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Obligatory Superhero Update: "Fantastic Four" & "Doctor Strange"

I didn't think I was going to have anything to say about the recently announced Fantastic Four reboot cast that I hadn't already said in previous posts. But then they forced my hand with the Jamie Bell casting. If you don't frequent mainstream click-baiting movie blogs (most of which live for superhero movie news) the news goes like so:

  • Mr Fantastic, Reed Richards (stretchy scientific genius) - Miles Teller
  • Invisible Girl (Mr Fantastic's wife, Sue Storm) - Kate Mara
  • The Human Torch (Sue's brother) - Michael B Jordan
  • The Thing, Ben Grimm (Reed's best friend) - Jamie Bell  

I don't understand a single one of those actors in those roles. Teller is great but doesn't project gravitas and mensa-like intelligence. Jordan is super but all of his best work is dramatically heavy and nuanced and this character is traditionally one of the least angsty among the tights-wearing set. I know it's unfair to hold a movie as bad as That Awkward Moment against anyone but let's just say that Jordan seemed totally adrift in the dumb light comedy register that Teller and Efron were fine with even if neither of them have yet shown acting chops to rival his. 

BUT ANYWAY... who knew that I'd be most upset about The Thing, my least favorite of the four character in the comics. Why would anyone think to cast an actor as talented and as easy on the eyes as Jamie Bell in a role that required his gorgeous mug be buried in orange CGI rocks? Seriously, what is Hollywood's problem with him? If he were a girl he would have already been an Oscar nominee by now -- Billy Elliott was that kind of performance, but only little girls get lead acting nominations -- and Hollywood hasn't really done right by him since. That's 13 years of mistreatment. 

Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that Marvel wants Doctor Strange to be their "hub" character (think Iron Man) for Phase Three of their long term plan of eventually dominating the cultural landscape to such an extent that superhero epics are the only genre that ever gets made. Super powers for everyone!

If the rumors of lynchpin character are true, that explains those earlier Johnny Depp rumors for the mystical doctor. A hub character would require either a major star or tremendous faith in the lesser known chosen to pin billions of dollars of revenue on his untested charisma. Depp would have been a great choice for that role if this were the 1990s or the early Aughts back when he was a restlessly inventive actor. But does he still have it in him to make any new character different and special? And if this character doesn't feel different than the other heroes out there, what's the point. Expand your range, Marvel, or don't do it.

 The list of directors Marvel is eyeing is all over the place, the only thing uniting them is not much experience in the directors chair. They're seeing Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair who has done one previous Danish film with supernatural elements), Dean Israelite (Welcome to Tomorrow), Jonathan Levine (the zombie rom com Warm Bodies) and Mark Andrews (who co-directed Brave so at least there are odd spells in his past!). I think Arcel and Andrews are interesting possibilities (if only to see what else they can do) but shouldn't they be going for a director with a super confident facility with vibrantly odd visuals to bring this mysticism to life?

If you could suggest a director / star pairing who would it be?

Do you think the superhero bubble is going to burst soon or not until the 2020s? All things are cyclical after all. 

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Reader Comments (24)

I think Jordan showed a lot of charisma in Chronicle, which makes me think he'll be good as Johnny Storm. And since it's the same director, it seems like Josh Trank thinks the same thing.

I just hope that this gives way to casting more POC.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpaco.

I kind of get what your problem with The Thing might be: He's arguably a bad fit with the other three in terms of personality/reaction to his powers. He might come across like an X-Men reject than an appropriate member for the kinds of things they DO and the stories they're involved in. I can get that (and, thus, preferring the "She-Hulk as 'The Bruiser'" era (issues 265-296, guest appearances afterward)), but I think, at least, that he's a necessary depth charge to a team that's TOO GOOFY otherwise. (Which is why his angst recurs a whole lot.) Even if, in the comics, The Thing wound up being Blackbeard.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

As far as director/star pairing for Doctor Strange?


Taste for the Fantastical/Unconventional
Taste for Commercial Cinema
Willingness to Move Beyond Perceived Muse if it's right for the story:

Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom, Looper) (Can't believe ANYONE wants this director to dive into something as...vanilla...as Batman. I like Batman just fine, but we're, right now, possibly DECADES away from WB being interested in someone like him for their superhero properties. Even then, you know Rian Johnson would, if handed Batman, probably confound ALL expectations by outlining a Joker-less trilogy, capped off by Poison Ivy, plant-god version.)


Nimble physicality, focused but, in spite of the character name, NORMAL. Arrogant, maybe, but not Jack Sparrow/Mad Hatter/Willy Wonka style quirk factory theatrics:

Jon Hamm.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I like all of the actors on their own, but this is just weird casting. Jordan is actually the only one out of the group that I think was cast well. I know he's done mostly heavy drama, but I think he could pull off Johnny Storm's confidence and charisma with ease. Teller would actually be a good choice for the same role, no idea why they feel they need to go younger with Reed Richards. I'm not saying I'd agree with the direction they're taking this thing in, but swapping Bell for Reed and Teller for The Thing actually makes more sense to me. Also, I would've bet anything that Margot Robbie would end up playing Sue Storm, but Mara's an interesting choice.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterthefilmjunkie

I don't get this casting at all either. All great/solid actors but all wrong for this. BUT still better castinf than Man of Steel 2/Batman vs. Superman/JK It's Justice League.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

I'm sure as hell in this "reboot" they can't and won't make sue and johnny storms as siblings, due to the weird ass casting

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercraver

I find way more outraging the fact that Jamie Bell has zero nudity in Nymphomaniac.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Nathaniel, as baffled as I am waith Jamie Bel's casting...I love that GIF you made! if you change the orange color to gold, he could end up looking like an angry oscar statue :P

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRizz

Peggy Sue -- WHAT?

