Australian megahunk movie stars aren't exactly a new thing at the multiplex. The land of koalas and Marmite has been steadily infiltrating our big screens since Mad Max growled about seeing a vehicle that could haul that tanker. We've enjoyed them all as they've come by: Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Eric Bana, Heath Ledger ... and now, Chris and Liam Hemsworth.
And boy, do those two have a year ahead of them. Forget Mayan predictions and the apocalypse. 2012 promises to be the year of the Hemsworth. (We haven't ruled out that they might factor into the end of the world. Two handsome Aussie actors in one genetic strain? How is that possible?)
"In the past, the brothers have succeeded in staggering their projects," says Amy Wilkinson of Hollywood Crush. "Chris caught America's attention with his brief role in 2009's 'Star Trek' reboot. Liam set women swooning in 2010's Nicholas Sparks adaptation 'The Last Song.' And Chris returned in 2011 wielding the box-office hammer with 'Thor.' 2012 marks the first year both will have high-profile projects headlining the marquee."
Initially, it would appear 2012 belongs to the elder Hemsworth, Chris. After all, he's no less than Thor, God of Thunder, and he doesn't have to wait a year or two to remind audiences of his godliness. He gets to come back swinging in "The Avengers" (May 1), and stand bicep to bicep with a screen full of snappy superheroes.
If all he had was 'The Avengers,' Chris would be king. But he has no fewer than three movies in 2012: "The Cabin in the Woods" (April 13), "Snow White and the Huntsman" (June 1), and the long-delayed "Red Dawn" (November 2). Each offers a unique chance for Hemsworth to prove he's more than just blond locks and a rippling physique. Yes, two of the films star Hemsworth as hunky hero, but the rough, grim, bitter Huntsman and the plucky guerilla warfare of "Red Dawn" are both a long way from Thor's thunder.
Liam Hemsworth may only have two films on his slate, but they're really big films. While he may have lost "Thor" to Chris, he quickly landed his own franchise with "The Hunger Games" (March 23), and he has to meet similarly massive fan expectations when he steps into the ring as Gale Hawthorne. "Hunger" fans have been vocal in their skepticism, but he's won praise from Jennifer Lawrence and Gary Ross, suggesting he'll be the Gale we wanted all along.
"Games" may easily win against Hemsworth's other blockbuster-to-be: "The Expendables 2" (Aug. 17). Hemsworth was to appear in the first "Expendables," but his character, Billy the Kid, was written out. Sylvester Stallone stayed a fan, though, and Hemsworth's Billy is set to fight for screen time against one of the biggest casts ever assembled. Action fans sneered when "Mr. Miley Cyrus" was cast alongside Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis, but you don't get to join the Expendables unless you're the manliest of the men.
The Hemsworths won't just be battling with stacked casts, a big movie year, and fan expectations. They're also competing with one another for dollars and dominance. Chris is currently the bigger star, and with four movies to his slate, he can only climb higher on the A-list. But expectations are enormous for all four films, and with such high hopes comes a harder fall.
Liam has many to please, but with so much criticism thrown his way, he has nowhere to go but up. "It will largely depend on how meaty Liam's role is in 'The Hunger Games,'" says Wilkinson. "Fans of the novel know that Gale doesn't get a lot of ink in the first installment, but online chatter seems to indicate that the part has been beefed up for the film version. If that's the case, I think this will be Liam's year to catch fire."
Forget Batman and hobbits. 2012 has to be wrestled away from Chris and Liam Hemsworth. We wouldn't want to be pitted against either Thor or Gale, especially not when they're backed by one another. But at least we get to watch the brotherly battle play out -- and when it comes to declaring a winner, we'll just go ahead and say it's us.