A Gambit solo movie has seemed like a key part of FOX’s plan to create a universe of movies based around the X-Men.
As one of the most popular additions to the X-Universe from the ‘90s, it’s a surprise Gambit has played almost no role in the X-movie franchise to date. A solo film makes perfect sense. The character is a Cajun thief who has the ability to turn anything into a bomb by “super-charging” it. Gambit: The Movie would allow Fox to expand its X-Men franchise in a different stylistic direction.
The future of Gambit is unclear after reports that star Channing Tatum is exiting the project. That would certainly be a loss in some ways. Tatum’s star power would have been a draw for a character that’s not as well known among non-comic book fans. Having to recast the lead could certainly delay production.
If Tatum’s exit is for real, it might not be the worst thing. Physically, Tatum seemed an odd fit for Gambit. In the comics, Gambit, while in excellent condition, is tall and wiry; acrobatic. Tatum is a bulldog of an actor, very built. He’d be better suited to playing more of a brawler than a finesse character. But Tatum does have a trait central to making Gambit work: women love him. A lot.
The potential Gambit recasting really focuses a light on the fact that the X-Men movie franchise is reaching a major crossroads. FOX has some significant decisions to make about the future of this cinematic world it’s building.
Two X-movies are expected in 2016: X-Men: Apocalypse and a Wolverine sequel. Each represents a finale of sorts.
Apocalypse will be the completion of the second of two connected trilogies that go back to the original X-Men movie in 2000. Most of the cast that joined in the retro-fueled X-Men: First Class isn’t expected to return after Apocalypse.
More importantly, after the next Wolverine sequel, key star Hugh Jackman is retiring from the role after 16 years. Jackman has been the face of the X-movie franchise. That had to happen at some point, but soldiering on without Jackman will be tough.
After X-Men: Last Stand and the first solo Wolverine movie threw the franchise into a bit of a wobble, FOX successfully revived its fortunes by going the period route with First Class and last year’s very successful Days of Future Past. Apocalypse will be set in the ‘80s.
But if FOX is to field a viable connected universe of X-movies, it needs its flagship franchise set in the present day with the most popular characters involved. Solo entries or films featuring spin-off teams need to align with the main X-Men movies. And as big a temptation as it is, FOX needs to be careful to space out the X-Men films themselves, so that they seem like events.
In that light, recasting Gambit takes on a whole different urgency. FOX needs an actor who can play a role in the ensemble films but also carry solo outings. Gambit, Wolverine and a few other key fan favorites will need to keep the X-movie fires burning in between X-Men installments. Events of these movies will need to flow in and out of each other. Even if spin-offs do their own thing, they can’t exist in a hermetically sealed vacuum.
FOX would be wise not to rush recasting Gambit, but to make the decision as part of a necessary re-thinking of the X-franchise after 2016.
There will be plenty of suggestions as to who should play Gambit that will float around. Depending on how FOX plans to launch the character into solo adventures, the necessity of hiring a “name” actor like Tatum is unclear. Were Gambit to first pop up in an ensemble film or a solo from another well-established character, it could free FOX to go with a lesser known performer. If Gambit needs to be a self-starter, a more prominent star might be required.
Casting Gambit may not be the most important decision that FOX has in front of it. But with the character a vital piece of the X-movie puzzle, it’s still pretty key.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on July 31, 2015.