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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Fantastic Four movie review: fantastic bore

by MaryAnn Johanson

Fantastic Four red light

There isn’t an authentic human motivation or emotion to be found here. The bar has been raised too high on comic-book movies for us to accept junk like this.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

I knew from the opening moments of this 187,874th reboot of Fantastic Four that it would be getting everything wrong in most shiftless ways. Because that’s when it suggests that Oyster Bay, on Long Island, is across the East River from Manhattan and has a lovely view of the Empire State Building. Which it isn’t, and which it doesn’t. That may seem like a really nitpicky sort of nitpick, but this is only the first example of the appalling laziness of this all-origin, no-story superhero origin story. Director Josh Trank (Chronicle), who cowrote the script with Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past, This Means War) and Jeremy Slater (The Lazarus Effect), could have just told us that that first scene is set in Brooklyn or Queens, which actually do have views of that iconic building. Or they could have just omitted the name of the town entirely; it would have made absolutely no difference. Instead, they decided on a detail that they probably imagined was colorful but that makes no sense and is entirely superfluous anyway.

This focus on all the wrong things turns out to be a sort of accidental blueprint for the movie on the whole.

There isn’t an authentic human motivation or emotion to be found here, in this tale of boy genius Reed Richards (Miles Teller: Insurgent, Two Night Stand), who, with the help of his pal Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell: Nymphomaniac, Snowpiercer), builds a teleporter device in his garage and gets recruited by a mysterious organization to help them finish their teleporter device. As you do. (The opening sequence of the film, with younger versions of Reed and Ben played by Owen Judge and Evan Hannemann, is like something left on the cutting-room floor of a rejected 80s kiddie adventure. Like if The Goonies were inspired by Bill Gates to launch their own tech startup.) Instead of appreciable motivation and character, we have an astute little kid calling Reed “a dick,” which is true but is meant to be cute. Or people say things like “It’s fun having you here,” when we have no idea what that could possibly refer to, having seen no fun nor even any interaction between the characters involved in this exchange. It’s as if all the human drama that creates characters we care about has been excised.

The “here” is the scientific think tank where Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey: Alex of Venice, Arbitrage) appears to be using genius slave labor to construct his teleporter. He told Reed he was getting a full scholarship to a special school, but it appears only that Reed is working for Storm, alongside all Storm’s other “students,” and that Storm is working for some rather nefarious financiers who do not have anyone’s best interests at heart. Reed is not studying at all, and this place doesn’t look like a school, and no one appears to even notice that this could be a problem. (More missing human stuff: Reed’s parents, and later Ben’s, are almost entirely absent, which gets increasingly bizarre when the plot requires them to disappear for a year. They are supposed to be around 18 years old, and no one comes looking for them? No one cares about them? Maybe Reed’s parents also think he’s a dick.) Also here, because there has to be four of them, are Storm’s kids Sue (Kate Mara: Transcendence, Iron Man 2), who is some sort of unspecified brainiac, and Johnny (Michael B. Jordan: That Awkward Moment, Chronicle), who appears to prefer that he were in Fast & Furious. Oh, and there’s the guy whom no one can see is going to be the villain, Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Counsellor), who is actually called “Von Doom” and who keeps talking about how the planet and humanity don’t deserve to survive, yet, again, no one notices this. Plus, he’s jealous because Reed likes Sue — like, like likes — which is the final kicker. Of course he’s going to turn evil.

Anyway, the idea is that once the teleporter is finished, all the kids will take a trip to the other dimension on the other side. (Why does everyone keep calling it another dimension, and not simply another planet far away, or maybe even our own planet back or forward in time, both of which seem more likely? Unknown. Perhaps it’s the mysteriously geographically displaced Oyster Bay.) This is a brilliant plan: let’s put the only people who understand how this teleporter thing works, plus an untrustworthy hothead (that’s Johnny), into a machine that we’ve only barely tested, and send them off into the unknown. What a great idea! And then the movie tries to make Tim Blake Nelson (Kill the Messenger, As I Lay Dying) the bad guy for coming in and suggesting that this might not be the smartest thing to do. (To be fair, Nelson’s Dr. Allen is one of the nefarious financiers. But he’s not wrong about this.) The four guys — neglecting to invite Sue, because ick a girl, maybe? who knows — decide to go off in the thing anyway, and end up all mutated, because dumbasses. Seriously, they are all the untrustworthy hotheads that Johnny alone is supposed to be, and they even end up mutating Sue on the way home, her thanks for helping them at mission control when they get into trouble.

