It seems fitting that Chris Hemsworth, best known for playing an immortal god-king, would fear aging and death.
The Australian superstar comes face-to-face with that anxiety in “Limitless With Chris Hemsworth” a National Geographic original series created by Darren Aronofsky. Over the course of six episodes, Hemsworth explores methods to age slower and better, and to live a healthy, fulfilling life along the way.
Each episode presents a different immersive or physical experience with a core focus. “Stress” has Hemsworth walking on a crane nearly 1,000 feet in the air; “Shock” has him swimming through icy Arctic waters; “Strength” has him climbing a rope over a plunging canyon, and so on. The exercises are extreme, but that’s because they’re tailored to Hemsworth himself: physically fit, adventurous, and willing to push his body to its limits (often without a shirt). The lessons, however, are universal.
Hemsworth might have highly specific scenarios built around his needs and guided by the world’s leading experts on these topics, but his questions and concern still resonate with a wider audience. “It’s a chance to fight back against death and disease,” he says, a mission most humans share. Throughout “Limitless,” Hemsworth interacts with individuals, cultures, and practices outside of his own life experience, all of which open him up to new ways of looking at the mind and body over time. With interviews, anecdotes, data visualization, and spectacular scenery, “Limitless” covers the greatest hits of documentary storytelling, with a humorous, intrepid, and surprisingly vulnerable star at the center.
All that culminates in a final episode where Hemsworth faces his own mortality by spending time in a retirement home, wearing an aging suit, and speaking to people acquainted with sickness, trauma, and loss. It’s a very elaborate effort to get one man to accept death, and then Hemsworth’s wife Elsa Pataky shows up at the senior center social event, aged 50 years with makeup. The entire episode is wild but eminently watchable; a singular viewing experience unlike anything in TV or film, gorgeously directed by Tom Barbor-Might (Kit Lynch Robinson also directs in the series). What started as the physical odyssey of a handsome, privileged, able-bodied person concludes with as grounded a theme as can be found (one of Episode 6’s humorous breathers is a Fijian elder who has never heard of Hemsworth and doesn’t care to learn before offering sage advice).
Episode 1 includes the disclaimer “Everyone’s body is different” — a kinder way of saying “You are not Thor” — a too-brief acknowledgment still underscores the show. You don’t have to be a superhero to lower your shower temperature for 30 seconds, or to use breathing techniques for stress management. You may not be gaslit by a cadre of actors giving you a taste of how it feels to be 87, but you can speak to people of different ages and lifestyles about the moments and people that they value, and look at your own life with new eyes.
“Limitless With Chris Hemsworth” is now streaming on Disney+.