Will we ever see a good version of the X-Man Gambit in a Marvel movie?
There has been very little movie love for the X-Man Gambit. The question is why has this character not been given a fair movie shake?
First a little background…
As hard as it is to believe, Gambit has been around for over two decades. Gambit was created by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee in 1990 as a crappy sort of anti-hero for Uncanny X-men. The comic book version represents almost everything that was wrong with characters at Marvel in the 90s. Gambit has been everything from a thief to a dark avenger character. The only consistency is that he has never been any one thing for more than a short time. Enough background, let’s move on to some of the issues with the character, both in the comics and film.
He has a costume that is clearly a Lee creation. It is over rendered and not very interesting while, at the same time, it is full of visual “things” that don’t do anything. All those stupid lines on his chest and the huge amount of mousse that he appears to use would be good examples of the Lee excess. While not as over-designed as some (Cable or Shatterstar instantly spring, unbidden, to mind) it will never be considered classic or iconic. Visually, he is a
rip off of homage to many different looks and characters. The gimmick of the playing cards got old almost immediately. Every comic character since Bullseye that has been seen even PLAYING cards on panel, has looked ridiculous. With Gambit ridiculous visuals seem to be the norm.
The defining trait of his existence was unspecified angst for most of the early years, and when they expanded on his origins, it seemed ludicrous and unbelievable. All that would be missing today is sparkly skin. While he is consistently popular in fan polls, this has not translated into a decent or substantial role in a live action film. Before you accuse me of being a Gambit hater, I’m not. He rubbed me the wrong way at first (more on that below), but I eventually found that he was tolerable. Fortunately for me, the X-Books became unreadable shortly after Claremont ended his run, so I stopped caring about any of them.
There is one slightly delicate issue with Gambit’s characterization in the comics: he comes off as a bit, shall we say, “less than masculine”.
I don’t mean to imply anything negative, it is just that the whole ‘sullen and angst ridden’ thing plays as whiny and bitchy more than manly.
That stupid Cajun accent is a problem too. Accents in text have always been hard to pull off and to Claremont’s credit; he is one of the few in the industry that can usually manage it. However, it still didn’t work all that well in the comics and when they moved this to film, they dumped it in favor of a more relaxed and general southern drawl. In doing that, the film’s portrayal of him was more “cranky idiot” than “dark loner”.
Gambit’s origin is a mess even by Marvel standards. Once Claremont
was forced off left the X-Books in 1991 Gambit, and most of the X-Men for that matter, went completely off the rails. Every writer that has tried to use Gambit changed the premise or back story of the character, making the current version something of a jumble. Even Wolverine’s back story is not this buggered up. Attempting to move him over to a film means gutting the back-story like a fish, which will always piss off at least half of the fans. Any attempt will have to re-create a story that flows naturally and gives a plausible sense of history for his character.
Marvel finally got around to using Gambit in a movie but unfortunately Wolverine Origins is a jumbled mess as well. Fox’s X-Franchise has never been all that faithful to the source material and at times this is a good thing. In the case of Origins, it seems like Fox just decided to make a film and used character names on whichever characters were vaguely similar to the ones from the books.
In the movie Gambit’s character is really ‘Gambit’ in name only and is based on a loose interpretation of his powers. For example, the fans were particularly irked by the eyes being red only when he used his powers rather than all the time as in the books.
In both the comics and the movie, a mistake was made in making Gambit out to be an antagonist to Wolverine. This had the effect of potentially limiting his usefulness for other media. I can just hear the meeting in the editor’s office on that one. “Let’s have him and the singular most popular character we have dislike each other. That has NEVER backfired!”
Another issue of trying to place the book character into the movie world is his (kind of creepy) moves on Rogue. In the book, his advances made every delusional fan boy (most of us) dislike him. He got really pushy after a while, and that pushed Rogue away even more. The more she resisted, the creepier it got. Gambit’s slimy moves added new meaning to the phrase “no means no!” This is a major issue because, unfortunately, Gambit is defined in the comic largely by this relationship with Rogue. The only interesting development the character has gone through is linked directly to that liaison. Remove that relationship for a movie, as they did, and Gambit becomes just another character with no purpose.
Stepping away from the movie and book issues, the cartoon factor is another subject to contend with. The 90’s X-Men cartoon was a huge hit, and for whatever reason, Gambit is very fondly remembered. Perhaps this fondness has lent to his popularity in the comics, but that popularity comes at a price. Fans are slow to accept any changes in what they perceive as a character concept. Going from animation to live action in Origins needed to be done well to be accepted. That did not happen, and Hollywood rarely goes to the same well again once they realize the water is urine.
Is there a chance that we may see Gambit again in a Marvel film? I can’t say it is likely. Unless Hollywood completely ignores his only appearance to date, or Fox lets the rights lapse back to Marvel, I really do not see it happening. I also cannot see the fans caring that much one way or the other.
What do you think? Leave a comment.