(WARNING: This post carries spoilers for Avengers: Endgame, so if you don’t want multiple plot points ruined, now’s your chance to scoot.)
By now, Avengers: Endgame has obviously arrived in theaters with a satisfying conclusion, albeit a self-monumental one. There’s so much there to dissect, including several character deaths and a running joke that has folks conflicted, but we’re here to discuss one monumental development with Captain America. No, I’m not talking about how he remained in the past, spent decades with Peggy Carter, and then passed the shield on to Falcon.
Instead, this has everything to do with a direct callback to a wonderful scene in Avengers: Age Of Ultron. That film’s an otherwise weak installment in the grand scheme of the MCU, but there’s a great bonding scene for the Avengers. Well, it also involved alcohol and egos and Thor’s hammer. Several characters struggled and grunted and failed to lift the thing before Steve Rogers steps up. Watch Thor’s face here as it fades from smug amusement to “oh sh*t.”
Whereas Hawkeye, Iron Man, and War Machine all couldn’t make the hammer budge, Captain America managed to make it wiggle. That clearly sent a shiver down Thor’s spine, given that this is no ordinary hammer of enormous heft. Instead, Mjölnir was crafted in Asgard and arrives with the following inscription: “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” That is, the prospective wielder must be deserving — pure heart, noble mind, warrior’s spirit — and it seems that the impossibly principled Steve Rogers was nearly worthy of that privilege (as Vision later apparently was) in Ultron. Well, Mjölnir was destroyed in Thor: Ragnarok by Hela, but Lebowski Thor recovered it during Endgame‘s time travel, and during the film’s climax, the long-gestating question about Cap and the hammer got settled.
In the final battle when the Avengers face off against Thanos and his CGI forces, we see that Steve Rogers can pick up the hammer. Well, this time, Thor’s attitude has changed, and he merrily shouts, “I knew it!” Theater audiences cheered at the moment, which stands as one of the bigger long-term payoffs in the MCU. Cap was expertly swinging the hammer like he’d done so many times before and even used it to summon a lightning strike on Thanos. This was awe-inspiring to watch go down for the first time, but it still makes one wonder … was Steve Rogers faking an inability to lift the hammer (out of modesty) in Ultron? It’s hard to tell, but it’s possible that the Norse powers that be recognized how Thor was ready to move away from his superhero days and allowed Mjölnir to be lifted with ease by another who’s worthy. We later saw Thor hand his Avengers position to Valkyrie, and Cap handed over his shield to Falcon. The passing of the guard was, as Thanos stated of himself, “inevitable,” but as far as this hammer business goes, it sure went down in a gratifying way.