As you’ve no doubt probably heard, Fox now has their cast of young mutants for X-Men: Apocalypse, and understandably so, there’s quite the talk around whether or not they’ve made the right choices. Now, as a huge fan of the X-Men comics and with Storm and Jean Grey being two of my favourite characters, I was disappointed–but more importantly confused–by Fox’s choices.
Alexandra Shipp, an actress known for her role as R’n’B sensation Aaliyah in the Lifetime biopic (which is probably best not spoken about) has been cast as superheroine Ororo Munroe–aka Storm. And Game of Thrones actress Sophie Turner has been cast as the complicated but wonderful Jean Grey. What confuses me most about these castings is that none of these actresses have proved themselves good enough to take on such huge roles. Storm and Jean Grey are two of the most recognizable and fierce Marvel characters–with a rich backstories in the comics to prove it. And rather than actresses who look and have the talent for these respective parts, we’ve been lumped with Shipp and Turner.
Now, I haven’t seen the Lifetime biopic of Aaliyah. It obviously didn’t air in the UK, and after the fan response, I have no desire to see it. Add that to the fact that I have not seen Shipp in anything at all that proves her ability to act out and take on this character, and you can see why I would be confused and to be frank, a little annoyed at this casting. Storm is a character who I always pictured coming to life on-screen in the most badass way possible. She’s a strong, powerful mutant–a female black superheroine–and probably the most well known black superhero among both those that do and do not read comics.
When I imagine Storm on the big screen, I imagine a beautiful, dark skin actress who possesses the looks and ability to pull of such a powerful character. I imagine an actress with the grace, poise, and sophistication to know how big this role is, to take it seriously, and do it justice. Since Lupita Nyong’o played Patsy in the critically acclaimed 12 Years A Slave, she is pretty much the only actress I have envisioned playing the character in Apocalypse. Well, her or KeKe Palmer. Palmer’s small role in Masters of Sex, in addition to her many other acting credits, made her a perfect option for Storm. One thing that consistently annoys me with Hollywood films is the lack of good roles for black actors. And superhero movies are no different. In recent years, we’ve seen more black actors in these films. However, their roles are always small or they are relegated to being sidekick status.
Anthony Mackie as The Falcon.
Don Cheadle as War Machine.
Or in the case of Storm and Fox, it’s just not a black actor at all.
Allow me to explain. Here in the UK, we do things a little differently. We call a kettle black when it’s black and when it’s not, we don’t. That’s not a dig at the U.S. by the way. I love ya’ll, but Halle Berry–48 year old actress and Academy Award winner– is not black. She is mixed-race. It is a fact that has annoyed me for decades. She is both half-black and half-white. Let’s recognize both sides of that–please–and stop lumping her into one category.
Anyways, they picked a mixed-race actress to play an iconic black character and I seem to be the only person to have a problem with that. Not least because they reduced Storm from a badass, to just plain bad. If a mixed-race actress was picked to play a white character, people would be in uproar! But because it’s a mixed-race actress playing a black character, it doesn’t matter. As long as they’re a “little” black, it’s alright, I guess? For God’s sake, look at what they did to Storm.
Look at it, feel annoyed at Fox and Halle Berry’s ridiculous acting all over again (screw that accent from the first movie), and then remember that this iconic powerhouse is now being played by this kid (see below). Yet again, we have ANOTHER mixed-race actress playing the iconic black character. Go on, fanboys. Tell me it’s for continuity and because Berry was cast first and see if I don’t pull you over this bridge that I’m about to jump off.
A little part of me died inside when I saw this casting, because although I violently reject this whole “#TeamLightSkin vs #TeamDarkSkin” bullsh*t that exists purely to create divide in the black community, I can’t help but notice–and feel annoyed–when roles for black actresses in film go to lighter-skinned actresses over darker ones.
Maybe it’s because Hollywood places more importance on how women look versus how men look.
Maybe lighter-skinned actresses appeal more to the masses, (they’re not ‘shoving their ethnicity in your face, am I right?), whereas darker- skinned actresses involuntarily wouldn’t.
Maybe, the colour of your skin, somehow affects your acting ability. And maybe, somewhere along the line, I missed the memo that said a lighter-skinned actress is better than a darker-skinned actress.
