Apropos of absolutely nothing, would you like to know my favourite X-Men character? Well, okay, it may be apropos of something - the long-in-development film about the mutant character Gambit secured the directorial services of Rupert Wyatt this past week - but humour me for a moment. It's not we've been inundated with fascinating film news recently (well, I mean, plenty of stories broke, but nothing that would sustain a paragraph - see the bottom of this article for all the other news).

In a totally unrelated twist, my favourite X-Men character is Gambit. You know, the one with the floppy hair and the giant pole and the exploding playing cards. I've admittedly not probed too deeply into the X-Men comics, but, as a devoted viewer of the cartoon series in my childhood, Gambit always appealed to me. He was never the strongest or even the most practical of the group, but he was the character you'd want to be when you played X-Men in the playground. He seemed to be - in the most 1990s sense of the term - the coolest, with all his swagger and acrobatic bullshit and combustible cards. This probably says a lot about the '90s more than anything because, even by the standards of the X-Men universe, Gambit makes no sense: he's supposed to be this amazing thief, but he wears knee-high boots made of metal and a mask that didn't cover his face; he has the spectacular ability to pump objects with so much kinetic energy that they explode, but mostly uses this on bloody playing cards; he has this tortured anti-hero shtick going on but sports a dumb trench coat over his spandex, talks with a ridiculous interpretation of a Cajun accent, and hilariously fails in his repeated attempts at womanizing.

So yeah, Gambit was slightly lame, but that's also what made him endearing. Where many of the X-Men, especially in the old cartoon, were kind of bland and competent, here was this dayglo martial-arts bandit who blew shit up and tried to get laid. But that was the old cartoon, and what was cool in the 1990s and early 2000s is far from today's coolness. Obviously, much of my affection for Gambit - and I hazard a guess most of the affection for the character - comes from a place of nostalgia for the cartoon and his role as the colourful maverick within the group, so the question of whether he can actually sustain a film today, isolated from everybody else, is an important one. Channing Tatum was confirmed as the film's star last year, and that's certainly a good piece of casting because he has the charisma, self-awareness and actual goddamn skill to pull off almost anything at this point. But the whole production appears to have been engineered to capitalise on his repeated claims to the press that he would like to play Gambit in an X-Men film (because, fuck, the guy makes money), rather than conceived with a specific idea or story in mind. And, on that front, while it's nice to see that one of the character's co-creators, Chris Claremont, delivered the film's treatment (although many say his best work is behind him), it's not encouraging that script duties were handed to Joshua Zetumer, the writer of the disappointing RoboCop (2014), a remake that eschewed all the fun and cynicism of Paul Verhoeven's original.

To be fair, it's not like there are many canonised comic-book stories to which Zetumer will be beholden. Gambit is a relatively new character - his first appearance was 1990 - and this will provide the filmmakers with no small degree of creative freedom. But I'm concerned that this will result in something safe and conventional. It would be great if the film could embrace the character's ridiculousness as well as his coolness, but that's unlikely given that the current conception of comic-book cinema is being dictated by overly solemn pictures. Unfortunately, I think Rupert Wyatt coming aboard confirms that Gambit will follow in kind. He'll certainly lend the film an air of respectability considering that his last big Hollywood film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), was largely well-received (the less said about The Gambler [2015] the better), but his operative mode is slick and straight. If Planet of the Apes was anything to go by, he can wrangle moderately compelling characters out of the most unlikely of sources and imbue his big action set-pieces with palatable flare, but that's the antithesis of Gambit. With Wyatt on board, this film will probably be a competent and moderately enjoyable superhero origin story that largely focuses on the character's tortured past, but that would be ill-befitting of a character whose entire existence is based on his opposition to such mundanity. Then again, maybe I'm totally wrong and the film will turn out to be a tongue-in-cheek festival of fun that's situated somewhere between the Wachowskis and Neveldine & Taylor, I suppose we won't know until the film is released October 2016.


The Weekly Regurgitation:

- Maleficent (2014) made Disney three quarters of a billion dollars worldwide. Maleficent 2 is being developed by Disney. Go Figure. (The Wrap)

- Eli Roth will direct the giant-killer-shark movie Meg for Warner Bros. The film has apparently been in various stages of development for nearly twenty years - ever since Steve Allen's 1997 bestselling novel of the same name got the majors hot under the collar upon publication - but a script by The Manchurian Candidate (2004) scribe Dean Georgaris seems to have Warner excited about the prospect of a new franchise. I'm also sure that Jurassic World (2015) - another giant monster movie - making approximately all the money ever aided their decision to go ahead with the project. (Variety)

- 20th Century Fox has been trying to get a new adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express off the ground for a couple of years, and now Kenneth Branagh, who can do whatever he wants following the rampant success of Disney's Cinderella (2015), is in talks to direct. Ridley Scott will be producing along with Simon Kinberg and Mark Gordon, no stars are attached. I have no opinion about this, but my dad is very excited. (The Wrap)

- Never Let Me Go (2010) director Mark Romanek is in talks to direct Norco, a film heist film inspired by the Norco (a city in California) bank robbery and subsequent shootout in 1980. (The Hollywood Reporter)

- Dimension Films is making a new Halloween film called, imitatively, Halloween Returns,- the eleventh film in the series - because they don't know when to leave things alone. It'll be directed by Marcus Dunstan, who co-wrote a number of films in the Saw franchise, and written by Dunstan with Patrick Melton, who co-wrote those same Saw films with Dunstan. Isn't that nice? (Variety)

- Katherine Waterston, who came out of nowhere to stun audiences in Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice (2014), will star in the upcoming Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. (The Hollywood Reporter)

- The Forest Whitaker eye will be looking directly into your soul in Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One. Because, like, Forest Whitaker has been cast in the film. There's no word regarding who he'll play, but he'll star alongside Felicity Jones, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn and Diego Luna. Gareth Edwards will direct. (Variety)

- Bradley Cooper will produce the real-life World War II drama Ghost Army for Warner Bros along with The Hangover (2009) director Todd Phillips and American Sniper (2014) producer Andrew Lazar. The film, based on Rick Beyer & Elizabeth Sayles's book The Ghost Army of World War II: How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived the Enemy with Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects, And Other Audacious Fakery, is about a group of creative people recruited by the army to convince the Nazis that the U.S. had a larger army than they really did. Warner wants Cooper to star as well as produce. This is news. (Deadline)

- Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson will return for Pitch Perfect 3, due 2017. Because of course they are. (The Hollywood Reporter)