Making a good comic book film is tricky business: it requires a careful balance of big name actors and thoroughly impressive CGI, while maintaining respect and reverence to the comic book of its origins. We saw this delicate balance at work in X-Men: Days of Future’s Past (although in the comics, Kitty Pryde aka Shadowcat was the one to go back in time instead of fan favourite Wolverine), First Class, X2… Basically, all the X-Men films – except for the train wreck that is The Last Stand – have been solid to excellent visual accounts of stories stemming from the Marvel universe… with minor adjustments, of course.
However, when dealing with an iconic character’s origin story, the balance should always weigh in favour of the comic – trust me, you don’t want to piss off an angry mob of comic book aficionados, it does not end well. In addition, the reason, particular story arcs are chosen for film remakes is because they are already really good and to some degree, iconic – therefore, it feels slanderous and incredibly insulting to ruin the source material with a crappy film version (I’m looking at you Wolverine series).
The only thing worse than ruining the plot narrative is to ruin the characters – These characters have existed in their various carnations for roughly half a century (give or take), therefore refusing to do them justice is equivalent to not only refusing to respect your elders, but pissing all over them in the process. That leads us to the question: Will Magic Mike star Channing Tatum do “Ragin’ Cajun” Remy LeBeau aka Gambit, one of the most popular characters in the franchise (as well as one of the most profound, interesting and difficult to replicate) justice? Or will he just piss all over his legacy?
Tatum has announced that he will play Gambit in the character’s origin story, set for a release next year. Josh Zetumer (Robocop) has already drafted the script, which Tatum says (in an interview with Empire Magazine) “is killer”, adding that, “none of us were sure how [Zetumer] was going to deal with the X-Men world. But we’re going to be changing some of the tropes of these movies. It’s always about saving the world (laughs), but maybe we’re going to shift things a little but. There’s so many ways you can take [an origin story]. You could do it like Batman Begins, or a different take and go the Guardians of the Galaxy route. All I can say is, I’m super excited“.
Tatum will replace Taylor Kitsch, who played Gambit in Wolverine: Origins, and whose role was so insignificant and fleeting that he may as well not have been in the film at all. Due to the incredibly confusing chronology of the series, it is not certain whether Tatum’s Gambit will even be from the same reality that Kitsch’s Gambit was from.
On accepting the role, Tatum told Empire that he identified with the character and his southern upbringing: “I love Gambit. I grew up in the South; my father’s from Louisiana. We’d go to New Orleans and I heard all the dialects. It felt so different from the rest of America; it has its own ancient culture. So I identified with that. And he always felt the most real of the X-Men to me. He’s kind of a tortured soul and he’s not a good guy. But he’s not a bad guy, either. He walks his own path. And of course he plays cards and drinks and is a martial-arts badass“.
The only worry is that Tatum has often played muscly beefcake roles, like a greased up male stripper and a genetically engineered half man half dog war machine. Nothing about Channing Tatum screams “mystery”, and Gambit is historically a very mysterious, cunning and manipulative character. Sources have confirmed that Tatum will be playing famous Marvel writer Chris Claremont’s Gambit, so he certainly has a big shoes to fill and a LOT of comic book nerds to impress.
Channing Tatum is generally a solid actor who (like Magic Mike co-star, Matthew McConaughey) managed to break out of his confining rom-com typecast – however I can’t shake the fact he just looks like the kind of guy who would give fans of the series swirlies and steal their lunch money.
It will be interesting to see how Tatum interprets the character and its doubtful that it will be a total flop since the world has barely just recovered from one desperately boring Gambit character (Sorry Taylor Kitsch, we know its not really your fault). No director is attached to the project yet, which comes out on October 6, 2016. Read Tatum’s whole interview with Empire when it comes out on May 28.