Fantastic Four cast deserve the benefit of the doubt

Every racist’s worst nightmare comes true as Fantastic Four casting is revealed

The cast of 2005's Fantastic Four
The cast of 2005’s Fantastic Four

According to Variety, the cast of Chronicle director Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot have finally been confirmed, with many of the early rumours spot on and others being replaced by total surprises.

Miles Teller, first left, in 21 And Over
Miles Teller, first left, in 21 & Over

Reed Richards

Reed Richards, aka the super-stetchy genius Mr Fantastic, will be played by 21 & Over and Divergent‘s Miles Teller.

The actor’s more recent comedy roles – the ghastly That Awkward Moment, for example – are perhaps his best known, but his drama chops in Rabbit Hole were incredible, and he definitely has the makings of the team’s calm centre.

Chronicle-2-sequel-Max-Landis

Johnny Storm

Johnny Storm, aka the flame-powered hot-head Human Torch, will be played by Chronicle and Fruitvale Station‘s Michael B Jordan.

He also voiced Cyborg in Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox, so he’s got some good superhero cred.

Kate Mara in House of Cards
Kate Mara in House Of Cards

Sue Storm

Sue Storm, aka the force-field projecting, unseen Invisible Woman, will be played by American Horror Story and House Of Cards‘ Kate Mara.

I keep typing ‘Kate O’Mara’, which would be a very different film, but your dad would probably go and see it with you.

The thing about Sue Storm is that like the vast majority of Sixties Marvel women (Wasp, Marvel Girl), she’s spent most of the ensuing half-century desperately trying to find characterisation that has stuck beyond just being the woman on the team.

What’s exciting is that Mara has an opportunity here to really define Sue as a well-rounded human, not just someone defined entirely in relation to the men around her (sister of the bratty man, husband of the aloof man, lover of the angry man beneath the sea!).

The Race Thing

There’s some persistent confusion as to how two  supposedly related characters can be different ethnicities (there’s only one race, you guys: the human race :3) which only demonstrates – at best – an endearing lack of understanding about the world.

One or both Storms could be adopted, they could have one black parent and one white parent (it’s possible even for identical twins to have radically different skin tones), they could share only one parent, or they could be a blended family with no genetic connection. Surely we’re past the point where we’re expecting a Fifties picket fence family unit behind every face we see?

But as to whether it matters – come on, the ethnicity of the Fantastic Four has literally nothing to do with their origin stories or their appeal as characters.

It would be nice (not not essential) if Ben Grimm is Jewish, mind you, because he’s basically Jack Kirby and that would be fun.

On that note…

Jamie Bell in Defiance
Jamie Bell in Defiance

Ben Grimm

Ben Grimm, the stoney-skinned, curmudgeonly Thing, is King Kong and Defiance star Billy Elliot Jamie Bell.

No, he’s not bulky, but he is a very good actor, and the latter film proved that he could do rough-edged and battle-scarred extremely well.

The Bottom Line

Fantastic Four is clearly weighted towards indie darlings/relative unknowns, which rarely plays well with people’s dreams of [favourite actor] playing [favourite character].

If the Gal Gadot/Wonder Woman controversy taught us anything beyond peoples’ inability to grasp the concept of weight gain or acting, it’s that the more invested you are in a franchise, the more you want it to get the sort of blockbuster triple-A casting that made Iron Man or The Dark Knight great.

The problem is that triple-A casting didn’t make Batman & Robin good, or Green Lantern, or even the last round Fantastic Four films.

Surely the model for these things is The Amazing Spider-Man.

Like Fantastic Four, you have a director with an indie, outsider edge, who picked a similar cast in Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, both then critically acclaimed, but perhaps not widely recognised for their roles in The Social Network and Never Let Me Go or Zombieland and The Help respectively.

Superhero films in the second decade of the 21st Century have been given a room in which to breathe that the previous waves didn’t – most of the 90s offerings were increasingly dumb and confused rehashes of Tim Burton’s Batman, while everything in the early 00s stuck so close to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man as to be offensive.

At best they were predictable (Daredevil), and at worsr a mess (Elektra, Catwoman). Mostly, they were just dull.

Superhero is no longer the genre; superhero is simply the device, but in order to explore other styles of storytelling you need a wider range of actors and creators.

To take The Wolverine to Japan you need the classically inclined James Mangold and a Japanese cast. To bring back Spider-Man you needed a wry teen drama director and a cast of smart young rising stars. And maybe what the Fantastic Four – Marvel’s original dysfunctional superteam – needs is to go even further out onto the fringe with a director who caught his buzz with a story of teenagers abusing telekinesis, and a cast used to playing wounded, damaged people.

It’s easy to forget just how young, flawed and human the Fantastic Four were before they became Marvel’s First Family. They didn’t even get their costumes on until issue 3, and the dawn of their run was as much about dealing with their strange new powers as it was seeing off Galactus.

Fantastic Four is set to be released on 6 March 2015. You can buy Josh Trank’s Chronicle on Blu-ray for £9.75 at Amazon.co.uk.