Complicated, messed-up antiheroes are one thing. Often a good thing. These guys are all just unlikable jerks with no discernible personalities. Even Sue. They certainly do not improve with superpowers… but that’s when the movie gets even more like a cheesy Saturday morning cartoon from the era before mutated and/or superpowered antiheroes were taken seriously by The Movies. From a muddled mess of a beginning and middle, the movie swoops into a cheap-looking finale that starts out looking like it might have been shot in an abandoned hospital on the sly and ends up in that other dimension, which hadn’t previously suffered from a case of bad CGI but does now. (Perhaps the travelers brought an infection from Earth.)

The bar has been raised far too high on comic-book movies for anyone to accept junk like this these days. It’s pretty insulting to fans and to the original material that anyone thought they could get away with this.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Fantastic Four for its representation of girls and women.

red light half a star

Fantastic Four (2015)
US/Canada release date: Aug 07 2015 | UK release date: Aug 06 2015

MPAA: rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and language
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate violence, brief bloody moments)

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Nina

    I wanted this movie to be good. I wasn’t aware that the production had been so troubled until the first reviews started seeping in. This breaks my heart, because I’ve a feeling that a LOT of stupid people are going to blame the casting of MBJ as Johnny for the film’s brutal flopping, and not the film itself.

  • Ed Ferrusquia

    There wasn’t ever really a compelling reason for race-switching Johnny Storm other than “we’re more diverse now, you guys”. But after seeing the reviews, it’s looking like black Human Torch is the LEAST of this movie’s problems.

  • “Race-switching” of a character is NOT A PROBLEM at all. It’s a non-issue.

    Unless you’re casting for Nazi officers, there’s almost never a reason a cast must be all white.

    Things will go much easier for you if you stop thinking of whiteness as the human default. It isn’t.

  • Nina

    I think that diversity is a compelling enough reason, personally.

  • RogerBW

    Goodness, I talk about humanity not being fit to survive, and nobody’s worried about my army of killer robots.

    Does anyone even think of testing the thing with an automated probe? Yeah, I know, people keep saying I shouldn’t expect logic from comic book films, but then they turn round and say they’re also great storytelling, so.

  • Jurgan

    Why is it so hard to get an FF movie to work? How many times will they have to try this? Disclaimer: I haven’t actually seen any of the movies myself, but they’re generally hated and I haven’t heard anything that makes me want to seek them out.

  • Ed Ferrusquia

    I’m well aware that whiteness isn’t a “default” setting – if anything, given our common African origins one would think black would be universally considered the “default”, but nevermind that.

    Changing ethnicities of characters in movies based on books isn’t usually a big issue for me (given of course that the character isn’t specifically written as being of a certain race). I just never saw a good case made for changing the look of a character that up to this point had been represented as a white guy in comics, a primarily VISUAL medium. As a fan of the comics, changing Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s ‘Falcon’ played by Anthony Mackie to a white character would have bothered me equally.

    If diversity is the issue, Marvel ought to be propping up more of its existing black characters. There’s a tragic shortage of minorities in the existing canon of the Big Two, but that just means that comics and graphic novel creators need to get to work on that. As an aspiring writer of graphic novels myself, I certainly am.

  • “race switching” is a problem ´cause it just show laziness in part of the writers. They could just create new characters, or pick other heroes with their specific race and genders to complement the Fantastic four. For example, SHE-HULK, she was a guest member for the group for a long time. There, the group can have two women.

  • Ed Ferrusquia

    Let the diversity come from existing characters in comics. Spawn, Blade, Black Panther, Storm, Luke Cage, Falcon, Static, Green Lantern, War Machine, etc. Promote those characters, give them all good movies! With all these characters to choose from, why would diversity alone be a compelling reason to change an existing character’s look?

  • Veronica Cristina

    She-hulk rights belong to Marvel.

    FF really needs some diversity.

  • Veronica Cristina

    FF needs its own diversity

  • Danielm80

    You’ve posted at least four comments on this topic, but you still haven’t given one reason it’s harmful to change the race of a character. (“It’s not exactly the same as my favorite comic!” isn’t a reason.) Iron Man 3 changed the race of the Mandarin, and that turned out to be witty and surprising. (It also sidestepped the racist overtones of the old Iron Man comics.)

    Every super-hero movie has made changes to the original stories. Some of the best super-hero films have featured characters who were cast against type. If an unexpected casting choice leads to a better performance or a more interesting story, why would you object?

  • David_Conner

    My suspicion is that in this case, Josh Trank wasn’t even really *trying* to make an FF movie, but instead to remake Chronicle with a big budget and a more marketable title.

    I actually enjoyed the 2005 and 2007 movies. They don’t hold up all that well, but at least they got the characters right, which is about 80% of what makes the FF work in my book. The biggest hard-to-explain problem with those movies was screwing up Doctor Doom. Which, seriously, how hard can it be to get this character? He’s Darth Vader with Iron Man’s armor and a green cloak – surely there’s *something* there that you can work with?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Is there something inherently Caucasian about Johnny Storm? If not, there’s no compelling reason not to cast whatever actor a director feels has the best audition.

