In a movie filled with epic twists, the most epic (epicest?) moment in Avengers: Endgame came when Captain America picked up Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir, and wielded it against Thanos. But to pull that scene off, Endgame had to resort to a bit of trickery, and thanks to the digital release, we finally know how directors Anthony and Joe Russo managed to build suspense without giving away the big twist.
If you remember the scene (and let’s be real, there’s no way you forgot the best part of Avengers: Endgame), you’ll recall that Cap doesn’t pick up Mjölnir until things are particularly dire. Thanos has Thor pinned with his own axe, and Tony Stark just took a serious beating. If Captain America wasn’t worthy to wield that hammer, the entire ending would have played out differently.
When it does happen, it’s not immediately clear who is lifting the hammer. The camera zooms in on Mjölnir as it seems to slowly float into the air. The implication is clearly that Thor had used the last of his strength to recall his original weapon. So when it turns out that Steve Rogers is the one holding Mjölnir it’s a huge surprise, which makes that brutal uppercut delivered to Thanos by Cap all the more exciting.
In the moment, you probably assumed that Captain America simply stuck out his hand and called for Mjölnir, sending it hurtling through the air, but in hindsight, that doesn’t make much sense. The reality of Avengers: Endgame is that the first time Cap picks up Thor’s hammer, he does it carefully and by hand. We don’t see that in the movie, but a behind-the-scenes clip from the digital release makes it clear exactly what happened.
Here’s that moment from Endgame played side-by-side with the same shot from another camera, courtesy of redditor u/cheekchub:
As another commenter pointed out, the decision to have Cap pick up the hammer rather than summon it makes a lot of sense.
“The intent was to trick the audience into thinking it was floating (i.e. Thor was summoning it),” writes u/choyjay. “But of course, It’d make sense for Cap to pick it up before trying to summon it. It was his first time wielding it.”
Of course, this moment was also a direct reference to that scene in Age of Ultron when each of the Avengers tries to lift Mjölnir. They all fail, but Steve Rogers comes closest, getting the hammer to budge slightly before seemingly giving up. After Endgame, the Russo brothers even claimed that Cap knew he was worthy all along, but purposefully held back to avoid embarrassing Thor.
We’re not totally sold on that argument. The only person who can truly say what Cap was thinking in Ultron is director Joss Whedon (and he’s busy making some new show for HBO). But either way, it’s rewarding to see how Marvel Studios creates these sorts of connections between movies, and thanks to some clever editing, Avengers: Endgame managed to deliver that bit of fan service in the best way possible.
Avengers: Endgame is currently out on digital and available on Blu-ray/DVD August 13, 2019.