The insider sourced casting rumors regarding the Fantastic Four film reboot has the Internet all atwitter. In a declarative headline TheWrap reports the cast has been found while going on to write with less certainty “Hollywood was buzzing Wednesday with news that Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell are nearing deals to star in the studio’s reboot of the popular comic book franchise.” “Nearing deals” doesn’t mean “set in stone” in Hollywood and the article goes on to point out justified reasons to doubt the reporting, but let’s run with these rumors as being accurate, because the rest of the unsourced echo-chamber Internet is doing so.
Michael B. Jordan possibly playing Johnny Storm isn’t going over well with purists.*
Frankly, director Josh Trank could, and should, do so much more to shake up the status quo. The superhero film universe is overwhelmingly white due in part to the big two comic book universes being historically overwhelmingly white. When the second Captain America hits the screen with Falcon he’ll be the third black superhero since the first Iron Man film introduced a non-War Machine James Rhodes in 2008 (I’m counting Thor‘s Heimdell). All of these roles are secondary at best and there hasn’t been an African-American in a starring role since 2004’s Blade Trinity. The Johnny Storm casting decision will fill a decade long absence.
The only issue I have with the casting decision is that Sue Storm and Johnny Storm are brother and sister. There are some obvious ways to address this issue. One is that the Storm family could have multiethnic heritage and the other is one of the Storm children could have been adopted. Both of those story lines could work, but it would be a huge leap forward for cinematic superheroes if Sue was a black woman. The only cinematic black female superhero to date has been Halle Berry as Catwoman (and unfortunately she was the victim of Hollywood choosing an artsy French director with only one previous film under his belt).
A secondary benefit of casting an African-American Sue is the need for more interracial relationships in mainstream films. It’s sad to think that casting the future wife of Reed Richards as a black woman would be progressive in the 21st Century, but in light of the shameful Internet response to an interracial couple in a Cheerios commercial it seems the media consuming populace needs more opportunities to realize it doesn’t need to be an issue.
* I don’t necessarily agree that fans who demand there be no change in comic character race are racist. Many are the same people who were upset when Sam Raimi gave Peter Parker biologically-based web shooters instead of technology-based web shooters. They are against change from the funny book gospel. That said, yes, there are definitely racists upset with the possible decision.