With James Mangold’s much-anticipated The Wolverine opening on July 26th and Marvel’s continued success with solo superhero films, the door is wide open for some lesser-known heroes to take to the screen. While Logan is easily the most popular and famous of the X-Men, he’s able to carry a solo film in part because his character is not defined by being a team player…quite the opposite. So today we’ll make a case for another X-Man who has a fantastic backstory that’s not directly tied into the mutant team and possesses more than enough personality to shoulder a standalone film. Hit the jump to find out more. Hollywood! Adapt this: Marvel’s ragin’ Cajun, Gambit.
Last week, I suggested that the comic-turned-video game Turok: Dinosaur Hunter be adapted for a live-action feature, especially since he’s never seen any screentime (other than an animated movie). Gambit has been spotted in a movie once before, but the part was so small (and the movie so, so terrible) that he deserves his own storyline.
Gambit, created by writer Chris Claremont and artist Jim Lee, originally appeared briefly in Uncanny X-Men Annual #14 in 1990 and in earnest in Uncanny X-Men #266 that same year. Two attempts have been made at giving Gambit his own solo comic book run, but they haven’t been all that well received (which puts a damper on my movie hopes). In addition to being on the X-Men, Gambit also occupied the X-Force replacement team and title with Gambit & the X-Ternals.
Named Rémy Etienne LeBeau but more commonly known by his alias, Gambit is a New Orleans native who was kidnapped by the LeBeau Thieves’ Guild as a baby. He soon gained the moniker of “Le Diable Blanc” (“the White Devil”) and was thought to be the child of prophecy who would unite the Thieves’ Guild and Assassins’ Guild and put an end to their war. As a child orphan on the streets, he learned the art of thievery and was eventually brought into the home of the Thieves’ Guild patriarch, Jean-Luc LeBeau.
As a teen, Gambit accompanies his cousin on the “Tithing,” the ritual initiation into the Thieves’ Guild. Needless to say, the event goes awry and Gambit finds himself captured and sold into slavery. He uses his powers, that of controlling bio-kinetic energy, to escape and later further develops his abilities. Gambit spent a bit of time in the employ of Mr. Sinister and even witnessed Wolverine escaping from the adamantium process of the Weapon X program while on a mission to steal some important documents.
How Could / Why Should It Be Adapted?
The above backstory on Gambit’s character is a lesser-known bit of his history but would make for an exciting film. An orphan destined to bring peace to warring criminal factions who grows up as a thief, is sold into child slavery and uses his developing mutant powers to escape? Sold! To further solidify the solid standalone film that would be Gambit, let’s talk up the romantic angle a bit.
Gambit has always been smooth with the ladies. His on again/off again romance with Rogue is among the most popular in all of comic book history, but his tales of love lost started much earlier. The story of Gambit and Bella Donna Boudreaux is a classic comic book take on Romeo and Juliet. Growing up as childhood friends, yet each of them not knowing that the other was a member of the rival guild, the pair eventually entered into an arranged marriage in order to put a stop to the bloodshed. Their happiness was short-lived, however, because Bella Donna’s brother challenged Gambit to a duel…one that ended in Gambit’s banishment from New Orleans.
Are you kidding me? You’ve got an underdog hero story in the sultry setting of the New Orleans criminal underground with a tragically star-crossed romance and super powers. What more can you ask for in a movie?
The Final Word:
With the success of Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man, which was more of a “romantic action film with superhero elements” than a straight-up comic book movie, I think there’s definitely a place for dramatic films that happen to feature a mutant/superhero as their protagonist. Gambit is a perfect setup for such a film. I would love to see Gambit’s origin story as told from birth to banishment. His early Dickensian days appear to be modeled after that of Oliver Twist, while the Romeo and Juliet allusion can carry the story of Gambit in his teens up until the fateful duel. Perhaps, after we see Gambit leave his hometown and wander the countryside, we get a glimpse of his future home with the X-Men and his future romance with Rogue.
Personally, I’d love it if more studios took the character-oriented approach to developing some more of the comic book properties. Gambit isn’t a wildly over-powered hero, so he’s automatically more accessible. He’s a gambler, a thief, a rogue, a ne’er-do-well, a charmer, a lover and a fighter. It’s unfortunate that the general public’s only introduction to him has been through a small role played by Taylor Kitsch in the abysmal X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It’s also a shame that Marvel doesn’t appear to have access to the character rights, but if The Wolverine is a critical and box office success, that’s a step in the right direction. I’d much rather they left all of the comics alone than give them the Origins level of treatment, but if done right, Gambit could be a big win…as long as James Gunn isn’t involved.
Be sure to check out our previous installments of Hollywood! Adapt This! and let us know your thoughts on a Gambit adaptation in the comments below. Tune in next week when we delve into even more corporate greed with yet another short-lived TV series that was created solely to promote a toy line. While that doesn’t narrow it down, following these instructions should clear things up: ”You have been chosen to be the cap-bearer. Go to the mini-mart and wait for a sign.”