Universal just may have assembled the most beautiful movie cast this side of Twilight. The studio has signed three of-the-moment stars — Friday Night Lights‘ Taylor Kitsch, True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård, and, most recently, pop idol Rihanna – for Battleship, an action film based on the Hasbro board game that’s set for release on May 25, 2012.
For those of you who haven’t already done the math, that’s almost two years from now. Two years — a virtual eternity in pop-culture time. Kitsch, Skarsgård and Rihanna are hot now, but will we still love them tomorrow? Chances are that we will. But what about in 2012, when Battleship must wage combat against Men in Black III-D at the box office over Memorial Day weekend?
The film’s price tag, reported to be in excess of $100 million, is a lot of money to bet on three unproven leads up against Will Smith, probably Hollywood’s most bankable star. (Eight of his last nine movies have grossed more than $130 million in North America.) If Universal were smart, the studio would rush this thing into production for a 2011 release date (originally, it was supposed to come out next summer), if not to get away from Smith, to make sure that its principals are still piping hot.
I suspect that Rihanna will continue to sizzle. She’s beautiful and stylish, the perfect pop package, and we know the camera adores her. But can she act? For a film like Battleship, that might be beside the point. She already proved in the “Hard” video that she’s perfected her battle pose, and she wears combat couture gorgeously. She’ll also have some extra time to work on her acting technique for what will be her film debut — at least as much as she needs to prepare for a role that is sure to be not particularly demanding on a thespian level. And she can even revive Jordin Sparks’ great 2009 hit “Battlefield” for the soundtrack.
Kitsch, who will portray Naval commander Alex Hopper should have no problem handling whatever acting tasks are thrown his way. He’s already spent four seasons as the resident bad-boy hunk on one of the most critically beloved shows on TV, so I’m surprised that he has yet to break out as a big-screen leading man. As for Skarsgård, who’ll costar as Hopper’s brother, he’s as improbably gorgeous as the others; he has a respectably lengthy resume (which includes the 2001 cult classic Zoolander); and HBO’s True Blood is nearly as high-buzz as Glee among TV shows. I have yet to be washed in the True Blood viewing experience, but I loved Skarsgård as Lady Gaga’s lover/tormentor/poison victim in the “Paparazzi” video.
So potentially disastrous release date aside, Rihanna has chosen wisely for her first movie role. She has two strong costars, and in Peter Berg, a well-respected director with a decent rack record. (Ironically, his last film, 2008’s $227.9 million-grossing Hancock, starred Will Smith.) That Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) considered taking on Kitsch’s role before opting to do There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson’s next movie gives it a slight credibility boost. It might not be the best test of Rihanna’s potential as an actress, but it could be her ticket to movie stardom — at least for one summer blockbuster.
The only thing standing in her way will be Will Smith.