I managed to make it out to see Endgame on Sunday 98% spoiler-free! Good timing, too. Later that night, I stumbled across at least three different spoilers on Twitter and Facebook.
General impression: I liked it better than Infinity War. Nothing about Endgame really shocked me, but I had fun, and it’s an impressive capstone to a decade of storytelling over 22 movies.
All right, spoiler stuff beyond the cut tag…
My first thought while watching was that Endgame had more emotion in the first two minutes than I had throughout the dustpocalypse at the end of Infinity War. For some reason, watching all those heroes vanish and knowing it was a cliffhanger and they’d be coming back, it just didn’t do much for me. But seeing Clint and his family, knowing what was about to happen… Ouch.
There’s a lot more I could talk about. Loved Captain America getting some hammer time. Disappointed by how little Captain Marvel was utilized. Mixed feelings about the existence of “rebooted” Loki and Gamora running around with much of their character development erased.
But like I said, I mostly want to focus on how the writers and directors chose to portray Thor: fat, drunk, and hopeless. It’s a choice that could have been so powerful…
I appreciate stories that don’t shy away from consequences. I loved that Iron Man 3 addressed Tony Stark’s PTSD after the events of Avengers.
Of all the Avengers, Thor has arguably suffered the most by the time of that five-year jump in Endgame. His entire world was destroyed. Most of his Asgardian friends were killed by his sister. Only two ships’ worth of Asgardians escaped, and half of those survivors were then slaughtered by Thanos…who also murdered Thor’s brother in front of him.
After all that, Thor nearly dies to get a weapon that would allow him vengeance for everything Thanos took. Once again, he fails. Thanos lives, and half the universe dies an instant later as a result.
When the Avengers find Thanos and learn the stones are gone, it breaks Thor. His one last chance at redemption, gone. “I aimed for the head.” It’s one of the most painful, powerful lines in the movie. (Major props to Hemsworth for his delivery.)
Five years later, Thor is still broken. He doesn’t go out, doesn’t interact with the world. He hides in food and drink — both indulgences he’s demonstrated plenty in the past, though not to this extent. He lives with Korg and Miek, seemingly be the only two characters who don’t pressure him to be Thor the God and Hero.
And how does the movie handle Thor’s pain and trauma? With quips about Cheez Whiz. By doubling down on the “fat slob” stereotype. By falling back on the same tired, unfunny fat jokes that get recycled again and again by sitcom writers too lazy to reach for anything but bottom-shelf cruelty.
Screw that. I would love to see Thor both heroic and fat, assuming we see him in any future Marvel films. Why should he need to have the same cookie-cutter pecs and abs as every other male comic book hero? He’s Asgardian. Volstagg was one of the mightiest warriors on Asgard, and he was even heavier than Thor. Thor’s the God of Thunder. You think thunder and lightning give a flying spark what your BMI is?
(Side note: BMI is crap.)
In some ways, it felt like Endgame was trying to continue some of the humor we saw in Thor: Ragnarok without understanding that humor. Ragnarok didn’t make Thor into a joke. There are moments when he’s the butt of the humor, sure — flinging a ball into the window, only to have it bounce back and knock him on his ass. Going from Angry God to frightened man when Stan Lee gets ready to cut his hair.
But there are at least two important differences. The first is that Ragnarok did more than just go for laughs at Thor’s expense. Thor was a fully-fleshed character. He grieved. He fought. He played the trickster almost as well as Loki a time or two. Whereas Endgame Thor feels, if not one-dimensional, then definitely much flatter than before.
The second difference is that the humor in Ragnarok wasn’t about making fun of Thor; it was about undercutting arrogance. Pretty much every time any character in that movie gets too full of themselves, something happens to undermine them. Bruce Banner makes his dramatic proclamation to Valkyrie, “You know who I am,” and steps dramatically from the ship…only to land like a discarded rag doll. Valkyrie’s own introduction shows her as a badass for five whole seconds before she topples over sideways.
Thor has always had an arrogance about him — often justifiably so, perhaps — but it’s that arrogance and pride Ragnarok pierced with such delightful fun and precision. A continuation of Thor’s journey from the very first movie, when he was first forced to learn humility.
Endgame‘s Thor humor has none of that depth. It undercuts the character instead of developing him.
Like I said, I liked this movie. I thought it did a lot of things well, and I’m enough of a fanboy to enjoy the moments that were clearly fanservice. (Though I really don’t think they needed to squeeze every last character from every Marvel movie into it.)
But the mishandling of Thor? That was disappointing. We deserve better.