    (And the fact of the matter is, Johnny Storm’s character development begins and ends with “literal hothead”. You could cast anyone in that role.)

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Slavish devotion to source material seldom produces worthwhile results.

    Diversity in casting choices and diversity in character choices are not mutually exclusive issues.

  • What difference does it make if Johnny Storm is black?

  • They do do *some* testing, but nowhere near enough to be cavalier about it.

  • *Chronicle* is a really good film. It doesn’t need to be remade.

    This is yet another example of Hollywood taking an interesting young filmmaker and coopting him (always a him!) so that he never does anything interesting again.

  • Why does a case have to be made for changing a character’s race?

    Look, here’s the thing: So many of these characters were originally written to be white that if we didn’t change the race of some of them, these movies would continue to be a sea of whiteness. And there is NO case to be made for that.

  • But they were making a Fantastic Four origin story. So they were stuck with certain characters.

    Johnny’s race literally makes *no* difference to the story. Why does it bother you so much?

  • Captain Megaton

    My only problem is that it was done is such a ham-fisted and frankly stereotypical way. Why couldn’t the Reed be black? Or Sue? Oh right, because of “black characters in movies must be in minor male supporting role” rule.

  • Nina

    I gotta say that I appreciate your civility, Ed. Most people on the Internet are quick to get defensive and douchey when discussing things like this, so it’s refreshing to see that you can debate things like this like an articulate human being. :)

    Being a card carrying geek myself, I’m all too aware of how attached my fellow geeks, especially comic book geeks, are to their favourite characters. So I’m not speaking from the position of someone who doesn’t “get” comic book culture. I’ve got scars from years of attending comic book conventions! I’m a seasoned veteran.

    I absolutely agree that non-white characters need to be given their dues in movies. I’m thrilled that we’re getting a Black Panther movie, a Luke Cage show on Netflix, and that War Machine and Falcon are going to be given more prominent roles in Civil War. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come. But the disregard of canonically black (and other non-white) superheroes in the media is another issue.

    But ask yourself – WHY is it a problem for Human Torch to be played on screen by a black guy? What about Johnny’s canonical whiteness is crucial to understanding his story? Movie adaptations of virtually anything take liberties with the source material, so why should a character’s skin colour be an issue if it’s not an important component of his character?

  • TheRedExclaimer

    I can’t believe that this film is THIS bad. Personally, I think implicit bias and prejudice is creeping into the assessments of critics and some regular audience reviewers. This film has garnered a lot of negative press prior to its opening, stemming from ageism, racism, and hateful attitudes of fanboys and fangirls. So, for this film, I’m choosing to ignore the critics, and will simply go see this film and enjoy my movie going experience.

  • Hallah

    Wait, Sue doesn’t even get to go on the such-a-bad-idea trip? What the heck is that?! Even in the 60’s she got to go! My list of reasons not to see this one is getting so long.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I don’t see how you can call Johnny Storm a support character in Fantastic Four

  • Ed Ferrusquia

    My entire nitpick, and those of others who’ve voiced similar displeasure at the casting, comes solely from a comic book geek’s perspective. To us it seems arbitrary, or at worst just a politically correct calculation, depending on who you ask.

    I will concede that Jordan’s casting isn’t a bad thing if you’re looking at the film as a moviegoer with no stake in the source material. For such a moviegoer, his casting won’t matter one iota and does not affect the quality of the film, for better or worse.

  • Pinkk

    First, agreed with the review. Movie was just terrible. :p

    There are actually lots of black characters in comics, they just don’t put them out there (yet anyways). Though my thought on this was, why not make Sue black as well? I felt like the studios thought they couldn’t have a beautiful black woman, they had to stay to a blonde woman.

    People weren’t happy with them turning Terry white in the Spawn movie either :p

    But none of that is why the movie is terrible. It’s just a boring mess that show cased no power use or had them feeling like a family or a team. The movie went no where and ended no where.

  • Pinkk

    When people say these comments, I hope they keep saying it when they decide “Hey, why not cast a white guy as Black Panther, because it’s just a guy in a black cat suit” :p

  • Pinkk

    Same thing, why not make Sue black as well and keep them full brother and sister, as they are in the comics, instead of adopted? That’s my complaint. It felt as if the studio was casting for diversity, but were afraid to get rid of the blonde girl.

  • Ed Ferrusquia

    As a geek you should know by now how we get when details big and small get overlooked EVEN WITHIN THE COMICS; geeks blew their collective gaskets when they made Thor a woman. I think it has less to do with Thor being a woman than the fact that Thor was changed at all. The irony of course is that Marvel’s Thor is himself a modern reinterpretation of an old myth; I like to think that if the Vikings could see what we did to Thor they’d play soccer with our heads.

