|Fantastic Four (2015) - Sue Storm (Kate Mara), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan)|
Making Johnny Storm Black in Fantastic Four was a terrible idea. In the comics, two members of the super team Fantastic Four are brother and sister: Johnny and Sue Storm. When it was announced Johnny Storm (aka The Human Torch) would be played by Black actor Michael B. Jordon, there was a firestorm of protest. My brother and I both wrote articles defending the casting decision and in many ways race-changing is a great idea. Movie audiences should be challenged to accept minorities in different roles.
But this turned out to be a terrible, confusing and pointless idea. Here's why.
1. They Never Explained Their RelationshipI never wanted the movie to spend a half-hour explaining where they came from, but I expected some kind of exposition. There was nothing. The movie never explains their relationship.
Professor Franklin Storm, played by Reg E. Cathey is Black. Sue Storm, played by Kate Mara, is White. Why? Is she adopted? Is she his step-daughter? Was he widowed and left with her? Did a friend die and he adopt her? They never bother to explain, which leaves you entering and leaving the theater with the same question. There's one scene where they say she's from Kosovo, but that doesn't tell us anything.
Blended relationships are common today, so it shouldn't be a big deal. Today, 40% of married couples with children in the US are step couples. In 2007, there were 73.8 million children in adopted families. So it's common. Everyone knows at least one step or adopted family. But, the question still has to be answered. It's not.
Update: Spokhette pointed out that there is a brief conversation that says Sue's adopted. I must have fallen asleep...
2. They Barely Hint That Their Brother and SisterWhile Sue and Johnny are in most of the movie, their father never uses the word "sister" until an hour into the movie. So, if you didn't know they were related from reading comics or the promotional campaigns it would be a huge surprise. You could even miss it if you weren't paying attention.
Think about another confusing brother and sister pairing. Luke and Leia from Star Wars. The first movie didn't even hint they were related and you spent the movie thinking they weren't. Which is why it's so confusing when they establish they're twins in Empire Strikes Back. It's weird, but you get used to the idea. Here's why.
Update: Apparently I wasn't paying attention
3. It's Confusing Even If Sue Weren't White
Families tend to look alike and they have similar features. Sometimes there's a diversion and it's jarring and this is true in movies too. If Sue is Blonde haired and blue-eyed and Johnny Storm were White with dark hair and dark eyes, it would
still be confusing.
When you see two people that look dramatically different from each other claim to be brother and sister it's jarring. To have Sue as a different race is just plain bizarre without explanation. It's not racist. It just raises questions. We still question Luke and Leia, but accept it because they did a good job acting. Which leads to the biggest problem with their relationship
4. They Don't Act Like Brother and SisterSue and Johnny don't act like they're brother and sister at all. When they meet halfway through the movie they barely acknowledge each other. It's implied that there's sibling rivalry between them, but that's no excuse for treating family like a stranger.
Look at Loki and Thor in the Marvel movies. They look very different from each other, but we believe they're family. Thor and Loki have a tense relationship, but it's obvious there's a family bond. In Fantastic Four there's no family tie at all. Even after they resolved their issues by the end they still don't show any familial affection for each other.You know why?
5. This is the Director's FaultJosh Trank did a terrible job with the characters in this movie and this is just a symptom of the problem. All the characters in the film are poorly defined and we know next to nothing about their motivations.
Why does Reed want to build a teleporter so badly? Why does Doom hate humanity? Why does Johnny hate his sister? We spend an hour and 46 minutes and learn nothing about the characters, what they want and why it's important to them.
A better director could have cast them Black, Indian, Chinese and Puerto Rican and it would have made sense. With Trank it becomes a big gaping plot hole left to be filled. Kind of like the rest of the movie. Yes, he says it's the studios fault, but the decision to cast Michael B. Jordon was his. If only he'd committed to making it work.
Jordan said his casting is "a reflection of what a modern family looks like today." It is. That's OK. We should enjoy a world with interracial relationships and accept it as wonderful. Casting a Black man to play a superhero is a great idea and should be done more often. But it needs to be done in a better movie.
Are you surprised that having a Black Johnny Storm is confusing? Could it have been done better? Should audiences be more accepting of blended families?
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About the Author: Maurice Mitchell
I'm an avid science fiction fan, former professional graphic designer and certified blerd. After the death of my Star Wars action figures I use my powers for good and not for evil.
Visit my concept art blog: http://filmsketchr.blogspot.com
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