After several years of lackluster results trying to be a Hollywood leading man, Chris Hemsworth underwent a reinvention, emerging as a rising comedy star. He stole every scene he had in Ghostbusters, he hosted the sh*t out SNL, he did the “Team Thor” mockumentary with Taika Waititi, and now he’s about to open Thor: Ragnarok, reimagining Thor as a buddy comedy, to the strongest reviews he’s ever gotten. The comedy turn has worked for Hemsworth, which explains why his next project is a war movie set in the opening days of the Afghanistan war.
It used to be called Horse Soldiers, but it’s been retitled 12 Strong, which is a SERIOUS DOWNGRADE, and the first trailer has just been released. Raise your hand if you, like me, thought this was a period piece about like, a cavalry regiment in the Napoleonic War. I don’t know why I thought it was a historical film, but I was VERY surprised by the contemporary setting. (September 11 was sixteen years ago, but we’re still fighting that f*cking war, so it qualifies as “contemporary”.) It turns out that 12 Strong—ugh, just the worst title—is about the first soldiers to go into Afghanistan in the days after September 11. They end up teaming up with an Afghan army and adapt to the Afghan way of fighting, involving horses, in order to take on the Taliban. It’s supposed to be heroic Americans bridging the cultural divide, but I’m so bummed out by this trailer.
Which does not bode well for this movie’s prospects. Maybe that’s why it’s being released in January, because someone involved read the room and realized that war movies aren’t doing well—have never especially done well—and they’re not throwing money away trying to support a spring or summer release. They were probably hoping for some of that Lone Survivor success, but that has turned out to be the exception, not the rule.
I’m also a little disappointed in Hemsworth, who I thought understood his place is as a secret comedy nerd, not a typical leading man. He’s built to be a leading man, I totally get why people keep casting him in movies like this, but I thought after a string of disappointments, he made some adjustments. Hopefully, this ends up being the last gasp of his previous effort at leading man stardom, and not backsliding into a persona that doesn’t really fit him. Besides the Avengers super-finale, the only other movie he has in the offing is Bad Times at the El Royale, which re-teams him with The Cabin in the Woods director Drew Goddard. That’s more like the second-act Hemsworth we’ve come to know, and legitimately like as an actor. Keep it offbeat and funny, and the Greater Hemsworth will be fine. Meanwhile, we will all politely overlook 12 Strong’s inevitable crash and burn in the January boneyard.
Fun fact: Rob Riggle, a retired Marine, is playing his former commanding officer.