    Strictly speaking, there’s nothing about his canonical whiteness that’s crucial to the movie. Every criticism about his race is from people attached to the source material as it’s always appeared. It’s all about how he’s been historically portrayed in a visual medium, and how race-switching him seems less like an artistic choice and more like political correctness.

    Obviously not all geeks are bothered by this; you’re not. But it IS a huge part of geekdom for some reason. I think that part of it might just have to do with how we tolerate any change to the things we love; some people are more protective of these things and feel a duty to preserve them the way they are. Maybe we’ve come to think of them as “real”, and any change sort of chips away at that realness, I don’t know. I guess I can’t logically defend my position other than “Johnny Storm isn’t white though”.

    Not that this kind of thing is exclusive to comic geeks; remember how people reacted to giant, musclebound Jack Reacher being played by 5’7″ Tom Cruise? Remember how geeks lashed out at astronomers when they demoted Pluto?

  • Danielm80

    Why give Professor X and Magneto British accents? They’re not from the UK in the comics.

  • Let us know what you think.

  • You still haven’t explained how this casting affects the quality of the movie for the comic book geek. Was it not arbitrary that Johnny was white in the first place?

  • You’re probably correct about Sue. But this is a still a baby step in the right direction. And I guarantee you that there are people who will be delighted to see siblings who are of different races onscreen. We never see that, and it’s a thing in the real world.

  • It’s really hard to accept that you’re not simply bigoted against anyone who isn’t straight and white and male when you say stuff like this:

    you can make The Invisible Woman a transgendered Asian kid in the next reboot

    as if that would be outlandish and just plain unrealistic. What would be strange about this?

    As a geek you should know by now how we get when details big and small get overlooked EVEN WITHIN THE COMICS

    Can you give us some example of these freakouts happening when it’s not a depiction of a straight white man being altered away from straightness or whiteness or maleness?

  • Nina

    What’s wrong with them being adoptive siblings?

    Funny how lots of people are complaining about Johnny being black *because it’s not true to the comics*, yet insist that they’d have no problem whatsoever with both Storm kids being black despite the fact that that wouldn’t be true to the comics, either.

  • Danielm80

    Actually, comic book fans are notorious for flipping out any time the movie isn’t precisely the same as their favorite version of the comic (usually the version they read when they were twelve). People freaked out when Spider-Man had “organic” web-shooters instead of a mechanical device he’d invented. They freaked out when Michael Keaton was cast as Batman instead of someone more classically handsome. Most of the time, they calm down after they see the movie. A lot of fans now say Michael Keaton was the best Batman of all time.

    In this case, though, the fans are getting very vocal support from racists.

  • Pinkk

    Oh, as comic fan, I don’t care much for them deviating from the source material. As I said in another comment, no one would be happy if they made Black Panther a white male, even if the white male was the best actor ever.
    My problem with the adoption (yes, there are adoption families, I know this) is it was a cop out. They went that route because they were afraid to lose the blond.
    As for the movie, Michael’s portrayal of the Torch may have been one of the better parts of the movie, though that’s not saying much when the movie just needed more work.

  • Pinkk

    I asked the same thing!

  • LaSargenta

    I’m inclined to agree with the “they were afraid to lose the blonde” position.

  • Nina

    I do agree that it’s a cop-out, especially because there NEED to be more women of colour in film, but I think that the attempt at portraying an unconventional multiracial family is still better than keeping the entire team mayo on white bread white.

  • disqus_tk6e1XOPLN

    I’m happy you stopped arguing with that busted tooth broad. Really, you shouldn’t be kissing her ass. She’s speaking to you like you’re some white 1% oligarch. I agree with you. I found the race change to be distracting, and insulting as a purist. Totally unnecessary, and rooted in the worst of politically correct motivations and marketing appeal. It makes sense that “minorities” want to see themselves represented more through Hollywood’s lens. Players have stood on the Oscar stage and said much the same, yet look how fast people are to beat down anyone who even implies a favorable ethnocentric sentiment towards a white, fictional, character. And because of thought sp … errr, political correctness, I can’t just say, “The character is white, yes he should stay that way, yes it matters.” If you don’t laugh about the irony, you’d cry.

  • Danielm80

    But again: Why does it matter that Johnny Storm is white?

  • David_Conner

    I have to say my initial knee-jerk reaction to the casting was also “Wait, so why isn’t Sue black too?”

    But then I started thinking about it from other angles, along the lines that MaryAnn raised above: “And I guarantee you that there are people who will be delighted to see siblings who are of different races onscreen. We never see that, and it’s a thing in the real world.” And that’s spot-on, I think.

