An action star studies the science of longevity in “Limitless with Chris Hemsworth.” The six-part documentary series from National Geographic drops Wednesday on Disney+, following Hemsworth in his extreme quest to defy aging and learn more about combating unhealthy habits.
“Unhealthy” might be the wrong word to describe the actor, best known for playing god of thunder Thor in nearly a dozen Marvel movies. The Australian action hero is the picture of good health, from his physical fitness to the well-adjusted family ties depicted in “Limitless.” But on a mission to learn more about his aging body, Hemsworth undergoes a series of extreme tasks over the course of a year, from taking a polar swim in freezing water to walking along the edge of a 900-foot skyscraper. Stunning, sweeping views of natural wonders in Norway and Australia only add to the show’s cinematic value.
The extreme nature of his goals is entertaining for the audience, but “Limitless” also offers a surprising amount of useful tools for the average viewer. From using mindfulness to combat stress to changing eating habits to reset molecular makeup, the show’s practical tips from a variety of scientists are quite educational and provide a varied approach to the tired topic of “wellness.”
Hemsworth also shares the screen with a series of survivors – from an inspiring amputee who dedicates his life to palliative care, to firefighters who sacrifice and take risks every shift. “Longevity experts” and high-achieving athletes also appear, to be cheerleaders and share insight. The show shines when the film hero stands alongside other kinds of heroes, many of whom are unsung.
That’s not to diminish Hemsworth’s role in the show – he is very much its center, and his work will likely draw much attention to new ideas about living longer. Thankfully, “Limitless” acknowledges that no amount of mindfulness or strength training can eliminate the inevitable end of life. Its finale “Acceptance” pays poignant tribute to the elderly and provides strategies for accepting the aging process. (Even if placing a 39-year-old former “Sexiest Man Alive” in a simulated retirement community is a bizarre scenario to witness, it also creates some very moving moments.)
Ultimately, “Limitless” is an engaging and inspiring ride about reaching one’s fullest potential. It’s encouraging to watch someone who appears to “have it all” challenge himself, while teaching the audience about the power of setting smaller daily goals to stay well – from our minds to our stomachs to our strength.
Streaming on Disney+ Nov. 16.