The 'Fantastic Four' and the dangers of fancasting

John Krasinski as Jack Ryan.
(Image credit: Amazon Prime Video)

For years fans of The Fantastic Four have had to put up with big budget adaptations that have ranged from the aggressively mediocre to just plain garbage. Finally, after years of patience, those fans will be rewarded. Late last year, Kevin Feige officially announced that Marvel Studios is moving forward with an adaptation of Marvel's First Family. This has in turn rallied fans stronger than ever around their favorite choices for who should play Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, and The Thing; mainly inspired by expertly crafted fanart by notable industry professionals, like Bosslogic. Though the journey of watching hardcore fans and artists like Bosslogic speculate and create predictions has been rather enjoyable, it has also created a kind of dogmatically narrow-minded approach to the possibilities of future casting.

In particular, many fans believe the only acceptable choice for Reed Richards and Sue Storm are John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, and refuse to accept anything to the contrary. What started out as a germ of an idea inspired by the success of A Quiet Place has escalated into the only truth some fans seem to be willing to accept. In fact the desire to have them inhabit the roles has gotten so embedded in many fans' brains, that those same fans were convinced John Krasinski as Reed Richards was going to be a cameo on WandaVision

And while there's nothing wrong with everyone having an opinion about who they want to see play the heroes they love, is it truly the "only logical choice" for these roles? Does the rationale behind why fans think these actors are the only acceptable choices actually make sense in the context of the characters? Or are these desires simply spawned by arbitrary things like fan art?

That's not to say Krasinski and Blunt aren't terrific actors. The problem is the desire for them to inhabit the roles can be traced back to a somewhat "flavor of the month" mentality spawned from the success of A Quiet Place back in 2018, which persisted for years thanks to convincing fanart. All this rather than assessing anything actually rooted in the defining traits of the characters from the comic book page. While Blunt and Krasinski are great, nothing about A Quiet Place really equates to Fantastic Four outside of the fact that they play a husband and wife in a movie with aliens. By that very logic, any on-screen couple in an alien movie would be equally as qualified, wouldn't they?

When breaking down a character like Reed Richards from the text, he's widely considered to be the smartest man alive. He's obsessed with his work. He's a bit awkward. Lanky. He is devoted to his family. Sure, Krasinski would be able to pull off a role like that, being as talented an actor as he is. But what about him or his current resume makes him the definitive choice to encompass those aspects of the character? If the criteria boils down to aesthetics, how about Ewan McGregor, who equally looks as close to Reed Richards in the comics? Why not branch out from casting a typical Caucasian lead, and go with actors like Rahul Kohli from Haunting of Bly Manor, or Bridgerton heartthrob Rege-Jean Page? Could none of them equally embody brilliant, awkward, focused, family men? Many of these actors have showcased those characteristics in their work about as much as Krasinski has in his, and they look equally as close to Mr. Fantastic as anyone.

Ultimately, the decisions made by studios are done by a panel of people ranging from the writers, directors, and producers of a film, to the casting director. And they’re done by them for a reason. These are people who know talent, chemistry, and the industry backwards and forwards, and also know the universe they developed inside and out. People like Kevin Feige, Jon Favreau, and Sarah Finn created the MCU by taking chances on actors that best fit the parts they were auditioning to play. The decisions were not rooted in superficial reasons like "what's a hot movie right now?" or “that fan-art looks great!” Without them Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Paul Rudd, etc. would never have become key players in this universe. In other words, they are the most qualified individuals to decide on who the definitive actors should be for the roles they're creating. 

Going back as recently as last month, rumors circulated about Jennifer Lawrence being courted to play Sue Storm. While they were debunked, the internet went insane, cursing the decision to the heavens. Partially because people soured on Lawrence after her last performance as Mystique, partially because it wasn't Emily Blunt, the popular fan-choice for the role. Let's say, hypothetically speaking, that it had been true. What if under Feige, Watts, and Finn, Lawrence was chosen? Why would this be a problem? She's has objectively proven her skills as an actress, winning an Oscar and having been nominated several times over. She looks the part enough.

We have to avoid situations where, as fans, we're not allowing our passions to get the better of us. Being excited about something is great. It's what being a fan is all about! But where we hit a problem is where that excitement results in the emotional attacks on other people.

All this said, it's important to remember that if casting decisions were determined by fans, the world would not have gotten Michael Keaton as Batman (or Ben Affleck). Nor Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, or Heath Ledger as the Joker. Those decisions have now become the standards at which all superhero performances are compared. Thus, a reminder to all to just keep an open mind. Let go of what "should" be the definitive casting choice for characters as depicted in a Bosslogic image. Instead formulate informed opinions based on character. And for the love of Feige, trust in Sarah Finn and Marvel Studios.

Mike Manalo

Mike is a proud, sarcastic nerd with a penchant for comic books, comic book movies, and movies in general, and occasional delusions of grandeur. He's also a UC Berkeley graduate who decided to go into writing over pre-med because he figured he'd ultimately save more lives by not being a doctor. He's a Slytherin and a Pisces, so he's very emotionally sensitive, yet also evil, but can be defeated by exploiting his insecurities. His goal is to live one hell of a unique life, and it's been working so far! His proudest moments are being retweeted by James Gunn and Ryan Reynolds in the same week, and getting 999,999 points on Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland. 

You can find Mike's writing around the web at publications like The Nerds of Color, What to Watch, Spoiler Free Reviews, and That's It LA.