  • David_Conner

    Yeah, comics fans can get outraged over stuff that’s incredibly trivial, even to other comics fans, let alone “civilians” to whom the outrage would be utterly baffling.

    To be sure, a great deal of the outrage is from small-but-vocal-and-shouty Internet denizens and People Complaining About Comics They Haven’t Read, but disproportionate freak-outs are definitely part of the territory.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Which comments?

  • Nina

    That’s a whole bushel of apples and a whole crate of oranges.

    The amount of characters of colour in mainstream media is pathetic, whereas there’s no shortage of straight white dudes. That’s why it’s no big deal to see ONE replaced with a black man.

  • Pinkk

    There are lots of characters of color in comics, to many to list, but one can easily find them, and by mainstram media in this sense, I’m taking you only mean comics. Are they all popular? No, but Iron Man (white guy) wasn’t considered popular before his movies. Black Panther isn’t a popular comic hero. Luke Cage (getting a Netflix series) isn’t popular. Night Thrasher. Shard and Bishop (who was in last X-Men movie). Synch. Patriot. Darwin (X-Men movie). Deathlok (in Agent of Shield). And the list is bigger than these very few and the list doesn’t include DC. There are great characters out there that they just have to take a chance to make a movie on.
    So, no need to replace a character as already depicted, really.
    And no, it’s not apples to oranges. Changing is changing. If I the thought was “Michael is the best man for the part” it’d have been one thing, but he wasn’t even that great at the part (I don’t blame him for it) or maybe Chris Evans just did a better Johnny. *shrug*

  • Pinkk

    “It’s okay to change them from the source material as they’ve been depicted.”
    No one liked Terry being changed in Spawn either :p

  • Nina

    It’s not as simple as you make it sound. Studios aren’t going to cave and give a character of colour his/her own movie just because it’s the right thing to do. I agree that it needs to happen, but that’s a whole other thing. But if an opportunity comes up to allow an actor of colour to shine in a role where the canonical whiteness of the original character is arbitrary, why not jump at it? The fact that more characters of colour need to be showcased in their own films has nothing to do with the fact that Johnny’s whiteness is not crucial to the character.

    And you can argue about who’s a better actor until you’re blue in the face. Just because you think that Evans did a better job as Johnny 10 years ago doesn’t mean that the director of the new film did. Would you be against a different man of colour who is an objectively better actor than Evans getting the role?

  • bronxbee

    if these comic characters get running story lines, or multiple appearances in the comic universe, they must be “popular enough” for someone.

  • bronxbee

    a comic book is not a movie, and vice versa.

  • bronxbee

    i have a nephew who looks like something out of a viking novel, who has a brother who is mixed race (and of course, considered black). they would be puzzled at the least if anyone asked it one was adopted… just go with it.

  • bronxbee

    does anyone remember the uproar when Cheerios used a commercial where it was a mixed race family? having mixed race nephews and nieces, i admit i didn’t even *notice* until someone pointed out to me that the mom was white, the dad black, and the most adorable little girl mixed. i was so happy when Cheerios ignored the uproar by doing another commercial where the little girl finds out she’s going to have a sibling! there are lots and lots of mixed race kids out there — and i, for one, want to see more “mixed” families. what’s going to happen when we finally do have alien races to intermarry with?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    OK, well, look… it is ok to change things from the source material when adapting to a different medium. In fact, it’s absolutely essential.

    Second, no one* has suggested that a non-black actor is being considered to play Black Panther. So I don’t know where you get “when they decide”. That’s not even a legitimate hypothetical.

    And finally, this is exactly the point I’m making. The character of Black Panther is inherently African. If Johnny Storm can be described as “literal hot head”, Black Panther’s three-word character sketch is “super-powered African prince”. Deviating from that would require a pretty profound justification. Especially since, given the culture we live in, it would be difficult to read that choice as anything besides white-washing.

    And for the record, there are characters who are inherently Caucasian, just far fewer than you may think. Steve Rogers (Aryan ideal, ideological polar to Nazis) and Thor (literal Norse mythological figure) are about the only Marvel characters who come to mind.

    * Excepting of course, people trying to score rhetorical points.

  • Pinkk

    “Superpowered African ruler” who says he has to be black? It still the same. /If/ they did change Black Panther to white male (black only refers to his outfit) people would be up in arms about it, even if the white male was some great actor.
    And you just said it was okay to change from the source material for a different medium.
    Still, my problem with FF was not Johnny, it was that it was just a terrible movie. :p

  • Ed Ferrusquia

    It’s outlandish and unrealistic WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THE FANTASTIC FOUR, specifically. If you created a story starring a transgendered Asian kid and made a film off that, no problem. But there just don’t happen to be any in the Fantastic Four at the moment.

