standalone “Nick Fury” film.
Human Torch is a very good place to start. He is part of an ensemble, where each of the four heroes should get equal screen time.