For a while now, Fox’s forthcoming solo movie for X-Men’s Ragin’ Cajun Gambit has had a release date (October 7, 2016), a star (Channing Tatum) and not much else. We didn’t even know if Tatum’s Gambit would debut in X-Men: Apocalypse first or be held back for his own movie.
Well, now the film has a director, Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ Rupert Wyatt, and when Tatum was asked directly on Reddit whether he’d be in Apocalypse he replied, “No ma’am, or sir. I definitely will not.” Apocalypse will be set in the 1980s. So, unless Gambit will also take place in the age of hair metal and Reagan it wouldn’t really make sense for him to be in Apocalypse, even though he plays a pivotal role in that story arc in the comics. Tatum also had some nice things to say about his new director, “We finally found someone that I really do believe wants to make [the movie].” The script is being written by Josh Zetumer (best known for the RoboCop remake) based on an online penned by Chris Claremont, who actually created the character in the comics.
What’s it going to be about, though? Vulture has a bold suggestion: They should simply ignore the comics and come up with an original story idea, “Gambit’s comic arcs are so banal, so dull, and so unloved by geeks that he offers Wyatt and Zetumer an incredible opportunity: They can write a superhero movie (mostly) free from the shackles of existing story lines.” As I discussed last January, Gambit is a character many fondly remember from the Fox Kids animated series which ran from 1993 – 1997, but actual comic book readers find him far more divisive, many arguing that there are multiple other X-Men characters far more deserving of a solo movie. BirthMoviesDeath previously came down really hard on the mere idea of a Gambit movie, “It will feature the dumbest member of the X-Men, a cornily accented Cajun who throws playing cards that he can charge with an explosive energy. He’s basically the worst, and he has no truly interesting stories and whose origin is all about some bullshit ‘Thieves Guild’ out of an Elder Scrolls game, but in New Orleans.”
Such opinions have been surprisingly common online ever since a Gambit movie was announced, highlighting the love-him-or-hate-him nature of the character. When I asked readers of the site whether or not they thought Gambit deserved his own movie, I did get someone jumping to his defense, “Gambit’s backstory is actually pretty interesting in the comics: there is the Guild, yes, but there is also him being an omega mutant, losing control of his power and running to Sinister for help. He has a devil may care attitude, but he is constantly questioning himself wondering if he has gone too far and if there is something wrong inside him that permits the reader to strongly empathize with him. His convoluted love story with Rogue add points, obviously, but for me he shines more in his stand alone appearances or when paired not romantically with other character like Storm, Wolverine and recently with X-23.” Another reader pointed out something which I had failed to consider, “With a lack of solid established backstory – the film world is Gambit’s oyster (gumbo)!”
And that’s Vulture’s argument as well:
There are some basic tenets they’ll have to mind in order to avoid fan outcry: Gambit has to be (a) named Remy LeBeau, (b) a mutant, (c) able to turn objects (usually playing cards) into little bombs when he touches them, (d) a drawl-heavy Louisiana Cajun, (e) a bit of a lowlife hustler, and (f) something of a ladies’ man. If those boxes get checked, everyone who grew up watching the animated X-gang will have their nostalgia adequately served. From there, the filmmakers can get to work on building a story that’s wholly new — a phenomenon that’s sadly rare in the superhero-movie boom.
Not all comic book movies have to be based on specific story arcs or graphic novels. Much as it ultimately ended up resembling some pre-existing stories, Man of Steel was an original idea conceived by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer. The forthcoming Fantastic Four reboot is reportedly doing its own thing as well, even though its version of an origin story will clearly have similarities to the comics. Ant-Man is also taking some serious liberties with the source material, although Scott Lang’s story (i.e., the guy Paul Rudd is playing) seems fairly faithful. The Suicide Squad looks like it will go off a book a bit, probably combining multiple different ideas from the comics into something all its own. Wonder Woman will most likely run with some new ideas, or at least it was going to when Michelle Maclaren was going to direct. If Gambit does something new it will have least been kick-started by Chris Claremont, who provided the story outline Zetumer is currently turning into a script.
If they are basing it on the comics what stories could they possibly use? Vulture continued:
The closest thing Remy has to a famous story is the 1994 mini-series Gambit. I fear it’ll end up being the foundation for the movie, but it’s astoundingly dull. In it, Remy finds himself at the center of a war between the Assassins Guild and the Thieves Guild, two theoretically secret organizations who nonetheless wear comical costumes and spend their time, uh, assassinating and thieving. He feels angst because he was raised in the Guild system. He throws exploding cards and beats the bad guys. He woos Rogue. And … that’s about it.
What would they rather see?
Give us a heist movie! Give us a The Sting–esque tale of con artists and rubes! Give us a colorful romp through modern New Orleans! Hell, give us a wacky rom-com about Gambit and Rogue! As long as the flick is equal parts sexy and silly (and lord knows Tatum is great at being both), and as long as it hits most of the marks that folks remember from their cartoon-watching youths, just go wild, mon cher.
I don’t see them going that far off book, but it is interesting to note that Tatum has long since teased his vision for Gambit is an origin story which feels different from a straight forward superhero movie. He re-iterated as much in his recent Reddit chat, “I just really think because Gambit is not the most popular or the biggest hero, I think there’s a really unique opportunity. Marvel’s done a lot of great movies that have made a ridiculous amount of money, and it’s always good to figure how to change the form.”
I have no deep connection to Gambit, knowing him exclusively through the Fox Kids animated series from the 90s, the short-lived 2009 animated series Wolverine and The X-Men and Taylor Kitsch in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. So, if they came up with an original story for the movie I would not be bothered, although I might miss his flirting with Rogue (assuming that’s off the table since her story’s pretty much used up now in the live-action X-Men films). But not everyone agrees that Gambit is some overrated character with no compelling story. You don’t want to anger the Comic-Con crowd with a movie like this, yet Gambit is such a divisive presence among fans that this might be a prime opportunity to adapt the character, not the story. However, if I had been following the character in the comics for years and almost nothing I’d read in all that time ended up in the movie I’d probably walk away more than a tad annoyed.
What about you? Is there a better way to adapt Gambit to screen than by simply ignoring the comics altogether? Is that option too extreme? Let me know what you think.
Gambit is due out October 7, 2016.