Good Girls Like Gambit
First, Fox delayed the planned Channing Tatum Gambit movie; now it looks like it won’t be made at all. Fox seems so impressed by Deadpool‘s monster box office that its interests have shifted: a Deadpool franchise looks like a sure winner, a Channing Tatum-led Gambit solo film like more of risk. But there are enough similarities between the two characters that I think the audience that enjoyed Deadpool might also embrace Gambit, and enough differences that it wouldn’t get dull.
They both have highly kinetic, showy fighting styles, relying on mixed martial arts and gymnastics. But where Deadpool’s power is healing, Gambit’s power is blowing shit up–his body plus anything that can be thrown are all the ranged weapons he needs.
They’re both jokers and incorrigible flirts, as likely to compliment their enemies as taunt them. But they’re also both secret romantics and loyal to their friends. But while Deadpool wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to girlfriend Vanessa, Gambit is a little too inclined toward mind games and evasiveness where Rogue is concerned.
And of course they’re both outlaws with dark pasts, a history of ill deeds, and yet still have a few redeeming traits. Where Deadpool is a mercenary and assassin, Gambit is a master thief. Each is the best at their trade; neither feels any sort of guilt over their work. For as long as Gambit has been an X-Man and “hero,” he’s never happier than when he’s planning and executing a big score.
Where they depart is in the details. Deadpool is a special forces sniper turned mercenary who, after being diagnosed with fatal cancer, is tortured and transform by a shadowy not quite government agency. Gambit is street rat adopted into the secretive New Orleans Thieves Guild and raised to be a prince among thieves. And he’s, well, hot.
Could a Gambit movie work do good business at the box office? Channing Tatum is charming, popular and his turn in The Hateful Eight might as well have been a public audition tape. It could work. It could be big. But as Scott Mendelson points out at Forbes, while Deadpool was a pet project that Ryan Reynolds and director Tim Miller tirelessly campaigned for, the Gambit movie doesn’t have the same ardent champions (I mean, yeah, Tatum grew his hair out and talked and talked and talked about wanting to do the project but will he keep that up in studio meetings?). Mendolson points out that:
“The Channing Tatum Gambit movie feels less like a labor of love than a star+character pitch (Channing Tatum as Gambit!) in search of a movie. While Deadpool may have made Gambit seem like an even more attractive proposition, it also means that Fox already has one more major new franchise in the X-Men universe and thus, may not have to risk the time and money on a less surefire proposition if it doesn’t want to.
It already has an X-Men spin-off, and it’s going to make a lot of money this year with Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, Independence Day: Resurgence, Ice Age: Collision Course, and (possibly) Assassin’s Creed and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. By the end of 2016, Fox may be so franchise-rich that they don’t need Gambit.”
Will we ever get a Gambit movie? Ugh, who knows. But I gathered two other WWAC Gambit fans, Wendy Browne and Claire Napier, to discuss the possibility of it and why the character has such a lasting appeal.
When did you first encounter Gambit and what got you interested in him?
Wendy: The whole charming sexy Cajun thing was cute, but I’d met him before he was flirting his way into Rogue’s heart and destroying Belladonna’s. I was there at the beginning–Uncanny X-Men #266–when he met young “Stormy” in New Orleans and they became this wonderful Robin Hood team. I was so sad when Storm had to go back to being a responsible adult, but I loved that scene at the start of X-Cutioner’s Song where Gambit dances with her, reminding her of the fun they had. I adore their friendship.
Claire: X-Men: The Animated Series, age six, instant adoration, never redacted. Like… his purpose is to be a dashing and enticing male romantic (not lead, but… what? agent?), and it worked. I am that easy, I guess. (I’m not that easy but Gambit HIT DAT BUTTON, CHERE.) I’m not much interested in clean romantic leads; Gambit is scuzzy enough to be interesting and allow for the same distance between “perfect fictional man” and “me reading about a person with no off-putting faults” that stops real-life relationships from getting codependent and obsessive and weird. He’s bad, and that’s good. See also: Trent Lane.
Megan: X-Men: The Animated Series for me too. In a team that included grumpy, hairy old Wolverine, statuesque Storm, mischievous Jubilee, AND sassy, kickass Rogue (wait, there were other X-Men on that show?), Gambit stood out for being an asshole, but a deep feeling and mostly reliable asshole. He played pranks on his teammates, teased Jubilee and Rogue, and annoyed Cyclops to distraction. And he flirted! And went on dates with randoms as well as Rogues. None of the wet blanket, wailing romance of Cyclops and Jean (“Oh Scott, the light!”). Later, when I read the comics I found that with Scott and Jean there were, while still prone to wailing, much less soggy fabric, much more bloody time-crossing betrayal, but that first impression of starched up repressoid Scott stuck, and so did that first impression of good-time-guy Gambit. He’s just…fun, is the thing.
How much of his canon have you read and how important is “what’s happening now” to your relationship with the character?
