How to Keep 'Gambit' From Becoming 'X-Men: The Last Stand'

It might be time to press pause on the Channing Tatum 'X-Men' spinoff to ensure it's given the care it deserves.
Getty Images; Courtesy of Photofest

Are Gambit's big-screen ambitions in need of a rescue mission?

The long-gestating Gambit movie has lost its second director — with Doug Liman dropping out to direct Justice League Dark for rival Warner Bros. and DC. Rupert Wyatt previously left the project in September 2015, and the film, which is to star Channing Tatum as the New Orleans-based mutant, has been delayed several times. But sources told Heat Vision that the hunt is on for a new director and studio Fox is still eyeing a January start date.

From a business standpoint, marching toward that start date makes sense, as the busy Tatum cannot wait around forever for this project, no matter how personality invested he is in bringing the X-Men favorite to life. And with more than three months until the proposed date, conceivably there is plenty of time for a director to get acclimated — should he or she be found soon.

But perhaps its time to press pause. Even if that means risking the loss of talent like Tatum, isn't it better to slow down and deliver a finished product people actually like?

For an example of X-Men gone wrong, look no further than 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, which is considered a low point of the franchise. X-Men godfather Bryan Singer declined to direct The Last Stand in favor of Superman Returns. Enter Matthew Vaughn, then best known as a producer for Guy Ritchie and the director of the 2004 Daniel Craig crime drama Layer Cake. 

Vaughn was with the project through preproduction, but left because he didn't feel he had time to make a good film. He "didn't want to be the guy accused of making a bad X-Men movie."

"What happened with X-Men 3 was I didn't have the time to make the movie that I wanted to make," Vaughn told The Telegraph in 2007. "I had a vision of how it should be, and I wanted to make sure I was making a film as good as X-Men 2, and I knew there was no way it could be. I just suddenly knew it wasn't the right thing for me to do."

Rush Hour director Brett Ratner was brought on in the 11th hour to helm the film after Vaughn's abrupt departure.

X-Men: The Last Stand was a big box office hit, but was rejected by fans — who savaged it for killing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Cyclops (James Marsden) in the first act, botching the much-anticipated adaptation of the Dark Phoenix Saga, and including disliked portrayals of classic characters like Juggernaut and Angel.

The film was so controversial that 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past obliterated much of it from the timeline, and this summer's Apocalypse even made a joke at its expense, with its group of young stars declaring that the third movie in a trilogy is always the worst.

Fans blamed Ratner (Vaughn, in the same Telegraph interview even boasted, "I could have made something a hundred times better than the film that was eventually made") — but who's to say what he could have done with more time? It certainly wouldn't have been worse, and it likely would have been a lot better.

This summer's Suicide Squad also faced a rushed production, with a schedule dictated by over-ambitious studio release dates, not by what was realistic for a talented filmmaker like writer/director David Ayer to make a great movie.

Ironically, Vaughn also provides an example of when a rushed production can go right. He returned to the X-Men franchise to direct 2011's First Class, which had a famously compressed production timeline, but went on to earn strong reviews from critics and fans. (Though it didn't earn as much at the box office as Last Stand, as Ratner gleefully pointed out in now-deleted tweets.)  

Ratner, in a 2009 interview with StarPulse, defended himself from claims he ruined the X-Men franchise.

"If I buried the franchise how the f— did they make a Wolverine? I mean, that's ridiculous. And they're making three other f—king  X-Men movies. Mine kept the franchise alive!" 

Gambit has already been butchered once on the big screen, with his introduction in 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which is considered the worst of the X-Men films. Though Tatum has plenty of fan good will, a well-planned Gambit film (Tatum or not) is better than a subpar finished product.
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