In the future (after the apocalypse, I'm assuming), leather-clad gangs will battle for supremacy on the rubble-strewn streets of New York City. They will carry torches (perhaps the sun has been blotted out?) and scowl a lot. There also will be a whole lot of overturned/ burned-out vehicles, as is to be expected in any post-apocalyptic scenario. The future, it turns out, is vaguely reminiscent of "300," or maybe "The Warriors," or both.

That, in a nutshell, is the basic scenario of "Run This Town," the much-anticipated video that brings together three of the hugest names in the music industry — Jay-Z, Rihanna and Kanye West — and casts them as warlords in a 23rd-century turf war.

Anyway, here's what you need to know about "Run This Town": It's three of the decade's biggest artists, appearing on one of the year's most talked-about songs, promoting the hugest rap album in recent memory (Jay's The Blueprint 3, due September 11). It really doesn't matter what they're doing in the video — their combined wattage is that powerful.

So credit director Anthony Mandler — who also helmed Jay's VMA-nominated "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)" clip — for changing things up. Jay and Kanye have never gotten this gritty, and Rihanna hasn't looked this dark and menacing since her "Disturbia" clip (which, incidentally, was also directed by Mandler). The "Town" video is super-stylish; Mandler's visuals create a war-torn world that's dank and dangerous.

"I wanted something that didn't fit into 'this is New York, this is a building or a street [you know],' " Mandler told MTV News on Wednesday. "I wanted it to feel more ancient. I wanted it to feel more European, but on American soil. I didn't want it to have a framework, like, 'Oh, we're riding in New York.' "

As for the song, Jay went out of his way to proclaim that "D.O.A." wasn't meant for iTunes or the radio, which explains why "Run This Town" is being referred to as "the official first single" from Blueprint 3: It's aimed at digital retailers and radio programmers, a certified smash right out of the gate (and though, like "D.O.A.," it's also produced by West and No I.D., it's less knotty and more accessible). And it fits perfectly with Mandler's vision, too: The menacing, marching drum beats recall nothing if not the dark and deadly streets of tomorrow (and today, for that matter).

Given that "Run This Town" is, by its very definition, a star-driven vehicle, you couldn't blame everyone involved if they mailed it in and coasted by on name and reputation alone. But no one does that here ... not Mandler, not Jay, Rihanna or Kanye (though, strangely, he is noticeably absent for most of the clip's first three minutes). If all superstars worked this hard, the world would be a better place ... until it's destroyed by the apocalypse, that is.