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Peggy Sue-are you serious? They put Jamie Bell in a movie about sex and there's no nudity?!?

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Teller - Grimm
Jordan - Richards
Bell - Storm

There. FIXED.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

A Dr. Strange movie should only be directed by Tarsem.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSanty C.

The Johnny Depp as Dr. Strange rumored has been dispelled, so it's safe in that regard. Beyond the fact that I wouldn't want Tarsem to do it (The Cell and Immortals were empty films), however, I have no idea who should direct Doctor Strange. As for the FF casting, I think they casted too young and I wish they would've just went ahead and casted a black Sue Storm - my choice would've been Sanaa Lathan - instead of the eventual adoption angle they'll go with. In saying that, all the actors they casted have talent and with the right approach this could work.

Lastly, I believe it'll take a few high profile stinkers/outright bombs before the superhero "bubble" burst. They make too much money, get decent critical notice and people don't seem to be tired of them. Then again, I've never gotten the whole "There's too many superhero films" outcry. There's three or four of them a year against the dozen or so dramas, comedies and horror films that come out (I do think there's a case to be made that they've become formulaic but, again, that could be applied to a lot of genres).

The big question should be will a Superhero Film ever be nominated for Best Picture or (at the very least, break into more Oscar categories beyond special effects). The Dark Knight came closest but that was closer to a crime drama than a true comic book film.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Armour

Daniel Armour: I'd say Marvel Studios is maybe closest to a big breakthrough. Guardians and Ant-Man are the safest bets there, due to being launching points of sub-franchises in the larger whole. They cast intelligently and don't eliminate chances for wordplay in dialogue (thank goodness Evangeline Lilly (or someone of a similar look) is probably going to be Wasp), the dialogue is smart, they don't have useless fatty scenes, the characters are human and relatable (the worst example, for me, of inhuman and unrelatable characters on DC's end comes not in the Kevin Costner dies in a tornado scene of Man of Steel (though that comes close) but in this scene in Green Lantern: Hal's dad comes in, carrying a shiny, see-through crystal plane. Young Hal takes down a plastic plane that he has and happily puts the crystal one up. WRONG! The idea of those model planes is that they're supposed to at least LOOK like a plane they will want to fly when they're older. If dear old dad brings in that meaningless crystal piece of trash, any normal kid (who wanted to be a pilot, which Hal clearly does if we're supposed to buy into the narrative) would be resentful and bitter at that being offered as a present. And Hal hands that down later to his nephew. And again, there's also a good scene in there of Hal being a cool and actually relatable uncle (Hal shows his nephew the crystal plane and says "that was the only moment I ever resented my dad." And then (imagine this like that Lonely Island song) Hal threw it on the ground!), but the movie WASN'T THAT SMART the first time, so why should they be that smart the second time?) and the VFX are high quality. So, yeah, this year or next, we'll probably be seeing a nominee from Marvel Studios.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

daniel -- well, i don't trust any rumors or any dispelled rumors or anything until ink is dry and not even then since actors get replaced before filming in many scenarios due to shifting schedules and cold feet and many other reasons -- so only after a movie has started filming is it real to me :)

February 22, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Hell, actors get replaced DURING filming (see Back To The Future, LOTR, etc.), so even that's not very solid. I do see your point, though.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Armour

You sick bastard.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKurtis O


February 22, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

The casting of the "Fantastic 4" reboot is just too odd for words. I certainly admire shaking up the routine by not going the usual route but this is too far in the extreme. Of course, after the film comes out, I'll be saying the cast is perfect (but I doubt it).

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony

I love Paul Outlaw's neat shuffle of the proposed cast. If only that could happen in rehearsal.

I've resigned myself to thinking of superhero movies as if they were the gangster movie genre that was prevalent in the 1930s, 1940s (I'm not sure when that genre became less common). I expect endless B movies on A budgets for decades.

February 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

adri: See, I kind of think of the superhero universes have pretty much every genre in them in some form or another...it's just most, when plausible, are also blended with a dose of superpowers. (In essence, so long as Marvel and DC keeps plumbing out new stuff and lets stuff rest for long periods there's an eternal OCEAN of juicy material.) Deadpool is pure screwball comedy, the normal X-Men books are a liberal soap parable on homophobia/racism, Spider-Man is a dramedy about a sarcastic youth, Fantastic Four is a kind of operatic tale about space Christopher Columbus and family, Hulk is catharsis through carnage, Thor is high fantasy and various other things touching on other genres/concepts are also in there for the adapting. Gangster, meanwhile, only had so much juice inside it because of how...rigid...it could be (ESPECIALLY before the MPAA).

February 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

On that note of how rigid the gangster genre could be: Does anyone want to see what a Saints Row franchise would actually look like?

February 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Volvagia: yes, I like your explanation of how flexible the superhero universe can be in terms of genre. I was thinking more of longevity of a genre (and I don't completely understand the tenets and evolution of the gangster genre).

But I can see how genre adaptability will add to superhero longevity. Being in the middle of a genre's heyday, instead of looking back at it from decades, it's helpful to listen and read other people's takes. Sometimes it's the sameness of it all that tires me, but as you say, it's the variety that keeps it moving forward.

February 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

For "Dr Strange" you need a director with a wild visual imagination.

March 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

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