It astounds me that in 2015, this can still be an issue. I’m here to say that I am annoyed at the nigh-automatic casting of one kind of black actor in these films over another, and I demand that these movies start to recognize, realise, show, *and* appreciate black beauty in ALL its forms.
Moving on, Jean Grey–the much loved superheroine at the centre of one of Marvel’s biggest and most well known story-lines, The Dark Phoenix Saga— is every bit as badass as Storm. The Dark Phoenix Saga is as iconic as it gets and is one of Marvel’s best story-lines ever in my opinion. When Jean Grey turns into Dark Phoenix, she’s a literally force to be reckoned with. She is an unstoppable powerhouse with the ability to do unbelievable amounts of damage.
She has fan art for YEARS (see above). And all that badassery, all that power, all that hard work writing the Dark Phoenix story-line, was reduced to Famke Janssen staring blindly into the distance in the movies.
With the iconic Dark Phoenix Saga story-line essentially butchered in that film, the most recent film X-Men: Days of Future Past, took a stab at undoing the madness of X-Men: The Last Stand. This could give us the opportunity to see the Dark Phoenix Saga redone for film and done right. Part 1 of that happening, is casting. Sophie Turner, the 18-year-old English actress most known for playing Sansa Stark (the God almightly sap of a girl [not a fan of her character at all]), would admittedly not have been my first choice. Or my second. Or third, or fourth – she wouldn’t have been a choice at all.
In my mind, when I envisioned Jean Grey returning to screen in all her glory, I imagined a brilliant actress with the talent and acting chops to take on such an iconic role. A young actress who may have had a short career–but in that short time, has proved a lot about her acting ability. Jean Grey is a huge character. She’s a lot to live up to and not someone to be taken lightly; so, forgive me for thinking the meek and mild Sansa Stark perhaps isn’t an excellent choice.
My ideal actress for the role of Jean Grey was 20-year-old Irish Actress Saoirse Ronan. I don’t need to write a long paragraph about what an amazing and talented young actress she is, but one look at any of her films and you’ll see for yourself. Hell, you could just watch a trailer and you’d know what I’m talking about.
She is hands-down one of the most talented young actresses out there and had she been cast as Jean Grey, I know without a shadow of a doubt that she would do a brilliant job. She has the emotional range to play Jean Grey–should they decide to re-tackle the Phoenix Saga again at some point–and has the right look. She’s played a number of brilliantly written characters over her career (the titular character in Hanna, Suzie Salmon in The Lovely Bones, Brionny Tallis in Atonement to name a few) and hasn’t failed to play any of those characters to anything but perfection. I’ve never been one to do fan-casts, but Saoirse Ronan is pretty much my ultimate fan-cast.
Of course, all of the above is just my opinion and speculation about how the actual actors that have been cast might do in the movie. I have no idea what Shipp and Turner will be like in their roles, as the movie has obviously not been made. All I can do is judge them based on their past and current work and how I think they will tackle their roles overall. Despite my dislike of Sansa Stark, Sophie Turner may just prove me wrong. Somewhere, inside the demure portrayal of Sansa Stark, could be a vixen of an actress who’s been waiting for a role like this to show off her skill.
And if that happens, then lovely. We’ll see a good Jean Grey and can further put The Last Stand behind us. As for Shipp, I still have major issues with her casting due to them once again casting Storm as a mixed-race actress, rather than a black one. I also, like I said above, haven’t seen Shipp in anything –other than the trailer for the Aailyah movie. So, I don’t know what she’s like acting-wise. Maybe she too is a dark horse, waiting for an iconic, strong character like Storm to give her her big break. Maybe she’s not. But to be honest, either way we look at this Storm casting, I’m going to have a problem with it.
I sincerely hope both actresses take it upon themselves to SLAY these roles and play them a thousand times better than the actresses before them. These are two of the most iconic, well known, and well recognised female superheroines. And I hope to God that the writing, combined with the actresses’ acting abilities, can bring the power and strength of these characters to life on-screen in a way that does them justice.
What about you, lovers of the Zoo? What are your thoughts on the recent X-Men casting? Let me know in the comments below!
Images From: Marvel.wikia.com, Marvel Database, Marvel.com, Marvel Entertainment, Geekcrusade.com, Entertainment Weekly, Just Jared