    I also cited Jack Reacher as an example of freakout involving a straight white man being played by another straight white man, Tom Cruise, because Jack Reacher is a giant in the books and Cruise is like 5’5″.

    They almost ripped Tim Burton’s head off when they cast Michael Keaton as Batman.

    They flipped lids when Spider-man was given organic web shooters in Raimi’s version of the movie.

    As you can tell, race was not the issue then. And again, race IN AND OF ITSELF isn’t the issue with Johnny Storm; race is the incidental variable in this matter. It’s the fact that anything at all was changed that bothers geeks. ANY change to the look of a comic character will inspire vitriol by geeks who jealously guard their stories.

  • Ed Ferrusquia

    Pinkk alluded to this point earlier, but if you stretch it far enough there’s actually nothing racially inherent to any of the characters, not even Black Panther. Technically, if we really wanted to we COULD have a white Black Panther. All we have to do is tweak the source material a lot so that Wakanda is more like an apartheid-era South Africa and whites rule everything. Then it’s just a wealthy, Afrikaans speaking aristocrat who dresses like a black panther. (Hey, African Batman!)

    Naturally I wouldn’t want a travesty like that to happen to the character, but it WOULD be consistent with the rationale you laid out.

    Although Nina still has one major point in her favor: the deck is still stacked against minorities in media. But you don’t necessarily have to change Johnny Storm to alleviate that problem.

  • Ed Ferrusquia

    It affects the quality, but not in the acting, the script, the dialogue, the pacing, nothing for which this movie is taking heat; I made that much clear to begin with (“black Johnny Storm is the LEAST of this movie’s problems”).

    How it DOES affect the movie for the geek is simply that he’s not seeing the same character that he’s become so invested in, and that’s something – and when he’s been represented as looking a certain way for a long time, of course it’s going to cause a stir when he no longer looks the same. Johnny Storm being white is purely arbitrary, but it happened that way. For a geek, the very act of changing his appearance will affect the way he sees the movie, even if only a little.

    Now here’s the thing: in the comics, Spider-man is a black Puerto Rican now. To my knowledge, most fans like the new Spider-man and accept him. Why? Because they didn’t make PETER PARKER a black Puerto Rican, they made Miles Morales a black Puerto Rican who became Spider-man. That kind of change works for geeks because it preserves the historical Peter Parker while at the same time making the Marvel Universe that much more inclusive. When the movie reboot of Spider-man happens (again), I’m not sure fans would object to a black Spider-man. Peter Parker’s had his chance; I think the geeks will accept him.

    If they don’t, THEN you can call them racists, lol!

  • Just because geeks are unreasonable doesn’t mean they should be pandered to like this.

    It’s outlandish and unrealistic WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THE FANTASTIC FOUR

    What, specifically, about the context requires that Johnny be white?

  • Ed Ferrusquia

    Just the context of 60 years of source material that pictorially depicts him as white. A character’s appearance is the most recognizable feature when your character comes from a visual medium, therefore it will cause the most outrage when it’s the first thing they change.

    There IS, however, a caveat; when I said that there wasn’t a compelling reason for changing Johnny Storm’s race, I was more or less looking for at least some semblance of a reason for a race change. When Idris Elba played Heimdall in Thor, that casting choice made even less sense to me – after all, wouldn’t the Norse gods be, well, Nordic-looking? But when I took into consideration that the Asgardians may have been depicted by the Vikings in their image, then I had to consider that Heimdall may very well have been a black man for all the Vikings knew (as the gatekeeper to Asgard he wouldn’t have ever left his post to disabuse the Vikings of the notion he was white, anyway). There’s no reason to believe that the ENTIRE REALM OF ASGARD would only be populated by white people. So with Heimdall, casting Idris Elba still makes perfect sense. That’s a change to the visuals that, while not in keeping with the comics, at least has a rationale behind it that works and that fans can therefore accept. With Johnny Storm, there’s no rationale, really; he’s just black now.

    As to whether geeks should be pandered to, well, that’s another issue. Maybe they shouldn’t be; that would be the filmmaker’s prerogative as an artist. But you can’t then expect geeks to be happy about every change to the source material, either; that’s OUR prerogative.

    I should probably note again that I’d be happier with ANY depiction of Johnny Storm if they had only gotten the original Fantastic Four right BEFORE deciding to reinvent them. Is that really so bad?

  • I was more or less looking for at least some semblance of a reason for a race change.

    And I am looking for a reason why Johnny *must* be white.

    Everything you’ve said about this issue keeps boiling down to the idea that whiteness is default, and a character can’t be other than white unless there’s a “reason” for it. You don’t see to think that Johnny could be black unless his blackness is essential to the character, yet you do not apply the same standard to a white Johnny.

