MCU Discussion: Why Thanos *Could* Be Able to Wield Mjolnir
I can already hear you pounding furiously on the keys, but hear me out. This is simply a thought experiment that’s been kicking around inside my head as my wife and I have been slowly rewatching phases 1-4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
For this thought experiment, we’ll be referring to the older, more wizened Thanos of Infinity War, not Endgame (the timeline-jumping one).
So, with that stipulation out of the way, let’s kick this thing off.
In the first Thor movie, we find our titular hero kicking ass and taking names for Asgard. He’s “young,” he’s brash, he’s totally convinced of his invincibility and righteousness, and he’s content in the knowledge that everything he does is for the good of Asgard. Sure, he enjoys the fighting, but beneath that, he believes that he’s doing Odin’s work.
Fast forward to when he gets taken down a dozen or so pegs. Odin has kicked him out of the house and laid the enchantment on the hammer: Whomsoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.
Just vague enough to allow a shit-ton of creative latitude for the writers. Here’s the big, fat, hairy BUT…
From my perspective, it’s not particularly vague at all.
What the enchantment seems to mean is this: If you believe, with every fiber of your being, with no doubts in your conscious or unconscious mind, that every action you take is for the betterment of others, you are worthy to wield Mjolnir.
Now, we are specifically referring to the MCU here, so allow me to provide you with some anecdotal evidence.
Circling back to the first Thor movie, when our hero gets cast down to earth, he’s angry (understandably so), confused, and unwilling to examine why Odin has thrown him out. When he tries to pick up the hammer, naturally, he fails.
As things progress, and he begins his character arc, he realizes that he must earn the right to rule Asgard. He has to look beyond himself, to the people he will eventually come to rule over. He is responsible for them, he has to act in their best interest, as well as in the interests of the humans he has taken under his protection.
As soon as he understands this and internalizes it, he is able to pick up the hammer once more.
Let’s fast forward to Avengers: Age of Ultron.
There is a fantastic scene in the beginning where each of the Avengers, in turn, attempts to lift the hammer.
Tony, for all his evolution until that point (one of the best character arcs in cinematic history), still harbors doubts and worries that what he’s doing may not be the best way forward. Rhodey, as a service member, has been forced into actions he may not have agreed with for his entire career (including stealing an Irontech suit in the second Iron Man movie).
Hawkeye knows that he’s made questionable decisions in the past (possibly still harboring internalized guilt over his actions in the first Avengers); decisions that he knows preclude him from ever wielding the hammer.
Banner hates himself, despises the Hulk, and doesn’t want to be the kind of hero you would have to be to hold the hammer.
Now we come to Cap. As we know, the hammer moves when he tries to pick it up, we know that Thor’s face falls when he hears the scraping on the table, we know that Cap repositions and tries again. What you may have missed (and could also just be me reading too much into things) is that when he tries again, he doesn’t seem to actually be pulling on the hammer. Almost like he doesn’t want to know if he can lift it.
This is perfectly in line with his character. Every decision he makes, every action he takes, he firmly believes he is doing the right thing. Unplagued by doubts and fears, he leaps headlong into the fray, believing that his course of action is the correct one (even if it may not be), for the good of all.
Now we come to Vision, who picks up the hammer and hands it to Thor like it ain’t no thang.
Vision, who had taken Jarvis as a core component of his personality, is ruled by logic (granted, it’s his logic, but nevertheless). He has (and will continue to) boiled down every scenario, accounting for every variable he knows about, to arrive at a conclusion he knows is correct. A decision that will save as many lives as possible.
As an aside, I’d be interested in seeing if he can still pick it up after Civil War. When he attempts to shoot Falcon out of the air, he’s very clearly angry and not paying attention to what he’s doing.
Pushing further into the universe, we come to Thor: Ragnarok.
It’s stated that Mjolnir used to belong to Hela, Daughter of Odin and first in line to rule Asgard. When Thor throws the hammer at her, she is able to catch it and hold it up. This is played off under the guise of the incredible power she wields, as she seems to struggle with it as it bobbles up and down.
I’d like to offer another theory. We all know she’s nuts. She wants Asgard to become the eminent power in the universe, ushering in an era of domination not seen since Odin’s glory days.
In her mind, for the betterment of Asgard and its people, she believes what she is doing is correct. To her core, she believes Asgard deserves to be at the top of the pile, and she’s going to get them there. By any means necessary.
Is it the right way? Hell (haha) no. But she believes it is. She knows (using her own twisted logic) that she’s doing the right thing.
And now we’ve arrived at Endgame. Cap swings that hammer like he was born to do it. We all knew he could, and as I’ve mentioned earlier, we know why he could. No doubt, no fear. He has to succeed so he can save the universe. It’s the best action, the only action he could take.
Thanos: The big purple bastard with the scrotum chin (we were all thinking it). When he first steps onto the scene in Infinity War, he’s older, “wiser.” He’s been doing this for an indeterminate amount of time, but it can be assumed that it’s at least decades.
All those years of war and destruction have hardened him. He feels nothing when it comes to the genocides he inflicts. Any doubts he may have had in the beginning have long since been pushed aside in favor of the simple axiom: It must be done.
As with Hela, he believes it is the correct course. As with Vision, he’s driven by his own brand of logic. He doesn’t want to rule, he doesn’t want to subjugate. He does what he does for the betterment of all. And when he’s finished, he retires to the simple life of a farmer and destroys the stones so that no one could ever abuse them again.
Taking all of this into account, it’s reasonable to assume that as with the others in the MCU who’ve been able to pick up the hammer, he could as well.
The reason I make the distinction between the separate timelines is because when we meet the Thanos of Endgame, he’s still early in his career. He seems to enjoy what he’s doing, he wants the death, the destruction.
His emotions are on full display when the Avengers try to stop him. He wants to hurt them, to cause them pain for defying him. Somewhere in his mind, he enjoys his position as an intergalactic warlord and doesn’t want it to stop. I don’t think he would be able to wield Mjolnir.
Anyway, this is my own little line of reasoning. I know flame wars have been fought over this kind of stuff for as long as there have been comics. I’m interested to hear what you think, so throw a comment up if you’re feeling froggy. All I ask is that you keep it civil (war).