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Wed, Feb 26, 2014

Arts, Culture, Entertainment, Student Life

NJ Actor Cast as ‘Human Torch’ Raises Old Questions About Race on Film

BY lyanne

Michael Jordanff

I must admit that as a adult,  I still watch comic movies both animated and featured motion pictures series.  So being a Newarker, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the Newark’s Michael B. Jordan is the latest actor to be thrust into a public conversation about what it means to re-imagine a fictional character in popular culture.  The NJ Actor is in discussions to be casted in “Fantastic Four Reboot”  as ‘Human Torch’ Raises Old Questions About Race on Film.  Mr. Jordan’s potential role is the latest victim of Internet backlash aimed at movie studios casting black actors in roles originally imaged as white characters.  A curious brouhaha erupted in some corners of the Internet concerning this racial recasting of a fictional character.  According to insiders, 20th Century Fox and the film’s director, Josh Trank, are looking at Michael B. Jordan – who played one of the three leads in Trank’s breakout Chronicle – to portray Johnny Storm, a.k.a. Human Torch.

Now first and foremost, the character change is primarily driven by the fact that the actor in the 2005 Fantastic four movie adaptation,  Chris Evans that played human torch in the earlier movie.  Is now playing  Steve Rogers/Captain America in the Marvel Universe,  indeed the character of Johnny Storm has traditionally been portrayed as a caucasian man since its introduction in a 1961 comic book series, which begs the question: Is the casting of Jordan appropriate and respectful to the series lineage?

At least in the primary leak this announcement has come like a “fire storm”.  The debate is cyber space is whether a Black actor should play the role of a traditional role of a white hero.  Know for me personally, I was disappointed two years ago when the DC movie arrive on the big screen  for “Green Lantern”, where by the current comic series features a Black lantern character but the movie producers to selected a white actor to play the role.  Industry insiders leaking the cast of the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot earlier this month announced that Newark-native Michael B. Jordan would be playing the much-beloved character of Johnny Storm.  “The only characteristics of The Human Torch is that his name is Johnny Storm, he’s American, he’s charismatic and he’s a playboy,” Jordan said. “That’s it.”

We say yes, for a few reasons:

Johnny Storm/Human Torch is characterized by a hotshot attitude, charisma and anti-authority tendencies (not by his race). Jordan has proven more than capable of handling those demands, with his performance in Chronicle and on the television series Friday Night Lights, among other projects.
The personal obstacles faced by the Fantastic Four – Reed Richards, Johnny and Susan Storm, and Ben Grimm – are very much universal, as opposed to being restricted to people of a certain ethnic background.
Fantastic Four is about a group of superheroes who struggle to work together as a family, despite their differences in personalities. Hence, the series has always been about diversity (thematically), so it is fitting that casting should reflect that.
fantastic four reboot Fantastic Four Reboot May Cast Chronicle Actor Michael B. Jordan as Human Torch

Similarly, there’s no reason why Williams and Jordan cannot play brother and sister in the Fantastic Four franchise reboot, just because of the differences in race; after all, there’s nothing to prevent the characters from being the children of a biracial couple (welcome to the 21st century, folks). More importantly, both are hot acting talents that have previously tackled roles that show they are up to the challenges presented by the Storm siblings.

The Wrap says its received this tipoff from “numerous individuals familiar with the project,” and Jordan’s chances of landing the Human Torch role depend partly on how much chemistry he has with other actors in consideration. We learned earlier this week that Allison Williams (Girls) is shortlisted to play Susan Storm, a.k.a. the Invisible Woman, in the superhero flick; however, Jordan is reported to have had several meetings with studio executives over the past week (meaning, he may be a more serious candidate to sign on, for the time being).

So again, we see no problem with this acting pair coming aboard on Fantastic Four, anymore than when Foxx joined the Amazing Spider-Man sequel – or Samuel L. Jackson played Nick Fury in the first two Iron Man movies, Captain America or The Avengers – among other examples of comic book characters that changed races during the transition to the big screen.

Lets face it Jordan is hot right now.  The 27-year-old actor is nominated by the NAACP Image Awards, for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture for his work in Fruitvale Station. Jordan,  received critical acclaim for his portrayal of the hard-shelled, softhearted young urbanite “Wallace” in HBO’s dramatic hit series “The Wire”. He then went on to star as the role of quarterback “Vince Howard” on “Friday Night Lights” (NBC), and  ”That Awkward Moment.”

Of course, you may share you own feelings in the comments section – just keep it civil.

Michael JordanFF1

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