I offer up an apology in advance to all of those people out there who love to see Taylor Kitsch without his shirt on. While I admit that, yes, he is a perfect physical specimen, he's not a model. He's an actor, and a good one at that. But you'd never know it from his two most recent films -- John Carter and the upcoming Battleship. It's not that he doesn't have the acting chops, but rather, the material he's being given (and that he's accepting, unfortunately) just isn't good enough for him.
Anyone who's watched several of episodes of Friday Night Lights can attest that Kitsch's character Tim Riggins was one of the best, if not the best character on the show. Despite his low, gravelly mumbles and penchant for drinking, Riggins stole our hearts and attention in every episode in which he appeared. That isn't a charisma you can fake. I'll be the first to tell you that men generally hate any man in TV/movies who's better-looking and more built than him -- and Kitsch defeats most guys in that arena -- but male fans of the show genuinely liked Riggins, and rooted for him. In several episodes, he hardly spoke, but with just one expression or aptly-delivered sentiment, he brought you right into Riggins' world. After Friday Night Lights ended, some fans were even begging for a Riggins spinoff.
The Brad Pitts and the George Clooneys of Hollywood have that same unspeakable something, the dual-gender appeal and the good looks/good acting double whammy. So this is why it pains me to see Kitsch star in the likes of John Carter, where his talents aren't only wasted, they're exploited. You can pretty much cut-and-paste any actor's face onto his body, and the movie's outcome would have the same effect. John Carter takes place in the 1800s and on Mars (I know, I know, what?!), but I would so much rather watch Kitsch as a cavalryman than as a shirtless alien fighter for the two-plus hours I spent in the theatre.
With the cavalryman, at least, there was some depth of character. The alien fighter Kitsch spends the movie jumping around shirtless, and engaging in pointless dialogue with enemies and friends alike. Oh, and did I mention the excessive flexing of various muscles, even when he's not doing anything strenuous? In one particular scene, his right arm takes up about 40 percent of the frame. You can't tell me that wasn't intentional.
As a fellow Canadian, I feel an affinity to Kitsch, almost like it's my patriotic duty to warn him to stop accepting roles like this. Now. And before you all write to me telling me how he's playing the superhero character from the John Carter comic books, I'm fully aware. But there's a way to showcase physicality on screen without making it the focal point of a character -- to wit, Brad Pitt in Fight Club. Yes, he was shirtless quite a bit of the time, but it never got in the way of his fantastic acting, the plot, or the overall power of the story -- it added to it. In John Carter, it's shameless, and made even worse when you know about Kitsch's wasted talent.
I'm afraid things don't bode well for Kitsch with Battleship, either. Eerily, he starts off as a simple Navy officer, but then somehow ends up fighting aliens! Surely the directors of the two films didn't plan for such similar character arcs. At least in Battleship, it looks like he keeps his shirt on -- and Peter Berg might supply a better movie.
So please, Mr. Kitsch, don't let yourself fade into "guy with a good body" obscurity. Use your talent. We know you have it!
Be Brad Pitt, not Matthew McConaughey.
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