Hasn’t 2016 been a funny old year for films? Be it a successful hit or disappointing flop, it seems that the furores around these movies have overshadowed the products themselves, whether they have been mired in controversy (Ghostbusters), or sparked fan-wars (Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad).
Another movie which is starting to generate anxiety among superhero fans is the upcoming X-Men spin-off, Gambit, from 20th Century Fox. With Channing Tatum in the titular role, it once seemed so promising. But with its' ever-changing crew and shooting schedule (it was meant to be released in October of this year. It's currently set to begin shooting next Spring) eyebrows are starting to raise. In our age of instant information on the internet, no news isn't really good news.
So what is the hold up? Why have we heard very little about it? Should we be concerned?
Not so, according to Fox-honcho Simon Kinberg.
Though it’s perhaps not as anticipated as many other comic book movies, Gambit has a lot of potential. Indeed, it could bring something very new and exciting to the X-Men universe, and with the beloved hunk Tatum donning the long coat and headpiece, it's sure to be a charismatic and quirky entry in the Fox Universe.
However, as Kinberg discussed with Slash Film, fans shouldn’t be baring their teeth just yet. As he states in the interview, they are taking time to make Gambit unique in an increasingly crowded genre:
“The character has such a specific voice in the comic in the same way that ‘Deadpool’ has a specific voice in the comic, that we want to make sure that we capture that voice... Really it’s just about getting a screenplay that is worthy of that character, and I think we’re really close right now.”
Now, there are various things that we can take away from this. Some fans will be relieved to hear that the film makers are trying to get this right; after all, it wasn't just Deadpool who drew the short straw in X-Men:Origins Wolverine. As you may recall, Taylor Kitsch's Gambit helped Logan infiltrate Stryker's base, but he had very little screen time, and didn't exactly leave a lasting impression.
On the Other Hand...
Additionally, Kinberg’s comments could be seen as some quick fire reassurance to audiences, since Gambit hasn’t had the easiest of roads to traverse. After all, Fox did have Rupert Wyatt in the director’s chair before he left due to scheduling conflicts, and was succeeded by Doug Liman.
It's also worth nothing that Kinberg feels confident about moving ahead with a Fan4stic sequel despite its very poor reception. Plus there is the fact that many people consider the Fantastic Four brand forever tarnished, so I’m sure that lots of readers will take what he says with the old pinch of salt.
But Fan4stic brings us to the second point – is this vocal deliberation with Gambit...well, deliberate? His comments certainly are timely. His interview with SlashFilm came out on the same week that Suicide Squad was released to highly aggressive reviews, which criticized its pacing and editing; these nitpicks weren’t helped by the revelation that David Ayer only spent six weeks on the script beforehand. That might seem like enough time to some people, but in terms of film preparation, that is a very brief period, especially when Deadpool's gestation:
Of course we now know that it was 20th Century Fox’s lack of confidence in Deadpool that caused it to stall, until that leaked video shook them out of apathy. Yet the point still stands that scripts and planning can take a long time. Improvisation has worked on various successful films from Apocalypse Now to Gladiator, but a lack of foresight very rarely amounts to a decent film.
Whilst Kinberg was quick to joke that:
“I think it was honed over those 10 years ...I hope that ‘Gambit’ doesn’t take 10 years...”
His comments have nevertheless come at a very poignant moment in time. It’s roughly a year since Fan4stic failed, following a notoriously chaotic and confrontational production; plus, with Suicide Squad being derided for its rushed production, the film has become another stumble in Warner Bros.' somewhat rushed attempts to make their own superhero cinematic universe.
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The Marvel-ous Way
Say what you will about the supposedly risk-averse Marvel and their recent hit Captain America: Civil War, but the studio’s methodical planning and cultivation of their brand has borne a unique and unprecedented run of success. Indeed, it’s doubtful that Civil War could have even happened without its predecessors laying the groundwork.
Additionally, with Deadpool’s acclaim, it is becoming clearer and clearer that the "slow and steady" approach is winning the race, and that whilst die-hard fans may love hastily included world-building, regular film-goers do not.
Indeed, Kinberg was quick to agree:
“I think the truth is when you have these movies that need a very special and unique tone, it takes a little while to find that tone….”
Certainly, through its impressive viral marketing, 20th Century Fox relayed the idea that Deadpool would be a unique cinematic experience - an adult, irreverent and subversive take on the superhero movie, unlike any other film at the time. It then delivered on its message, and the final movie was filled with riotous adult humor and lashings of explicit violence, which confirmed its unmistakable brand.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Suicide Squad. Even though its' marketing insisted that it would be an grungier, meaner yet funnier piece than the divisively murky Batman V Superman, the final product was a lot different. It was decidedly uneven and fans were angered by how little they saw of Jared Leto's Joker, when the trailers had previously denoted how integral he was to the film.
It's doubtful that Kinberg was slyly dissing Suicide Squad's failings, but he, like everyone else in Hollywood, will surely be paying close attention to what is happening.
Looking to the Future
Whether or not Kinberg, Liman and the makers of Gambit are learning from the recent mistakes of the superhero genre remains to be seen, as does how Warner Bros. will respond to the backlash against their fledgling filmic universe. After all, the light-hearted Justice League teaser suggests something of a course-correction.
Nevertheless, I for one, am very much looking forward to seeing Channing Tatum – complete with glowing eyes – lobbing playing cards at his foes. Some may be worried about this recent wrinkle, but maybe we shouldn’t be too perturbed. After all, as the Cajun mutant said himself:
“I wrested alligators before I could write my own name. This just feels like goin' home.”
Are you excited for the Gambit movie?