I wish we lived in a world where the phrase “dark, gritty reboot” didn’t cause me such intense waves of nausea but sadly here we are in 2015 when Marvel’s first family has been turned in a cinematic Frankenstein’s monster.
I’m not here to complain about how this movie is going to ruin my childhood ideals of what the Fantastic Four is. No no no, I’m not a savage neckbeard who shies away from change or disappointing adaptations. I want to be optimistic. Think of me as one of Sleeping Beauty’s good fairies, ideally Merryweather, if only I could take this poor situation and salvage it. When the cast was announced almost a year ago I was initially very excited, I was already following the careers of all four young up and comers. Then I was violently informed of the roles they would be playing.
Kate Mara aside, I was a little surprised with the choices. Both Miles Teller and Jamie Bell would be incredible choices for the young, rowdy Johnny Storm. Teller and Michael B. Jordan would both be out of the box but intriguing picks for Ben Grimm’s compelling internal struggle. Miles Teller to play Mister Fantastic? Hmm, I mean, that’s nice? Bell as The Thing? What? And finally Jordan for the Human Torch. Okay. Well, what if we just played a game of musical chair casting and shifted each of them into a different role?
I think Michael B. Jordan is on the brink of really making a name for himself in this industry. His talent is both somehow raw and developed. In the last two years he’s managed to play a range of roles that show off how well he can take a character’s flaws and make them almost endearing, you want to root for him throughout his trials, be it high school football or alcoholism or even attempting to pull his life together despite the harsh restrictions of society’s expectations for a young black man in urban America.
After his amazing performance in Chronicle I‘m now convinced that he would be such a strong candidate for Reed Richards. As Steve Montgomery he showed that he was able to keep a level head after developing powers and still made it a point to have fun with his friends when their curiosity took a darker turn. I would really love to see him apply that to Reed. As any fan of FF can tell you, even though he has dubbed himself Mister Fantastic and thusly naming the team after himself he’s not the real leader. Sue is the head and the heart of the team while Reed slowly begins to lose himself in the endless possibilities of science. I want to watch Jordan capture Reed’s intelligence and ingenuity, his passion for exploring every secret the universe has, and his compulsion to solve problems. He would be able to balance Reed’s inherent asshole complex and make him an underdog without belittling his strengths or turning him into a full-blown nerd.
What about Miles Teller then? While Teller has been in a lot of movies I still feel like too many people have been sleeping on this kid. His ability to play comedic roles and make jokes feel natural instead of scripted or slapstick is brilliant. He’s also proven that he can extend beyond playing the funny friend and tap dance all over our heartstrings with his roles in The Spectacular Now and Whiplash. While I’d be lying if I said I didn’t every second of him wearing eyeglasses in the trailer I feel like they might be leaning too hard on Marvel’s Ultimate Universe’s version of Reed, the dorky and socially inept brainiac and, honestly, that’s so underwhelming.
Teller’s heart-wrenchingly self-deprecating humor would be outstanding for Ben Grimm. It would physically pain me to not see Teller’s face underneath all the prosthetics for The Thing but knowing that beneath that orange foam beat the heart of man who was beginning to hate himself but still managed to unconditionally love his found family would break me. Grimm is a character that deserves more attention and appreciation. Is he made of rocks? Yeah, but the way he struggles with his new appearance and how people will forever see him is jarringly real. Not everyone gets to be Peter Parker, waking up with sinewy muscles and a toned abs, sometimes you get turned into a monster despite your heart of gold. Maybe it’s because I’m becoming wildly infatuated with everything about Miles Teller from his broad shoulders to the scar on his chin but I would love to have my heart demolished as he delivered Ben’s anguish and humor.
That leaves Jamie Bell. Beautiful, wonderful, perfect Jamie Bell. Jamie Bell who I’ve been trying to dreamcast for years. Jamie Bell who made Jumper tolerable. Jamie Bell who made The Eagle tolerable. Jamie Bell who instantly convinced me that Man on a Ledge would be a movie worth paying for from the trailer alone. If you can’t tell, I’m pretty damn sprung for Jamie Bell.
Bell would be legendary as Johnny Storm. If you blissfully ignore the second half of Snowpiercer you would be smitten by Bell’s outstanding depiction of Edgar. He was rambunctious and eager, sometimes too eager and Chris Evans’ Curtis would have to reign him in but their big brother/little brother relationship was emotionally crippling. If you can’t immediately picture Bell as Johnny I feel so sorry for the dark timeline you live in. Bell would ensure that Johnny’s confidence and irresponsibility seem cute and almost loveable without making the Human Torch a caricature every bad jock stereotype.
As someone who hasn’t yet seen Fantastic Four I tremble in trepidation for the story behind the beautiful cinematography. Maybe Josh Trank will surprise all of us and execute a movie that will blow nerd minds for years. Maybe this cast is actually perfectly suited for these characters we grew up with. Or maybe when they were cast an intern dropped their headshots and mixed up the casting director’s notes and they were meant to play the roles I want them to play instead. We will find out in August.