UPDATE: In the Heart of the Sea has had its release date pushed back from March to December.
Blackhat opens this Friday.
Will 2015 be the Year of Chris Hemsworth?
Chris Hemsworth had a pretty good 2014, what with the whole Sexiest Man Alive thing, but I think 2015 might be a make-or-break year for him in terms of his status in Hollywood as a capital-A Actor. He has a huge following as a star, and could probably do nothing for the rest of his career except play Norse gods, but as well as the big Avengers movie next summer, Hemsworth has two ‘serious’ films coming, one for Ron Howard, one for Michael Mann.
Mann’s Blackhat is a technology-driven thriller set in Hong Kong. An anonymous hacker is collapsing markets and causing a panic in the financial system, but he claims it isn’t about money or politics. The only way to catch a crook, of course, is to use another crook. Enter Chris Hemsworth as every computer nerd’s fantasy of what a computer nerd should look like. He’s not only a genius coder, he also appears to be Jason Bourne.
Computer hacker stuff is the default trope of action movies these days, but Mann’s film looks to be a cut above the usual fare. Visually it looks very impressive, and I hope he can do for Hong Kong at night what he did with Los Angeles in Collateral and Miami and Miami Vice. Expect also to see a continuation of Mann`s obssession with, admiration for, and deconstruction of codes of masculine behaviour. I can think of no other contemporary filmmaker as interested as he is in how men function together, especially men at work (a Michael Mann film about unemployed men would be a strange thing indeed).
There’s also a moment around the 2:10 mark that is reminiscent of Heat: if the film delivers on the shoot-em-up level as well as the jargon-filled technobabble, then Mann will be back on top. I haven’t seen a film of his that I’ve really enjoyed since Collateral*. Blackhat was scheduled to open this year in time for the Oscars cutoff, but has been pushed back to the movies’ dumping ground of January, which is unfortunate.
Hemsworth’s other serious film is Howard’s epic-looking In the Heart of the Sea. This is a Men at Sea adventure about the ill-fated Essex, the whaling vessel which was the inspiration for Melville’s Moby Dick. Expect lots of sailing jargon, grog, storms, harpoons, and general manly behaviour (of a different sort to the Mann movie).
Hemsworth and Howard worked before on Rush (and he was pretty good as James Hunt, capturing the motor-racer’s arrogance and recklessness), but you’ll notice that there’s no mention of that movie in the trailer for In the Heart of the Sea. That’s probably because Rush did not do well (by Hollywood standards), or it may just be that the marketing people have decided that the easiest way to sell this serious film about men in peril is to mention Howard’s other serious film about men in peril, Apollo 13.
Based on the trailers for both films, it’s fairly obvious that Hemsworth is the selling feature, and his success in 2015 might depend as much on Ron Howard and Michael Mann as it does on Joss Wheedon and the people at Marvel Comics. In the Heart of the Sea opens in March.** If both it and Blackhat do well, then Hemsworth is looking at a good year with his acting credibility ensured. If they stumble, however, then he might find himself in a little trouble. But if they are successful, then he’ll be able to put down Odin’s hammer once and for all.
* I did not enjoy Miami Vice or Ali, and I took a pass on Public Enemies.