The internet was set ablaze when it was announced that actor Michael B. Jordan (The Wire) would be playing Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch, in the upcoming reboot of the Fantastic Four. The title was created in the 1960's, by Marvel Comics and went on to propel the fledgling company into prominence. However, the property has lost its vigor and importance in the comic book landscape in the past few decades. So much so, that the comic was even cancelled. In the early 2000's, Marvel relaunched the property in the Ultimate Fantastic Four, which modernized their origin story and set it during the early years of the group in an effort to bring a new generation of fans into the fold. While the comic wasn't a huge success, it did present the Four in a different light and showed that there could be more creative takes on the quartet in the future.
After working with Jordan on Chronicle, director Josh Trank immediately knew that he had his Johnny Storm and he was the first member of the Fantastic Four to jump on board. Johnny, the brother of Sue Storm aka the Invisible Woman, is characterized by being a cocky daredevil, who is heroic, yet does not shy away from the limelight. He is clearly the most exuberant of the Fantastic Four and Trank, along with screenwriter/producer Simon Kinberg, saw all of those qualities in him and more.
When the news of his casting hit the web, and for months afterwards, there was an extreme backlash due to his race. Jordan has mildly addressed the racial controversy in the past, however today in a letter to Entertainment Weekly, he directly tackled the elephant in the room:
You’re not supposed to go on the Internet when you’re cast as a superhero. But after taking on Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four—a character originally written with blond hair and blue eyes—I wanted to check the pulse out there. I didn’t want to be ignorant about what people were saying. Turns out this is what they were saying: “A black guy? I don’t like it. They must be doing it because Obama’s president” and “It’s not true to the comic.” Or even, “They’ve destroyed it!”
It used to bother me, but it doesn’t anymore. I can see everybody’s perspective, and I know I can’t ask the audience to forget 50 years of comic books. But the world is a little more diverse in 2015 than when the Fantastic Four comic first came out in 1961. Plus, if Stan Lee writes an email to my director saying, “You’re good. I’m okay with this,” who am I to go against that?
Some people may look at my casting as political correctness or an attempt to meet a racial quota, or as part of the year of “Black Film.” Or they could look at it as a creative choice by the director, Josh Trank, who is in an interracial relationship himself—a reflection of what a modern family looks like today.
This is a family movie about four friends—two of whom are myself and Kate Mara as my adopted sister—who are brought together by a series of unfortunate events to create unity and a team. That’s the message of the movie, if people can just allow themselves to see it.
Sometimes you have to be the person who stands up and says, “I’ll be the one to shoulder all this hate. I’ll take the brunt for the next couple of generations.” I put that responsibility on myself. People are always going to see each other in terms of race, but maybe in the future we won’t talk about it as much. Maybe, if I set an example, Hollywood will start considering more people of color in other prominent roles, and maybe we can reach the people who are stuck in the mindset that “it has to be true to the comic book.” Or maybe we have to reach past them.
To the trolls on the Internet, I want to say: Get your head out of the computer. Go outside and walk around. Look at the people walking next to you. Look at your friends’ friends and who they’re interacting with. And just understand this is the world we live in. It’s okay to like it.
Jordan shows that he may be as fearless off-screen, as he may prove to be on-screen. He recognizes that the integration of minorities into superhero roles is another social barrier to be knocked down. Especially since most of these characters were created in an era, where it would have been taboo and flat out unacceptable to have a person of color, to be portrayed as "super." The controversy is a remnant of America's ugly past (and apparently its present as well) and it seems that Jordan is acutely aware of the significance of his role.
The final question is whether or not the film will be any good. Despite all the negative buzz, if Trank delivers a critically and financially successful film in August, much of the negativity will dissipate. Because everyone likes a winner and that's what Johnny Storm is.
Fantastic Four opens August 7th, 2015.
What do you think of what Jordan had to say? Let us know below!
Source: Point of Geeks