Sacrifice Gambit: A Lover’s Eternal Sadness? There’s Only One Way to Fill the Void

X-Men ’97 killed Gambit in one of the best mutant storylines ever brought to screen, and while it hurt, there is a way we can all get past it.

Gambit appears as a giant Skeleton to Charles Xavier

32 years after his debut in Marvel’s X-Men: The Animated Series, Gambit is dead, and there’s only one way to make it better. There’s a very good chance that X-Men ’97‘s decision to kill the Cajun mutant will be preserved among the most notable moments in X-Men screen history, thanks to the show’s incredible, compelling story-telling. Gambit made the ultimate sacrifice, not only stopping the Wild Sentinel attack on Genosha, but also killing himself to prevent Rogue dying valiantly in the same attempt.

It hurts, but something positive may come out of Gambit’s death in X-Men ’97. The character is now very much back in the collective consciousness of Marvel fans (beyond those who read the comics) thanks to ’97‘s timely reminder of just how great he always was. Given how long the card-flinging X-Men icon has walked in the wilderness of obscurity, it feels like the world is righting itself. And Gambit’s reiterated popularity can and should lead to the only way his death can truly mean something: redemption in the upcoming X-Men movie projects.

Gambit’s Death In X-Men ’97 Is Tragic But He Still Has A Potential Future In The MCU

Marvel’s Upcoming Mutant Saga Should Make Gambit Part Of The Team

Gambit on a motorbike in X-Men 97

Even if X-Men ’97 does not revive Gambit (and there is, of course, the possibility that he will reappear as one of Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen), fans may not have to wait too long to see him again. If early rumors are to be believed, Gambit may actually appear in Deadpool & Wolverine. Despite never actually getting his own movie, Channing Tatum’s lost version of the character was one of the first Fox characters linked with a cameo. Given how many returning Fox characters are already confirmed for the exciting team-up, that wouldn’t be too fantastical.

And then, of course, is the question of Marvel Studios’ X-Men plans. Mutants have already been seeded in the MCU, with Kelsey Grammer’s Beast returning in The Marvels most prominently, and it’s hoped that 2024’s Comic Con could take advantage of the success of X-Men ’97 to announce something tangible. Whether Marvel Studios choose to bring in a fully-formed X-Men team – perhaps in Avengers: Secret Wars – or start from a new blank slate and release solo movies, Gambit must be part of those plans.

This isn’t just some blinkered personal quest to get a character I love more attention, no matter what my connection to the character. Failing to aknowledge how popular Gambit is, even while accepting that his death was the right way to end his X-Men ’97 story, would be a huge mistake. Gambit has earned the right to be considered one of the founding characters in the MCU’s X-Men Saga, and provided they cast him correctly, he could be as popular as Wolverine.

Hugh Jackman’s clawed mutant has dominated the live-action X-Men movies for the past 20 years, but his characterization arguably owes more to Gambit than it does to Wolverine in the early comics (or in X-Men: TAS). It’s time for Gambit to reclaim that, and for a proper adaptation – in the spirit of how the X-Men animated shows have portrayed him – to pay him his dues.

Gambit Has Been Sidelined Too Much in Live-Action

Multiple Failed Attempts & A Disappointing Supporting Role Aren’t Enough

Leo (Channing Tatum) crying in The Vow

Gambit’s disappointing X-Men movie history goes back a lot further than his underwhelming appearance in X-Men Origins, in fact. The original X-Men was supposed to feature him in a brief cameo, before X-2 almost killed him off as one of Stryker’s Cerebro 2 victims. Then X-Men: The Last Stand abandoned early plans to introduce him as a love interest for Rogue, which was the first time Channing Tatum’s name was attached to the role. In the case of the last two, the official novelizations actually preserve Gambit’s appearances.

The Last Stand‘s plans for Gambit were cut because X-Men Origins: Wolverine was already on the way, and Fox preferred not to use the same character twice in close succession. Early on, Lost’s Josh Holloway was cast, before Fox replaced him with Taylor Kitsch after his breakout performance as Tim Riggins in Friday Night Lights. It was probably a commercially sound decision, but casting Gambit younger and with a softer edge meant he felt like only a rough approximation of the character.

Holloway revealed that he was replaced as Gambit because the studio head wanted “someone really young, like that kid in High School Musical!”

Since that appearance, Gambit has been a notable absentee from the X-Men movie franchise. After all, anchoring him to Wolverine’s origin story meant it would be harder to bring him in as part of the First Class reboot timeline. But then Fox rolled out plans for a solo Gambit movie with Channing Tatum once more in line to star, only for development hell to swallow the project up for years.

Rupert Wyatt, Doug Liman, and Gore Verbinski were all attached as director at various times, but the release date was pushed back repeatedly after Tatum was officially cast in 2014. Eventually, Gambit was scheduled for March 13, 2020, but Disney’s purchase of Fox complicated matters further, and it was canceled entirely in May 2019. To think that such a prominent member of X-Men: The Animated Series‘ cast had been so badly handled remains one of the biggest superhero movie fumbles.

How The MCU Can Finally Give Gambit His Due

His Origin Story Is Well-Worth Its Own Marvel Project

Channing Tatum as Gambit Fan Art

Back when X-Men Origins: Wolverine was in production, Fox had plans to introduce more solo spin-offs, but the mooted Magneto movie never materialized and that branch of the multiverse died off after Origins disappointed. There is still hope for that old plan to work, however, particularly with the MCU’s model for introducing individual heroes before building to the Avengers crossovers.

Gambit’s solo story would more than justify that approach for his return: his origin with the Thieves Guild and subsequent turn to superheroism offers a compelling arc that doesn’t even need to end with him joining the X-Men. If Marvel takes anything from X-Men ’97‘s success (other than the need for more seasons), it’s that the strength of individual mutant brands can justify individual projects. Even if they dropped as series on Disney+, an interconnecting world of X-Men and future recruits would bring diversity and vitality to the MCU.

Exorcising the trauma of Gambit’s death at the hands of the Wild Sentinels with a concrete Marvel future would justify that trauma. There is absolutely the appettite among fans to see more of Gambit, and not necessarily as an existing team member who plays second fiddle to Cyclops or Wolverine or Professor X. In other words, the king is dead, long live the king.

Confirmed Upcoming MCU Release Dates

Deadpool & Wolverine – July 26, 2024
Captain America: Brave New World – February 14, 2025
Thunderbolts* – May 5, 2025
The Fantastic Four – July 25, 2025
Blade – November 7, 2025
Avengers 5 – May 1, 2026
Avengers: Secret Wars – May 7, 2027

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