As Hollywood continues to churn out superhero movies based on comic books, the X-Men franchise has tapped another actor to bring in an additional character: Channing Tatum has signed on to play the role of Gambit, probably as early as 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse.
This is big news in the comic fan’s world, since Gambit, AKA Remy LeBeau, is a major character in the X-Men universe. He grew up as a sneaky New Orleans street kid who hid in the shadows and survived as a professional thief, and as an adult mutant he flip-flopped alliances after he found himself wrapped up in horrifying massacres of “undesirable” communities. Besides his mutant power of charging any object with “kinetic” explosive energy and turning it into a bomb, Gambit is an agile street fighter with exceptional acrobatic skills; it is also implied that those acrobatic skills translate well to the bedroom, hint hint.
Casting for the X-Men movies has always suffered from heavy criticism as iconic roles have been given to actors based on Hollywood popularity, instead of being true to the actual character. (Should Halle Berry be Storm? Probably not, and that’s not her fault.) At first glance, handsome but thick-necked Tatum may not seem to fit the part of smouldering, sexy Gambit. Tatum is known for action roles in such films as the G.I. Joe series and 21 Jump Street, where he portrayed mumbling, one-dimensional characters where he looked cool while shooting guns.
Besides, there already was an actor playing Gambit. Taylor Kitsch appeared briefly in the role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and he played the part well: cocky, sneaky, sexy. But X-Men Origins: Wolverine was not so good, and some of Kitsch’s other movies like John Carter were terrible, so he’s gone for now.
In defense of Tatum, he has the perfect background: he was born in central Alabama and grew up in the bayous, a.k.a. swamps, of rural Mississippi, so at least he should be able to handle Gambit’s iconic “N’awlins” drawl. Tatum is also an exceptional dancer, evidenced by his breakthrough role in Step Up, in which he played a tough-guy from the bad part of town who wins a woman’s heart through their love of dance. It wasn’t very good, but sometimes movies don’t have to be good to be fun. He also starred in Magic Mike, about male strippers trying to find fame and fortune, and although it had virtually no plot, his dancing was brilliant. It should translate perfectly to the flexibility needed to play a role like Gambit.
X-Men fans may worry that Tatum isn’t suave enough to portray Gambit, and will turn the character into just another mindless action drone. If nothing else, seeing Tatum in head-to-toe spandex should be sufficiently distracting to carry his performance for a while.