  • Danielm80

    In the comic books, Wolverine is quite short, and that sets him apart from the other characters. Hugh Jackman is not short, but most fans love him in the X-Men movies. Quicksilver is nothing like the comic-book character in either of his film appearances, but a lot of people thought he was the highlight of Days of Future Past. Mystique looks very different from the way she’s depicted in the comics. Why is Johnny Storm raising so much more of an outcry?

  • Maybe the question should be: Would Johnny Storm be raising this much of an outcry if the movie was any good?

    Not that that’s an excuse. But it’s an easy target for lazy criticism.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Back in the Claremont/Byrne era of the late 1970s when the X-Men series first became popular — eventually becoming so popular that only Frank Miller’s Daredevil rivaled it in fan appeal — the black heroine Storm was a major character. So was the Jewish heroine Kitty Pryde.

    This was changed for the movies.

  • Tonio Kruger

    That much was obvious with the first FF movie when they found it easier to dye Jessica Alba’s hair blonde than to risk confronting movie-goers with the sight of a dark-haired Sue Storm — despite the fact that Ms. Alba did not seem all that convincing or attractive as a blonde. (Of course, YMMV.)

    Then again I suspect they would have done the same thing even if they had chosen to cast a young Lucy Liu in the same role.

  • Ed Ferrusquia

    I guess maybe degrees of change matter. Hugh Jackman is 6 feet tall, but in every other respect he is DEAD ON Wolverine. Mystique looks different, but not radically different; in all incarnations she is blue-skinned, red-headed, and yellow-eyed, just like in the comics. They kept the most important visual cues about the character and discarded the unimportant ones. I’d argue that preserving her color is essential to translating her into film.

    Quicksilver in both Avengers and X-Men may not look exactly like his comic book counterparts, but it’s passes. They preserve the white hair which, again, given the visual nature of the comics medium, was essential to keep. It may not be essential to the CHARACTER of Quicksilver; you could apply MaryAnn Johanson’s same reasoning to Quicksilver’s white hair and make him a redhead. His hair adds nor detracts nothing to the character, but if you’re talking about translating a comic book character to the screen, then the look matter more.

    To which degree it matters more is a matter of opinion; not all geeks think it matters. Once again, I myself would be fine with a black Johnny Storm; I simply would have wanted to see the original Fantastic Four done right first before reinterpreting them.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Oh please, Hugh Jackman is much to pretty to be dead on as Logan. Mystique in the comics is neither scaly nor perpetually naked, and she’s certainly no hand-to-hand combat expert. But if you want to talk about essential visual cues, here is Johnny Storm: https://withjustahintofamelia.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/mindex_-_human_torch.jpeg

    Note the skin color.

    Now look at this:


    And this:


  • Jim Mann

    Why is it lazy?

    What’s important for the writers is to get the essential characteristics of the character correct. What’s essential about Johnny is that he is a rebellious — at times obnoxious — teen, who when push comes to shove is also a hero.

    Worrying about his race is just a step removed from those who argue that the character is wrong because in the book hair hair was brown, not black, or he was six foot tall, not five nine (except of course if his height is something that is important to the story).

  • Ed Ferrusquia

    Maybe Glenn Danzig would have made a better Wolverine, but Jackman in my opinion still nailed the role. And Mystique IS a hand-to-hand combat expert; according to Wikipedia she is “adept at martial arts”.

    Johnny Storm’s flame was the LEAST they could preserve! Those are essential. Maybe we can agree that his skin color is less essential.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    For those playing the home game, one of the above images is from the 2015 version, and the other is (I think) from Rise of the Silver Surfer. Could you tell that at a glance?

  • LaSargenta

    Second one from RotSS?

  • Tonio Kruger

    I can’t help wondering how Sue gets her powers of invisibility if she doesn’t go on the trip.

  • Something something technobabble about spillover when the boys have to make an emergency return home. It’s much less an issue than why they don’t get her in on the illicit trip in the first place.

  • RogerBW

    Some things, like the space mission becoming a teleportation test, well, meh, you have to update stuff; it’s not as if anyone had a worthwhile space programme these days. The original X-Men were mutants because their parents had been exposed to entirely mundane nuclear radiation.
    But given that the core concept of the team is “they went on a trip together, and got powers from it”, I have to wonder who came up with the idea of leaving Sue out of said trip.

  • I’m sure someone thought they were “fixing” the story: everyone knows no one wants to see girls doing things.

    I haven’t heard any fanboys complaining about this change to the canonical story…

  • Danielm80

    It’s like Sue is invisible.

    Yes, it’s a stupid joke, but I like it.

