When Thor Faced His Depression and Finally Became the Strongest Avenger
THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER hits theaters today, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to explain why I think the character’s last onscreen appearance was a transformative -- and transgressive -- moment for the character and super-heroes.
Even today, three years after AVENGERS: ENDGAME's release, it seems like Iron Man and Captain America’s journeys monopolize conversations about the film.
But the reality is that Iron Man’s was the culmination of an arc that felt over with four Iron Man appearances earlier and Cap’s is a graceful, beautiful conclusion, sure, but one that follows a traditional hero’s quest -- to get back to the one s/he loves. Both these endings move us, but they’re also both conventional in almost every sense.
Thor, though…well, Thor is another matter.
What I’m talking about is Thor’s weight gain in ENDGAME, the result of PTSD and depression -- which were brought about by the deaths of his family and 75% of Asgardians, as well as his guilt at failing to kill Thanos before the Mad Titan snapped his fingers and killed half the universe.
In many articles I’ve read on the subject, it appears as if the screenwriters and directors initially intended to primarily use Thor’s weight gain more as a source of humor to resolve at the midpoint. Calling him “Lebowski” being the best example of this humor.
Interestingly, it was Chris Hemsworth himself who insisted on Thor not magically (conveniently) recovering his godly shape in ENDGAME. Hemsworth’s instincts were correct...and also so very beautifully human.
Because Thor’s journey as it showed up onscreen in ENDGAME is so much more than a gag. In fact, it is wildly unique for a big-budget action film, especially a super-hero film, because it’s not just real. It’s ugly real. Because the God of Thunder is truly brought to his knees by the tragedies inflicted upon him, no different than us mere mortals are by every tragedy that is thrown at us.
The “fat Thor” we find five years following the Snap is suffering from profound depression because of this. Not a passing kind. Weight gain is not why he no longer feels worthy, I mean. It’s a symptom of his depression, not the cause of it.
It is Thor’s depression this that makes his ultimate journey in ENDGAME, the one that made it to the screen, so unique in super-hero films and so remarkable in the pop-culture conversation. He’s a super-hero suffering from monumental loss, debilitating grief, and serious clinical depression -- and yet, when Thor holds out his hand and Mjolnir returns to him, he is still worthy!
Despite the depression, Thor rediscovers what makes him a hero and, along the way, recognizes how expectations crippled his ability to be whom he truly is -- the strongest Avenger.
When I think about ENDGAME, I think about a lot of moving moments. Black Widow’s sacrifice. Dr. Strange holding up that one finger. “I am Iron Man.” Especially Cap’s happy ending and the passing of the shield to Falcon (“I don’t feel like it belongs to me.” “It does.”).
But I think of no moment more than Thor’s face when he discovers he is still worthy.
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You can also read about and pre-order my debut novel PSALMS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (1st September) by clicking here or on the following image. I've often described it as a novel about how grief, love, and quantum physics connects us all.