News broke last week about the casting in a new Fantastic Four movie scheduled to open on March 6th, 2015. The “surprise” is that director Josh Trank has cast black actor Michael B. Jordan to play the Human Torch. I say surprise in quotes because the rumors had been circulating for months as noted at ScreenRant.com.
This decision has apparently been hotly criticized by fans of the comics, though I didn’t run across said criticism in my research. All the sites I looked at were for it, mostly considering it a necessary adjustment to 50’s racist values, the need to modernize the franchise, or just smart business sense to give the black community a reason to see the film.
I’ve always had a problem when movies or other media change the character as created.
Certainly characters evolve, but I’ve yet to see a caucasian turn black, or a black person become white.
Last year, in responding to the idea of him playing the Human Torch, Michael B. Jordan said:
“Things change and time goes on, it’s 2013 right now,” Jordan says of the Torch talk. “The characteristics of the Human Torch are his name is Johnny Storm, he’s charismatic, and he’s a playboy. That’s it. You know what I’m saying? That’s all there is.”
I respectfully disagree, especially as a writer. You change skin color, hair color, eye color, personality, etc., you no longer have the original character. You have a new character. For me it is a matter of continuity. If there is going to be a change, it needs to be explained in a rational way how that white dude suddenly became black.
Ironically, the article about this subject at Comics Alliance, while praising the decision to cast Michael as the Torch as a strike for racial equality, goes on to say about the decision to cast Jaimie Bell, that “English guy,” as The Thing:
What does Bell actually bring to the role? Does he embody hangdog word-weariness? Can he offer an immaculate Lower East Side accent?
So, let me get this straight. Skin color–not a reason to match with the original character. But an English accent is bad casting for what is supposed to be an East Side one? Only goes to point out how important continuity is for a character, including skin color, sex, and accent, among others.
The fact is that the four have always been white, even through the Marvel Ultimate modernization and the recent films from 2005. Then with no explanation, he turns black.
Note: I would love to see more black superheroes hit the big screen. Also Latinos are absent, as are Asians. They missed their chance to put one of each in this new film. My beef has nothing to do with racism, believing it will ruin the movie, believing that Mr. Jordan isn’t a good actor who could otherwise play that role with skill. It is due to the reality that changing the characteristics of a character makes it a new character.
But I have a suggestion on how Hollywood should go about this. Create new superheroes that are black. Both Marvel and Hollywood should take that advice. If you do change up the original character, you’d better provide a good reason why, or you end up with not a black Human Torch, but a new black superhero with similar powers replacing the Human Torch.
It would help if Hollywood didn’t fixate on rebooting the same stories over and over again.
I’m guessing we’re in for another serving of “our version” of the origin story. Oh boy. I can hardly wait.
What do you think? Good casting call or do you have a problem with it?