It was recently revealed that Michael B. Jordan, who has starred in a lot of films but most notably Fruitvale Station, was tapped to play The Human Torch in yet another reboot of the Marvel Comics property, The Fantastic Four. Comic nerds who at any other time jerk off to green-skinned fictional women in their mother’s basement are up in arms that the character is being recast as a black guy, especially since another member of the group is supposed to be his sister and she is still super flour-power white. This dumbass only-in-nerd-world flame war burps out of a can of half-finished can of Mountain Dew every time a comic book movie comes out in which some film director opts not to let a superhero wear his underwear on the outside of his pants, so it really goes full Fritos-funk inferno when the casting gets black on them.
Here’s the thing: Michael B. Jordan don’t give a fuck what any of them thinks. Here’s why:
#1 – The movie can’t be any worse than the three times they’ve tried this before.
MBJ can rest easy knowing that almost no matter what happens, he’ll be in a film that was at least marginally superior to the dreck that has passed through the Hollywood comic movie colon before. Win/win for MBJ.
#2 – Nerd heat ain’t shit anymore.
When Hollywood had low expectations about what a comic film might do, comic nerds had more power. But now that the movies have been finding good middle ground for widespread audiences that STILL won’t pick up a comic book – even one that launched a movie that they liked – it’s really just chum for Twitter feeds and USA Today column inches.
#3 – It’s The Fantastic Four.
The traditional comic source material has always been highly suspect at best in terms of being actually good. It’s not a great comic to begin with, so translating it to the screen has been…challenging. Say what you will about the casting, but half of the battle for this movie isn’t going to be the black guy in flames cracking jokes. It’ll be convincing you that a pile of rocks can emote or that Sue Storm fell in love with a guy who can stretch his dick to any length FOR HIS MIND.
#4 – Ain’t no movie yet.
You think the director and the producers of this film aren’t paying attention to this nerd glaze? They are, and they’re going to do everything in their power to make this part of the movie above all others work to the audience’s satisfaction. Even if the rest of this film sucks, I guarantee you MBJ just got a couple of pages added to this script to directly address making him look good for fans. I would bet actual money that most critics will end up saying he was a highlight of the film.
#5 – He was on The Wire.
MBJ has been quoted saying to no less than five very expensive hookers, “I was on one of the best TV shows of all time, so the first hour’s free.”
#6 – He’s already paid.
And if they pull him off of this project because of the nerd heat (which absolutely will never happen) they’ll pay him even more.
#7 – It says more about the so-called fans than it does about him.
It actually says nothing about Jordan, but it does say plenty about fans of the comic who are suddenly “playing devil’s advocate” with rolled up copies of FF comics in their back pockets. Not only are these guys invested in the property (despite the fact that there are, literally 30 comics in print better than FF at any given moment in time), but they’re letting their racism peek out of their slipcovers…AGAIN. In fact, fans of the comics have raised the exact same arguments so many times between comic and movie changes that I don’t know why anyone is still listening. It’s like trying to have a meeting of the minds with an avowed Klansman: you’re not going to change anyone’s mind at the end of it, and you’ll mote that we don’t even bother anymore. We just watch for the confederate bumper stickers. Which is not to say comic fans are by and large racists, of course, but my lawyer tells me I need to say that, so there you go.
#8 – It pisses racists off…
…which is its own reward.
#9 – Many comic movies are outpacing the quality of their source material.
This isn’t true across the board – and it certainly isn’t true for indie comics or stuff that doesn’t have someone with a cape on the cover – but it’s becoming more true in that Stephen King-movie kind of way. Here’s what I mean: King movies by and large suck. That’s not King’s fault, of course; most of the movies stray very far from the ideas and charm that made the original stories resonate with readers (even when King himself directed the effort). But when the movies started sticking to the story and only tweaking the parts that needed tweaking (like his endings), they got better across the board. (Shout out and thank Sweet Black Baby Jesus for Frank Darabont.)
But comic book movies? Eh, not so much. That balance hasn’t been struck as consistently yet, so there are a lot of changes in the translation from page to screen, not because Hollywood can’t help itself, but because to translate the book directly to the screen would suck. If those of us who read comics were honest, we’d all say, “Thank god for no yellow tights on Hugh Jackman.” And Michael B. Jordan doesn’t have to read a single issue of FF to know his film is at bat for the fourth time and they NEED it to win. The only question now is how many times he gets to show his abs. (My money is on 4).
#10 – His name is Michael Jordan.
It takes balls to not change your name when you come to Hollywood, knowing that you’re opening yourself up to every wannabe-like-Mike joke in the universe. When the first movie with his name on the marquee gets released that completely and utterly sucks drops, I guarantee you some film critic is going to pull that that joke out. As it stands, so far so good (though mostly because he hasn’t gone full marquee until recently). Shoot the J!