Will Channing Tatum's 'X-Men' Role Prevent His Best Movie from Being Made?

Just over a year back, we got word that Channing Tatum would be involved in something special. Paul Feig, creator of Freaks and Geeks, director of Bridesmaids and The Heat, and Mr. Eugene Pool himself from Sabrina the Teenage Witch, announced that he might be planning a project of note for the Magic Mike star: a gay romantic comedy about an average joe (purportedly, John Milhiser) who begins dating the Sexiest Man of the Year-caliber Tatum, struggling with all the insecurities inherent. It sounded, in a word, good.

Granted, the idea was far from green-lit when Feig first mentioned last October it during a press event. But considering Tatum’s ever expanding professional reach and insurmountably cool attitude, we didn’t foresee too hefty a possibility that he’d turn such a project down — especially at the behest of a creative force like Feig, who is himself cementing quite the reputation for delivering the goods (and with big sociopolitical implications every time!).

A year later, no word on Feig’s rom-com. Fine, sure, I get it — both Feig and Tatum have a lot on their plates already. The former is developing a Charlie Brown movie for which we’re at the very least cautiously optimistic, and the latter — having just released The Book of Life and about to do the same with Foxcatcher — has his Magic Mike sequel in the works, plus whatever reconfigurations are needed for the Wachowski duo’s Jupiter Ascending, and (best of the lot) a role in the Coen Brothers’ next comedy Hail, Caesar. Quite a respectful slate of projects, and none that we’re all too worried about delaying the Feig/Tatum prospect interminably.

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But then comes Tatum’s latest commitment: that to the X-Men universe. The 34-year-old star will be donning the role of Gambit for his own spinoff of the 14-year-old film series. Though such news has hovered about the pop culture zeitgeist for some time now, the just-about-final word pegging Tatum not simply to a supporting role in an ensemble vehicle but to his own standalone feature that, quite logically, would warrant subsequent appearances in bigger X-Men pictures, does call for a bit of concern.

With such a heavily stuffed plate as is, Tatum isn’t likely to get around to Feig’s rom-com proposal, nor perhaps even Magic Mike XXL as soon as some might hope. Without dismissing the merits of superhero blockbusters — X-Men: Days of Future Past was an enjoyable entry — it’s difficult to look toward any of the lot with hopes or aspirations for something altogether new. That’s what we were setting up for with the admittedly tenuous-at-best Feig collaboration. Something we hadn’t yet really seen — a mainstream romantic comedy about a gay couple — and certainly needed to.

To complain about the delay of a project that was already so far from reality might seem a bit silly (to complain about movies in general might be dubbed the same). But it is the dominating power of the superhero movie, and of all Hollywood freight trains like it — the scriptless action-thrillers, jump scare horror flicks, and cookie cutter romance pictures — that prevents the new from coming to be. This reliance on keeping up with tradition, on filling every comic book blockbuster with big names like Tatum (and giving every big name like Tatum his own comic book blockbuster) is reaching new levels of corrosion. It is preventing the interesting from happening.

Who knows — maybe Feig and Tatum never would have gotten around to making that gay rom-com anyway. But it feels now like they’re further from the goal than ever.

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