Wendy: I’m very behind on my X-Men reading, but from what little I have read of current Gambit, I quite like him. I started reading his solo series by James Asmus and Clay Mann and liked the idea of a Gambit that was a bit tired of everything going on, the responsibility, the loss of Rogue. He was a man looking to get that spark back and realizing that being a “hero” 24/7 was dragging him down. Basically, it felt like a mid-life crisis and, from the sounds of his current incarnation in All New X-Factor, it seems like he’s come out of it on the good side–back to heroing and being witty and charming, but without the stress of weighty decisions. I like my characters to grow. I like the idea of a Gambit that has grown along with me and come to terms with his life and where he fits within the grand scheme of things.
Claire: From his first appearance through issue #33 of the UK prints of the 90s revival, skipped the Joseph stuff, obviously picked up any Gambit & Bishop team-up books, everything in X-Treme and some rando stuff in, again, the UK printed Essential X-Men (different to the American-release phonebook trades), and I’m out. This is not quite true, but when I read comics I don’t like, I just pretend I haven’t read them, and then–their events don’t exist! Hurrah. And of course, all of the ol’ cartoon. I want what I want from Gambit, and what I don’t want, I don’t credit. I’ve been off Marvel generally for a long time, and I’m pretty fine with that; some stuff from current and solo books sounds fine but ultimately my interest is in this man as the romantic interest for my fave girl. He can be a sexy mess without her, but I’d rather he was it with her. That’s my image of the guy.
Megan: All the 90s comics. All of them. And then well in the 00s before I gave up in disgust (Chuck Austin, goddamn). Both of his solo series. Some random bits and pieces here and there, especially guest appearances in books that didn’t suck. And finally, All New X-Factor, which was much more fun than I expected. I still love Gambit even though I’m no longer a diehard X-Men reader. I agree with you, Wendy, that it’s great that he’s come back to his roots as a supporting character and a supporting member of the team, because that gives him much more time to go off and have irresponsible adventures and flings.
Men who make fun of women who like Gambit–how do you feel about them?
Wendy: Couldn’t give two shits about them. Their opinions mean nothing to me.
Claire: They’re probably not very charming. And I expect their hair is bad.
Wendy: They could never pull off a trench coat look with the necessary flair.
Megan: I’d like to make bone broth out of their remains.
Claire: I suppose I’m sort of impressed with their brass? Who is daft enough to identify themselves as that insecure or out of touch?
What is your ideal or favourite Gambit incarnation?
Claire: His hair needs to be slightly “too long,” for one thing. Overgrown and unkempt, please.
Wendy: Appearance-wise, see Claire’s note above. I’m pretty fond of Clay Mann’s Gambit.
Claire: Agreed. Jim Lee’s was pretty good, the relevant Kubert, and I’ll even slide into Larocca’s version in X-Treme. Jeanty gave him a cute nose. He put a nice curl to the hair. My favourite Gambit detail is that he has a freckle on the end of his ellipsis-totally-not-cock-okay-cock.
Megan: Saaaaame. Same. Same. Same. He needs to look a little messy and a lot, uh, sassy? Rough and flirty and dirty.
The movie was delayed/cancelled/something — oh no! What elements would a good Gambit movie need?
Wendy: I really don’t want a Gambit movie, to be honest. I love the way Gambit has grown and matured in the books and that’s what I would want to see, but a movie will be obligated to introduce him to non-fans. That means they have to go back to the sexy charming stuff and, while I admit to being smitten by that in the past, like I said, it’s the maturity and relationships that give him so much more depth that attracts me now.
Claire: Same. Gambit isn’t a real man, he’s the imaginary perfect shitty man. He doesn’t need to “actually exist” to attain his ideal form. He exists in the reader (I count animation viewers as readers here, let’s philosophise about that sometime) responding to the cues of the construct much more than he does in a real actor’s genuine on-screen pores, or whatever. Plus my investment is very much in the Rogue-Gambit romance, and there is not an acceptable cinematic Rogue in the, ahaha, cards.
Wendy: I wouldn’t mind something that focuses entirely on his New Orleans days instead of trying to shoehorn him into the current X-Men timeline mess. It would give Belladonna a chance to shine. As much as I loved Gambit-Rogue, I didn’t like that it initially came at the cost of Belladonna.
Megan: Deadpool convinced me that Fox could give us a wonderful standalone Gambit film, one that, like Wendy suggests, focuses on a pre-X-Men Gambit back-flipping through an early adulthood rebellion. I’ve read a lot of Gambit-without-Rogue and I’ve found that I like him without her more than I ever liked them together (Marvel! Nothing but short flings for either of them, please). What a good Gambit story needs is a romance gone wrong, a smart and schemey adversary and a grand-as-fuck big score. He’s a thief and a scoundrel with delusions of grandeur and mostly secret angst. Give me the Thieves Guild, give me that star crossed romance with Princess Belladonna of the Assassins Guild, give me Mr. Sinister as his downfall, and give me Gambit himself as the author of most of his troubles.
That’s what a good Gambit movie needs.
That and decent special effects.