Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Casting Doubt

Kids, ask your parents. Or Google. Trust me, this picture is hilarious.

Recently, they announced the new cast for the third reboot of the Fantastic Four movie, hitting movie screens sometime between the sequel to the reboot for the new Superman movie franchise, and the original version of the Avengers that hasn’t yet been rebooted but features a rebooted Hulk. I shouldn’t say “they announced” so much as I probably should have said “they confirmed rumors that were leaked months ago” which is more accurate, probably by people who, if not authorized to leak such information, were probably rebooted themselves into new jobs.

Naturally, since it was announced, everyone on the internet was completely happy with the casting, there was no controversy, and everyone is eagerly awaiting the next big screen adventure of Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, and the Storm siblings, Johnny and Sue. The internet community came together to give the movie a big thumbs up and let them know that they were on the side of the actors, who all proved themselves. 

Naw. I’m kidding. This is the internet. 

I’ll skip most of the casting made up controversies that were extremely minor during this time, and mostly due to lack of research, and cut right to the big one, the casting of Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch. Because he’s a different skin color than the guy in the comics. Of course, the guy in the comics can also shoot fire out of his hands, hangs out with a guy who can climb on walls, and died recently. (But got better, so it’s ok.) Also, he was once played by Captain America, fully confusing people that can’t tell the difference.

My one and only problem with Michael B. Jordan is that he didn’t think to take a stage name. Michael Keaton’s real name: Michael J. Douglas. He took the last name “Keaton” as a stage name because there already was a Michael Douglas in Hollywood. I wish that Michael B. Jordan had respected this, and changed his last name, too, as to not confuse him with underwear selling legend Michael (No B.) Jordan. End of problems with him.

Michael B. Jordan is actually a really good actor, having been in the Wire, Fruitvale Station, and Chronicle. I liked him in the parts of Chronicle I’ve seen, and I really don’t have a problem with casting him. He’s young, he’s charismatic, he’s pretty much what I might envision the Human Torch as being, had the Human Torch been first written today and not back in 1961, back when Michael B. Jordan wouldn’t have been allowed in certain restaurants, much less in space to be hit with Cosmic Rays. He’s young, he fits the part in most ways, but I would have been a little happier if they had gotten an actor that could also control fire by yelling “Flame on.” But hey... nobody’s perfect, right?

Naturally there are complaints because he doesn’t fit the traditional (re: white) model of the Human Torch. I can understand these complaints a little bit more because the Human Torch comes from a more visual based medium of comics, where he’s drawn and pretty much storyboarded out for the audience. Keep in mind I said I can understand it, doesn’t mean I agree that much. At the end of the day, the Fantastic Four are a fictional group of people that don’t really exist in the real world, so as long as an actor can pull off “FLAME ON!” with a straight face or “It’s Clobbering Time!” without breaking character, that’s really the pre-requisite for being able to play a character.

Thanks to the internet, there have been a lot of made up controversies over casting lately. We talked about Ben Affleck doing his best to not Ben Affleck-up the new Superman movie with is Batman impersonation. There was the brief dust up over people who couldn’t read, being mad about the skin color of Rue in the first Hunger Games movie, forgetting of course that despite the fact that she reminded Katniss of her blonde-haired, blue eyed sister, the character was in fact, black in the book. Back when Glee was first starting to Glee, people were mad that a REAL disabled actor wasn’t cast for the role of the one guy who’s in the wheel chair. And of course trans* people are mad that Jared Leto won his Oscar, and they didn’t cast a real trans* actor in the role.

I’m torn, because there are two points I’d like to make here. First being, all of those people were mad a few years ago back when they cast a certain actor in the role of a villain. Everyone was angry... how could they? How could they cast this actor in this iconic role, how badly will Heath Ledger screw up the next Batman movie in the role of the Joker. We all saw how that turned out.

The second being that people tend to forget that these are actors, playing parts. When you watch the next episode of Supernatural, I’d like to remind you that Mischa Collins, despite being an angel for his charity work, is not actually a fallen angel who has defied heaven. Sandra Bullock is definitely not an astronaut. (Thank God.) Jennifer Lawrence isn’t a shapeshifting, manically depressed dancer, who occasionally fights teenagers in a reality show. They’re actors. Michael B. Jordan’s one job is to look good long enough for the CGI Team to cover him in flames, then he can sip a nice cup of tea while yelling out his action lines. If he pulls that off, it will be a rousing success. Provided they don’t just put another rubber suit on a guy for the Thing. That looked bad.

I understand being protective of fictional characters, I really do. I understand having a certain look in your head for characters, and having that ruined. I understand it even more that this character is already drawn, and thus has a certain look that people already have in their heads. But the Human Torch isn’t real. Which actor would really be good for this role if you took look out of it? Basically, someone who’s a bit of a smartass, is able to look heroic, and is pretty charismatic. I think people tend to forget that Sue and Reed are the scientist, Ben is the working class guy meant to heave stuff around, and Johnny is the cocky pilot, who in the comics butts heads with Spider-man constantly and was so unimportant to the team he’s been replaced by a floating, talking robot, and, well... Spider-man. 

I’m just saying once again, let’s wait and see. I know this post hasn’t talked much about the fact that he’s supposed to be Sue Storm’s brother. I hope they don’t even acknowledge that he’s black and she’s white. It would blow everyone’s mind. The problem is, I really don’t see any of this as that big a deal. As I said, the comic was written in 1961. Of course the guy going into space would have been white. It’s 2014. It’s time to move on from this, and just see how the actor is going to do in the role. 

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