Chronicle director Josh Trank is currently behind-the-scenes preparing for his relaunch of Fox’s Fantastic Four franchise, while fans hold their breath on the sidelines, worried that Marvel’s favorite family is once again going to get shortchanged by their movie adaptation.
At the moment there seems to be a holding pattern; word is Trank and producers are testing different combinations of actors to find that perfect camaraderie needed to create the familial banter and excellent team dynamic that are the cornerstone of any Fantastic Four story. However, after hearing the list of rumored actors up for the main four slots, the core fanbase has been less than enthused about where this is all headed – and some rumored plot details haven’t helped matters.
Actors like Girls star Allison Williams and 1600 Penn star Josh Gad have had their names floated for roles like Invisible Girl and The Thing; however, most of the Fantastic Four casting rumors have focused on Reed Richards and The Human Torch, with up-and-coming actors Miles Teller (Spectacular Now) and Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) being the two names long attached to the respective characters.
Jordan in particular has been the subject of long discussion; the actor worked with Trank (and impressed fans) in Chronicle, but having an African-American actor step into the role of Johnny Storm presents logistical challenges (his relation to a white Sue Storm), as well as the usual “race-switching” complaints.
Well, as luck would have it Teller and Jordan are starring in a movie together, That Awkward Moment, in which their banter and camaraderie are (if nothing else) a good indication of how they would fit together within a Fantastic Four ensemble. Also starring in That Awkward Moment is Zac Efron – and although Teller and Jordan were tight-lipped about the current FF4 casting process, Efron was free to let his view of the matter be known, after I joked that he could join them in the cast as The Thing:
Zac Efron: “Bottom Line: These guys are good enough and in a position where they deserve that kind of role. I dunno… I have to kind of earn it a little more to be in a movie like that. It’s just different. I think these guys are fresh and brand new – I think these guys would be great in that film. I don’t belong in a film like that, not at all, no way.”
We’ll skip over the easy-opening for fans to rip into a Zac Efron Fantastic Four casting (pretty sure the comments section will have fun with that one) and instead focus on the actual endorsement of Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan starring in the film.
The two young men are both proven as prestige and commercial talents (Teller in Spectacular Now and 21 & Over; Jordan in Chronicle and Fruitvale Station) and in That Awkward Moment they do exhibit good chemistry and banter – but of course, the issue goes deeper than that. Iconic comic book characters demand a certain (but variable) level of fidelity to the source material, and an actor must embody certain essential characteristics that define the character, in charisma or spirit if not physical resemblance.
In that sense it’s easy to see why many people have been okay with the thought of Jordan playing the Torch; as seen in Chronicle, the actor has a likable swagger that could make for a convincing ladies man – while films like Fruitvale have shown he has the ability to convincingly exude the sort of attitude and (forgive me) hot-headedness that puts the “Storm” in Johnny Storm. The revised back story and obvious potential for incredibly racist jokes would be a downside, admittedly.
Teller is something of a harder sell. A lot people find the actor’s whip-smart wit and banter in films like 21 & Over to be bothersome – and a good number of them are probably ignorant of his more subtle, layered (and generally impressive) work in Spectacular Now, one of last year’s indie darlings. That’s all to say: It’s already hard to imagine the younger version of Reed Richards (as featured in the Ultimate Fantastic Four continuity); the majority of fans will likely have little frame of reference to imagine Teller’s trademark wit supplanting their memories of the aloof and square-minded Reed Richards from the classic comics.
If storyline rumors are true – a revised origin involving young super-powered types being utilized as government weapons – then this Fantastic Four reboot is striking out in a bold new direction, one that will be an uphill battle, for sure. While casting is always a touchy subject in the initial stages, for a project like FF4 it seems like a slow-build into the graces of audiences will be the key – and that requires sustained charisma. Based on what we’ve seen from That Awkward Moment, Teller and Jordan (together or individually) can offer that.
That Awkward Moment is in theaters on January 31, 2014.
Fantastic Four will be in theaters on June 19, 2015. Stay tuned for details on casting.