WARNING: Major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.
Captain America lifted Mjolnir in Avengers: Endgame – but just how does it work? The third act of Avengers: Endgame was easily the most gripping action sequence in the entire MCU to date, as the Avengers Trinity faced off against Thanos at last. Steve Rogers has always been an unusual figure among these three heroes; Tony Stark is a genius who by now is wearing what’s surely his most powerful armor yet, while Thor is a literal god. Captain America may be a super-soldier, but his powers pale in comparison to his allies’ abilities.
And yet, to Thanos’ surprise, Captain America proves able to hold his own. He does this by picking up Mjolnir, proving himself worthy. What follows is a stunning fight, as Steve Rogers blends his own tactical acumen with the power of the God of Thunder. From that point on, Captain America becomes one of the Avengers’ heavy hitters, much to Thor’s delight.
It’s important to remember that Mjolnir was blessed with a double-enchantment by Odin. The first is that only someone who is truly “worthy” has the ability to wield Mjolnir. The second, as Steve Rogers proved in Avengers: Endgame, is that anyone who picks up the hammer possesses the power of Thor. So why was Captain America worthy?
Why Captain America Is Worthy To Wield Mjolnir In Avengers: Endgame
The theme of “worthiness” lies at the heart of the Thor trilogy. In 2011’s Thor, the God of Thunder proved he was unworthy to take the throne of Asgard when he committed an act of war that would potentially lead to the deaths of millions. His concern was for his own glory, for the thrill of battle, and not for the good of the Nine Realms. That was when Odin stripped Thor of his powers, and placed the worthiness enchantment upon Mjolnir. By the end of the film, Thor had proved himself worthy when he was willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of those he loved. This principle was extended in Thor: The Dark World, when the God of Thunder was again willing to stand as a champion – this time not just for those he loved, but for the entire Nine Realms. The Realms saw Thor battle against Malekith, and acknowledged him as a worthy king.
In the MCU, then, the worthiness enchantment is tied to a person’s willingness to stand up for others – no matter the cost. This is pretty much the same principle as the comics, where Mjolnir has been lifted by a number of other key figures in the past, most notably Jane Foster. Jane was dying of cancer, and every time she transformed into the female Thor it reversed the effect of her chemotherapy; and yet she continued to act as a hero, irrespective of the cost. She was willing to sacrifice everything for the good of others, even for the Asgardians who distrusted and reviled her, and as a result she was worthy.
Avengers: Endgame confirms that Steve Rogers, too, is worthy. This shouldn’t really be much of a surprise; Captain America’s entire life has been a demonstration of self-sacrificial heroism, even before he became a super-soldier. Rogers was unwilling to sit the Second World War out, not because he sought glory and recognition, but because he yearned to make a difference. At the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers was even willing to give his own life to protect New York City from Hydra’s bombs. Instead of dying, he awoke from cryogenic suspension 70 years later, and ever since he’s been on the front lines, battling to keep others safe. In Avengers: Endgame, the stakes are higher than ever before, and Captain America is risking his own life to literally bring back half the lives in the universe – whatever it takes.
Did Captain America Already Lift Mjolnir In Avengers: Age Of Ultron?
Curiously enough, this is the second time in the MCU that Captain America has attempted to lift Mjolnir. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, there’s an entertaining scene in which the Avengers attempt to pick up Thor’s hammer. The God of Thunder watches, prideful and amused, right up until the moment Steve Rogers makes an attempt. To Thor’s shock, Mjolnir actually moves just a fraction.
Taken at face value, the scene appears to suggest that – at least in Avengers: Age of Ultron – Steve Rogers was almost worthy, but not quite. Avengers: Endgame suggests another explanation, though; that back in 2015, Captain America felt Mjolnir shift in his hands, and chose not to pick it up. Perhaps he saw the look on Thor’s face, and realized his friend would be devastated that a mortal was able to lift Mjolnir. That makes sense; Captain America is a lot less prideful than the rest of the Avengers, and he doesn’t really feel the same need to prove himself to others. But in Avengers: Endgame, with Thor being defeated by Thanos, Steve knows he has no choice. He picks up Mjolnir, claiming the power of Thor for himself, and using it against the Mad Titan. By this time Thor’s lost a lot of his pride, and as a result he’s thrilled to see that Steve Rogers is worthy.
Captain America Has Lifted Mjolnir In The Comics
There have been several occasions when Captain America lifted Mjolnir in the comics. The most famous was in The Mighty Thor #390, at a time when Rogers had abandoned the Captain America identity and just called himself “The Captain.” Thor paid a visit to Avengers Mansion, and was somewhat shocked at a very different Avengers team. His visit coincided with an attack by Seth, the Egyptian God of Death, and soon he was battling alongside the Avengers against Seth’s armies. In one scene, Thor was knocked down and Mjolnir was flung from his grasp; to everybody’s surprise, the Captain picked it up and wielded it before tossing it straight back to the God of Thunder. It happened again in 2011’s Fear Itself event, when Thor was killed by his malevolent uncle, the Serpent. Steve Rogers – who had only recently returned from the dead and reclaimed the Captain America mantle – grabbed Mjolnir and summoned the lightning as he uttered that famous battlecry: “Avengers assemble!”
Leaving aside one strange, controversial example from “Secret Empire” – it involved a warped version of reality – there have only been these two occasions where Captain America has used Mjolnir in the comics. It happens in the worst of situations, when all seems lost, and it’s as spectacular a demonstration of Steve’s character as it is of the power of Thor. That now seems to be true in the MCU as well.
More: Avengers: Endgame’s Post-Credits Surprise Explained