2012: The year that Hollywood took a chance on Taylor Kitsch and failed miserably. John Carter cost an estimated $250 in production alone and returned about $72 million domestically since its March 9 release. Battleship opened this past weekend to the lowest domestic opening numbers ever for a film with a budget with $200 million or above: $25.3 million. The film cost an estimated $209 million to make.
Riding almost $500 million on Taylor Kitsch was a foolish gamble given his bland aesthetics—he's almost anonymously attractive and competent at best in both Carter and Batteship—and also because his most famous role was on the show Friday Night Lights, a notoriously under-watched cult sensation. All of the "Texas Forevers" and surly beer swigs in the world couldn't suggest this guy was ready for post-primetime.
Kitsch leapt to the big screen without John Carter's noted bone density/career stability to support him, but he also wasn't helped by the fact that fans of FNL simply can't see past the Riggins they learned to love. He'll always be that to them. He could be a victim of the Friends effect, except Friends was massive enough to outsize most blockbusters. Kitsch may be in the unfortunate predicament of having a relatively obscure, small-screen character from his past eclipse what could have otherwise been a legend-making film career.
Is there hope for him? Who knows. His presence wasn't enough to sail John Carter or Battleship, but both had problems not even the most no-brainer box office draw could have transcended. (Note that reliable performer Liam Neeson did nothing to rustle up interest for Battleship, nor did pop royalty Rihanna, who got all the best lines, even. The entire ensemble was dead in the exploding water.) Both films have made upwards of $200 million each in foreign box office numbers (Battleship has been out for weeks overseas), so things aren't a total wash. But the U.S. numbers are indicative of Kitsch's lack of power in these giant corporate machines. He is not the hero we want or need, and he's certainly no threat to Ryan Gosling or Channing Tatum, who's having a deservedly splendid year.
Kitsch is scheduled to next appear in and even headline Oliver Stone's Savages, out July 6. (He's first billed in IMDb.) Maybe out of the confines of big-budget bullshit, he will shine. Or maybe he'll be Riggins forever.