  • Dr. Rocketscience


  • Imran

    IMHO chronicle had no originality. as far as i remember it was almost completely ripped off from Akira and other Japanese animes. maybe such an un-original writer who made that movie is not such a good choice to write a script for a reboot

  • Imran

    fan boys probably didnt even watch it. i didnt because that trailers made it clear its going to be bad and nothing like what one would expect a factastic four story to be like

  • Imran

    well for one thing, he is supposed to be Sue’s brother so either they should both be black or not. now for someone like black panther, you cant make him white becuase he is supposed to be african. why does everyone only talk about black and white is another thing that confuses me. if we want diversity shouldnt we be asking where are the hispanic characters, the arabs, the east asians, the indian-paksitani-iranian region, etc etc.

    I still feel the way diversity is being approached makes it look like we are becoming race-o-phobic (for lack of a better word in my limited vocabulary). A hero being white is not a bad thing. im not white, i would like to see more brown heros but i dont feel any insecurity. i like that kamala is paksitani-american but she has to be an interesting character or else people wouldnt have liked her. now one has an issue with sam being cap in the comics but if we get a brown steve rogers it wouldnt make sense to us as we cant relate to him. for us steve rogers is white. even in names. jonny storm doesnt sound like a black name. not saying it cant be but its slightly less believeable like if kamala khan was caroline kross or something and we are told she is paksitani-american i would be like “really?” you couldnt find any names that pakistani’s would believe more.

    sorry if this is a long post. cheers

  • Imran

    i really think if the movie was done really well, noe one apart from pure fan boys would mind. a lot of comic fans like me would be fine with it. we want great movies. i didnt like the amazing spiderman 2 becuase overall the movie wasnt good for me however andrew was much more spiderman-like for me than tobey ever was

  • Imran

    “And I am looking for a reason why Johnny *must* be white.” well because the original character was written as a white character. imagine if black panther is made white and the ruler of an unknown european nation. you can still tell a lot of stories an all but why would you do it?

  • Imran

    personally ive never heard that michael keaton was the best batman. ive heard that about bale

  • austencollins

    *record scratch*
    UM WHAT sorry no way could a movie present the Black Panther as a white Afrikaans-speaking guy and still be faithful to the character. That would be like re-imagining Wonder Woman as a man. The explanation behind Black Panther’s powers and actions as a hero is DIRECTLY connected to European colonialism in Africa and thus to BP’s status as a black man. It’s not possible to change his race without making massive changes to his personality, his motivations, and the entire setting in which he operates.

    Johnny Story gets his powers by flying a rocket ship through some cosmic rays. Maybe in 1961 that implied some things about his race, but those assumptions don’t hold true for any 21st century iteration of the character.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Thanks to the wonder of the $2 theater, I did get a chance to see this on a big screen. But, ye gods and little fishes, what a mess.

    The two best descriptions of FF ’15 are MaryAnn’s, and Charlie Jane Anders’s on i09, in which she called it the “most self-loathing superhero movie” ever. At the very least, it seems embarrassed to be seen with the nerds.

    I’m all for unique interpretations of classic characters, but FF doesn’t seem to know or understand anything but the barest, superficial descriptions: Reed Richards = smart guy, Sue Storm = blonde, Johnny Storm = wise ass, Victor von Doom = villain, Ben Grimm = the one who’s covered in rocks or something. And then it doesn’t bother to fill them in with anything: Reed is just an empty suit, not even bothering to be the chauvinist patriarch of the comics, or Ioan Gruffudd’s absent minded professor. Johnny has daddy issues, for some reason, that make him just so darn angry. Sue is… just kinda there. She has no discernible personality at all. I’d call it sexist, but Ben is presented the exact same way.

    The script seems vaguely aware of the idea of “family” underlying the Fantastic Four mythos, but makes only wasted nods in that direction. For all the pearl clutching about casting Jordan as Johnny and Mara as Sue, their history as a non-traditional family could have gone a long way in setting up the relationship between the team. But the movie doesn’t even deal with the Storms. There are no scenes here where Jordan and Mara are asked to portray any sort of sibling relationship, be it affection, protectiveness, rivalry, even estrangement. They barely rate as colleagues.

    Whether under Trask’s direction or the studios, the movie edited in all the wrong ways. The first act takes half the running time, but doesn’t present anything that couldn’t have been accomplished in 20 minutes. The second act is largely gone. There are no “discovering their powers” scenes, no “learning to work together” scenes (or even “falling apart as a team” scenes). The body horror angle that floated around leading up to release, if it was ever filmed, was cut to three short sequences. In there place: that goddamned “One Year Later” title card.

    (And are we to believe that Reed was gone an entire year, and accomplished nothing save plans for a one-man version of his machine, that he didn’t even build? Reed Richards? A character whose intelligence, in the Marvel cannon, might be second only to Bruce Banner, maybe? I’m sorry, no.)

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