Michael B. Jordan may be known for his searing portrayal of cop-killed Oscar Grant in “Fruitvale Station” or as troubled athlete Vince Howard on TV’s “Friday Night Lights.” Deep down, though, he’s just a big-time comic book nerd whose passion has now come to living reality with this summer’s reboot of “Fantastic Four.”
“We’re both comic book heads,” Jordan says of himself and “Fantastic Four’s” director Josh Trank, who made the acclaimed superteens thriller “Chronicle,” which co-starred Jordan. “We’d sit up and read comic books, go to the comic book store together, play video games — so for us to go out and create and dive into this world is like a dream come true.”
Jordan plays Human Torch Johnny Storm in this origin story that ignores the much-derided 2005 and 2007 movie adaptations of “Fantastic Four,” which many (not just publisher Marvel) have called “The World’s Greatest Comics Magazine.” The actor promises a darker, more emotionally fraught exploration of how incendiary Storm, elasticized Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic (Miles Teller in the new movie), superstrong rock monster Ben Grimm/The Thing (Jamie Bell) and Johnny’s sister Sue/Invisible Woman (Kate Mara) do and don’t come to grips with their amazing new abilities.
“Through a series of unfortunate events, they get these powers and have to learn how to adapt and use them as obstacles and situations come their way,” Jordan explains. “I would say it’s a very grounded, gritty superhero film that still satisfies fantasy and the want that you have from a Marvel film, which at the same time gives you that relatability. Anybody can relate to these characters and identify with them.”
Except, maybe, some by-the-book — or just plain racist — comics nerds. When Jordan’s casting as the strip’s blond, blue-eyed Storm was announced, haters hit the message boards. He responded with class and wit, and although he’s had enough of the discussion (“It’s the kind of thing that would just be beating a dead horse,” Jordan says), he does promise the film will address Johnny and Sue’s lack of resemblance in a most logical way.
With his enthusiasm for the role as palpable as a house on fire, it’s easy to predict that Jordan won’t disappoint a single fan. His lies about it convince us even more.
“I wanted to go the extra mile to show the fans that I was really dedicated to being Johnny Storm, so I lit myself on fire instead of using CGI,” he jokes. ___