Warning: Full Spoilers for Avengers: Endgame follow
The latest Marvel movie and book-ending chapter in what is considered the ‘Infinity Saga’ is a fantastic movie, with our own Ashley Hobley giving it a glowing review that I’d mostly agree with. There’s one huge problem with Avengers: Endgame for me though, and it’s not the potential time travel plot holes the internet it trying to work its head around, it’s the portrayal of Thor, the God of Thunder, and his PTSD symptoms.
Let’s back up for second and briefly go over what’s happened to Thor in a rather short amount of time in his recent run of movies:
His Father passes away, leaving him without a Mother or Father.
Ragnarok occurs and he’s unable to stop it, thus his homeworld is destroyed along with a majority of Asgardians.
Half of his remaining people are slain in front of him by Thanos, including his best friend and brother.
He fails to avenge his losses and subsequently is in a state of pure anger when we see him in Endgame.
In the first act, we see Thor both fail and succeed in his mission. He is the one to kill Thanos, but he’s unable to bring back anything he’s lost. When we skip forward five years he’s built New Asgard on Earth — which seemed inspired by J. Michael Straczynski’s run on Thor comics — the remaining Asgardians, including Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, are living out a seaside fisherman’s life here. When Hulk and Rocket go to find Thor, they are warned by Valkyrie that he probably won’t want to talk and that he never leaves his house except for supplies (beer). When the two of them walk into Thor’s house they find a version of Thor that’s put on a lot of weight and grown out a more mangled beard. It’s meant to be a joke, and the majority of my fully-packed cinema audience laughed at the joke. It’s not just A JOKE though, it’s THE joke. It’s the joke that’s played over and over throughout the movie. Thor, the character who’s been slowly retconned into a surfer-bro from space, who was delivering the jokes in Thor: Ragnarok is, in Endgame, turned into the butt of the joke.
“I know him, he’s a friend from work” became one of the standout lines from Ragnarok and that line along with the majority of the lines and jokes in that film were centred around us laughing with Thor, not at him. Just about every joke delivered about, or from Thor himself in Endgame is aimed at him, his weight and the obvious mental health issues he’s struggling with, be that a form of PTSD, depression or something else.
This all comes as a continuing trend from Thor: Ragnarok, a film I like but have been somewhat vocal about my dislikes in the past and have accepted being part of a minority that doesn’t love it. One moment that really annoyed me in Ragnarok particularly though was this huge build up right before Bruce Banner jumps out of the ship towards the end of the film to join the fight. Up to this point, we’ve been told several times that Bruce is scared that if he turns into the Hulk again he might never be able to change back. He chooses to jump out though and join the fight, knowing that he might get stuck as the Hulk again — and he lands with a huge thud on the ground below as his character choice is played for slapstick. I thought it was a disservice to the emotional character choice that was made by Bruce. Not that it really matters as the films continued to treat Bruce’s and The Hulk’s struggles as a joke anyway. The Hulk goes on to be beaten to a pulp by Thanos at the start of Infinity War and then refuse to come out for Bruce in that film which was played for laughs several times — all with that interesting duality, story and character progression to be quickly explained away in Endgame with a line that was basically “I took a couple years in a Gamma pit and we worked it out.”
Much like The Hulk’s reveal as Smart-Hulk, Thor’s reveal is used as one of Endgame’s many big character reveal moments as well. The Endgame posters we’ve seen feature the version of Thor that we last saw in Infinity War, the trailers and TV spots also never gave any hint at what Thor’s character would actually go through in the movie. It’s a reveal that’s meant to shock you and then make you laugh over and over again as characters poke fun at his weight, his unstable emotional level and his general attitude.
When both Rocket and The Hulk are confronting him at his house Thor seems obviously triggered by the mere mention of Thanos, a word that Taika Waititi’s Korg explains they don’t mention. It’s very obvious he’s not okay. His friend’s solution, because they need him for a mission, coax him on: “there’s beer on the ship.”
Iron Man 3, for all of the problems you may have with its villain and final act, did do something really interesting the MCU hasn’t done since and it really looked at the character of Tony Stark following the events of The Avengers and asked: what would someone go through following an event like that? And the film said no, Tony isn’t okay and it’s perfectly normal for him to be feeling this way given everything he’s been through. That kid from Iron Man 3 by-the-way is the random teenager you may not recognise at the funeral at the end of Endgame.
The disrespect for Thor as a character, and for mental health issues and general fat shaming in Avengers: Endgame is quite ridiculous. Marvel’s films have usually been pretty good not to kick at easy targets when it’s come to comedy but with Endgame and Thor, the Russo Brothers and Executive Producers at Marvel decided that a running fat joke would be okay in 2019. Not only in 2019, but also in a film kids of all ages, sizes and backgrounds will be watching together and learning that making fun of your friend for going through a tough time is not only OK but that fat-shaming your friends is also OK. Even Thor’s own Mother says “eat a salad” as he’s about to leave her in this film, nearly ruining a rather emotional conversation they had been having.
It’s not just about young impressionable kids either, the film promotes an unhealthy and irresponsible message when it comes to helping your friends, family or even people you know from work when it comes to mental health, an issue world over we still struggle to be able to talk about publicly for the millions dealing with issues every day.
At the end of the film Thor faces off against Thanos in the final battle with the rest of The Avengers, and there’s something to be said for that, along with his choice to hand over New Asgard to Valkyrie and seek out who he is with The Guardians — but it doesn’t excuse, or erase the past 3 hours.