Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Casting Questions


So we have a some casting news, and not the kind that makes people jump for joy.  A lot of Gambit fans had their fears realized when it was confirmed that Channing Tatum would be filling that role, while some fans of Anime film Ghost in the Shell have been beside themselves with the announcement that Scarlett Johansson would be starring in an American adaptation.  Now the consternation with each one is for different reasons.  With Gambit, the problem seems to be that Tatum isn't considered the right type of actor to play the role; Tatum's best stuff has a comedic bent to it so what is likely to be a serious action film with maybe a little snarky humor doesn't look like a good fit.  That an the absolute zero confidence anyone has in his ability to pull of the pronounced Cajun accent that the character had on the beloved X-Men cartoon from the 1990s.  I understand the bit about the accent, but other than that....not really.  He's an actor, people.  If the script is good and the directing is good, it should be fine. 

It is pretty remarkable that the Gambit character is drawing that much concern.  I didn't really know anything about him until I watched the cartoon, and his profile and popularity is very much a result of that show versus the comic book.  In print he's not high enough on the X-Men totem pole to warrant a solo film ahead of Storm, Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, or several others.  There was even a hit piece written on a fictional character here.  But hey, it is what it is.  The movie's being made, and is scheduled to drop in 2016.  I'll probably end up seeing it and I'll give it a chance to be good before I dump all over it.  And you should, too, unless you're still holding out hope for a X-Men-based film that doesn't take major deviations from the source material.  Fox's X-universe does that and will likely continue doing it.  If you've accepted that then you should be able to ride with this.

Now as far as the Johansson casting, well.........that one is much more worthy of disgust.  Ghost in the Shell is a Japanese anime production so casting Johansson in the lead role means that one of two things is going to happen here, either a full blown Americanization of the story or a dropping in of a decidedly American actress to a story where the other important characters are Japanese, and changing her character from being Japanese like the others to a Westerner of some kind.  There's a shorter way to describe that; it's called whitewashing.  If you're the studio, why do risk that kind of backlash?  Money, of course.  Johansson carried last year's Lucy to a pretty big windfall, so for the time being if you have an female-led action movie that isn't well known to the masses but has the potential to do good business if things break right, she's an obvious choice.  Does that warrant changing a whole movie around and risking a backlash from said movie's more ardent supporters?  They're gambling that it will. 

If you like ScarJo, and like her in action roles, then unless you're a Ghost-devotee you're going to at least think about checking this out.  I'm not an Anime guy so I got no dog in the fight here. Race-bending already created roles is always a tough topic and is guaranteed to offend people on all sides of it.  My take is that sometimes it's ok and sometimes it isn't, but that it's best to leave things as they were originally written.  I talked about it here, and here.  The studio is doing this for financial reasons and little else; there are Asian-American actresses who could play the title role, but they clearly don't believe in the ability of any of them to sell the movie.  ScarJo gets you some mainstream press during production and close to the premiere date and will get you some box office on opening weekend.  I don't run a studio so I don't have to make those calculations, but I'm willing to bet that their number crunching is correct on this one. 


  1. Channing Tatum is something of a ladies man, just like Gambit. He's a southern boy who has spent a lot of time in Louisiana, just like Gambit. He's the right height to play Gambit. He may need to lose a few pounds, but actors do that sort of thing for roles all the time. He has the necessary sex appeal, which is integral to Gambit's character. Most importantly, Tatum campaigned hard for this role because he loves the character. This isn't a matter of whether or not someone else could do a better job (which isn't necessarily true, anyway) because without Tatum's involvement, we probably wouldn't be getting a Gambit movie at all. I realize people on the internet pride themselves in reporting things in a one-sided fashion, but many Gambit fans ARE actually jumping for joy over this news. I've loved Gambit for almost as long as I can remember and I'm really excited about this, because I think Tatum will do a good job and bring a lot of people out to see this who might not have bothered otherwise. You can tell how much Channing Tatum cares about this project and I believe that will lead to good things. People who think differently are entitled to their views, but should probably stop taking it as a given that all other Gambit fans agree with them.

  2. One more thing: Even if it was true that Gambit's best stuff has been comedy (it's not true anymore, if it ever was: read reviews for his dramatic performance in Foxcatcher) that's not a valid reason why he should be typecast, and never get a chance to expand his horizons. Also, I read the Gambit hit piece you linked to, and there's no comment section on that blog, so I'll say this here: some people hate any comic book character created after 1970. Some comic readers especially hate any modern, male comic book character who is supposed to be handsome because (I'm just gonna say it, even as a comic book fanboy myself) many of these readers are fully grown men who can't get laid. They resent Gambit because sex appeal is integral to his character and he gets a lot of @ss. Like, probably more @ss then all other comic book characters combined. Gambit is an awesome character who is way better than Wolverine (he could also easily beat Wolverine in a fight, but that's another matter.)