This article contains hella spoilers about the latest “Avengers” movie, entitled “Endgame.”
I started watching Marvel movies because I liked the teasers at the end of the credits—and let’s be honest, because of “Black Panther”—but I was never one to follow the arrival of every new movie in the series with eager anticipation. There are still a few of them I have not seen, but I have seen every movie Thor was in.
This was not necessarily because I really liked his character or the actor—it just happened to work out that way. In fact, as I think about it, Thor was one of my least favorite characters in the Avengers lineup. To me, Thor symbolized the glorified hypermasculinity that Marvel seemed to be gladly portraying to the extreme in his disillusioned character.
Think about a character like Thor existing in our world, in this reality, without the cape and the fame and you might realize just how detrimental his masculine pride would be for himself. Thor as a character was extremely, proudly primal in his actions and thoughts. He would often barge into intellectual conversations between other Avengers over a problem and simply try to fix it by applying his brute force he was so well-known for. But what else was Thor good at? He was very strong, able to command lightning, driven and very loyal to his friends.
But would a person with Thor’s personality be able to survive outside of the movies? Thor was incredibly suspicious of new people entering his group of friends and often quite protective of the few friends he had. It could be argued that Thor was able to consistently engage in healthy relationships with everyone in the Avengers, but I would argue the only reason this group of people became friends was due to the lack of other options. I am sure in his first movie, Thor would have gladly chosen a group of fighters similar to himself who celebrated every win with lots of drinking and revelry and every loss with even more drinking over the motley crew of the Avengers.
You can look at the perfect makeup of any of the characters within the “Avengers” movies after they just had a brush with death while fighting a giant alien lizard and understand this representation is unrealistic due to the cinematic effects on storytelling. When I saw the smiles and congratulations of these heroes at the end of every Marvel movie after they had—of course—defeated the bad guy, I started to get bored. Think of what had just happened to these people—yes, they may have been made super-human with some crazy science experiment or gift from the gods or by drinking expired cherry soda, but they were still human.
At the end of the first “Avengers” movie, the heroes are pictured sitting together in a semi-destroyed restaurant eating shawarma. I remember asking my mom after the movie ended why the Avengers were all eating quietly and no one was talking or laughing. Later I realized that these people, despite all their differences from normal humans, were still able to feel “normal human” things like tiredness and hunger. Also, although the Avengers had just won that first war, they had also incurred massive amounts of damage on the planet they were charged to protect, and judging by the amount of citizens around during their fighting scenes, I would say the percentage of casualties in each Avenger war was no small amount.
So what does this all have to do with “Endgame?” Well, I started this movie with low expectations, thinking the next three hours of my life would be spent watching a display of high action and unrealistic storylines where lots of money had been blown on fancy animation and the heroes did nothing but smile, win and never get dirt on their faces. Man, was I wrong.
Thor was the best example of how Marvel suddenly turned their last movie into a movie for and about their audience. In this movie, Thor became an alcoholic introvert, unable to do anything productive or meaningful with his life because his hypermasculine pride was crushed the day Thanos snapped his fingers. Thor’s identity was so wrapped around his views of what it meant to be a man that once that was taken away, he was unable to re-identify himself in a positive way. He was pictured with long greasy hair, living his life drinking obscene amounts of beer and playing video games. Oh yeah, and he had a giant beer belly. Not exactly the “Thor: a striking image of a manly man” we had left at the end of the last movie.
However, I loved this Thor. This Thor I could relate to. Here was a man who had lost everything, who was going through stages of shock, denial, grief and depression. Thor even cries in this movie! His emotional instability shows a side of Thor’s personality that he felt he could never show when he was the “Thor that never loses.” But now, Marvel let their audience see a more realistic side of this hero, a side that they could relate to—a human side.
At the end of this movie, Thor gives up his right to be King of the Asgardians, instead giving it to one of his fellow warriors. I think this scene is one of the most pivotal because it shows Thor not as a frozen character who the audience can count on as staying exactly the same in every movie, but as a real human who grows and changes with different experiences. Thor experiences extreme grief, and with that comes a loss of identity. He is unable to fulfill the hyper-masculine role his parents created for him as a ruler, and he understands not only that he must give it to someone more worthy but also that the role must become something more, which is perhaps why he gives it to a woman.
If Thor had seen someone use his hammer in the first “Avengers” movie, he would have been jealous of someone else being worthy enough to use his special weapon, but in “Endgame,” when he sees Captain America easily pick up his hammer, he just smiles.