He’s only been part of the X-Men pantheon since 1990 yet the tortured anti-hero Gambit scores highly with comic book fans.
IGN in 2011 ranked the character 65th on their list of Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time and ComicsAlliance in 2013 went even further, declaring Gambit to be the 4th sexiest male character in comics. It’s not hard to see why – everyone likes a superhero with a clear origin story and a romantically troubled past. Well, everyone but Hollywood it seems.
Despite numerous video-game appearances and a regular slot in the X-Men animated series from 1990 to 1997, where he was voiced first by Chris Potter and later by Tony Daniels, and even a guest cameo in the Spiderman series, Gambit has yet to make a fullscreen debut worthy of his potential. Sure, he pops up briefly in Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) to hammer home a plot point and play a few hands of poker with Wolverine, but Taylor Kitsch’s’s portrayal in that movie comes across as something of an afterthought, a cursory box-ticking exercise included to placate the fan-base. There’s no depth to Gambit here, although we do at least get to see some of his powers on display; there’s kinetic card-throwing at a roomful of hapless guards, but again it is as if these card powers have been scaled back or watered down so as not to threaten Wolverine’s limelight. Which, on the face of it, is a shame, as these card powers could be key to Gambit grabbing more screen estate in the future.
Mainstream films these days tend to be optioned on the back of merchandising deals just as much as they are products of film-making creativity and popular demand. A card-flinging poker-wheeling superhero can’t be a hard sell in a digital age where online casino games and poker tournaments are increasingly on trend. From big multi-table tournaments (MTTs) to tense Heads-Up poker one-on-ones, a rich and interactive world of bluff and wager is but a finger swipe or mouse click away to anyone with a Wi-Fi connection. Click here to see the proof of this assertion. A tie-in deal between the movie-makers and a casino games developer would go some way to securing a budget for a film that might finally let Gambit play to his not inconsiderable strengths.
That movie has apparently been written and yet appears stuck in some kind of development hell. Back in 2014, rumours began to emerge of a possible Gambit film project being assembled, with Channing Tatum touted for the title role. A number of high-profile directors were attached to the project, including at one point Gareth Evans (The Raid) and, at another, Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan/Noah). None of them stuck with it for too long, citing conflicting film commitments and a general air of uncertainty surrounding the production as reasons to move on. Initially, the film was scheduled for a 2016 release date, but this has now been put back to 2018 at the earliest and, as yet, there is still no confirmed director to helm the project.
The Hollywood rumour mill is strangely silent on the topic; IMDB holds scant information on the impending film, and insiders have thus far appeared very hesitant to come forward. The recent success of Wonder Woman implies that the public appetite for superhero movies is as fierce as ever and Deadpool’s 2016 triumph shows that the hero in question doesn’t have to be squeaky-clean in the morality department. So what’s the hold up?
Perhaps if Gambit’s super-loyal fan-base make enough noise, someone in Hollywood will prick their ears up and listen. We can but hope…