Doug Liman has been attached to a couple comic book properties over the years, neither of which made their way beyond the planning stages. First there was 20th Century Fox’s embattled X-Men spin-off Gambit, which Liman left before shortly boarding and departing Warner Bros.’ Justice League Dark. But it’s not because the Edge of Tomorrow director is trying to live by his acclaimed 2014 film’s mantra of “live, die, repeat” in his career. Liman revealed why he left both projects, and why the Gambit movie is officially dead in the dust.
When Liman dropped out of Gambit in 2017, it was not a major surprise — the film was plagued with production delays, rewrites, and a revolving door of directors that included Rupert Wyatt and Gore Verbinski. The same could be said for Justice League Dark, which at one point had attracted Guillermo del Toro. Both films remain in limbo at the moment, and Liman may have an idea of why it’s so difficult for Gambit and Justice League Dark to get off the ground.
In an interview with Comic Book Movie, Liman explained that both films lacked strong original scripts, which led him to ultimately leave both projects. “It’s always about the script,” Liman said, adding:
“Getting a great script is so hard, especially for an action script because – and especially for the movies I want to make – I want to be completely original and yet still be commercially satisfying and usually the commercially satisfying ideas are things that people have seen before, like if someone already discovered that and that’s why it shows up in movie after movie.”
In an era where every studio is trying to ape the success of the last hit superhero film, Liman was frustrated with how “derivative” these films could be. Not to mention the fact that we’re hitting comic book property overload, with not only films but TV and streaming getting overrun with superhero stories. That’s why Liman is attracted more to original properties, he said:
“So, if you’re trying to be like, ‘Okay, I’m going to do a superhero thing,’ and there’s been umpteen movies and TV shows about superpowers and I want to do something that’s totally unique with Impulse, you know, a lot of the good ideas are already done and you’ve got to find your own lane. You don’t have to, but for me, that’s so important. I’m not interested in doing something that’s derivative of someone else’s work and so, it makes it particularly hard to develop material that can accomplish that. There’s a lot of times you end up with a script that is really original, but it’s not all that satisfying or you have something that’s pretty satisfying, but it doesn’t feel original.”
These formulaic approaches aren’t helping the case of Gambit, which has almost become more of a curiosity because of how long it’s spent in development hell. Since it was announced with Channing Tatum set to star in 2014, the film’s gone through a million directors and writers, with Disney officially dropping it from its slate earlier this May. Liman buried the film even further with a cut-and-dry statement to Screen Geek: “It’s done.”
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