Avengers: Infinity War depicted Thor (Chris Hemsworth) using Stormbreaker to (almost) best Thanos (Josh Brolin) in their rematch; but the powerful ax might have another purpose beyond defeating the Mad Titan.
The hammer Mjolnir has been a key part of Thor’s iconography ever since his beginnings in Norse mythology. But whilst Marvel’s comics – and the Marvel Cinematic Universe – have long reflected this attachment, the God of Thunder has not always wielded this famous hammer. In Marvel’s ever-growing canon, other characters like Beta Ray Bill have wielded Mjolnir, and Thor has used alternative armaments from time to time. In this way, Infinity War mimicked Thor’s swapping of weaponry in his comics through the debut of Stormbreaker.
Having lost his beloved hammer in Thor: Ragnarok, Thor sought a new weapon to enact his vengeance against Thanos in Infinity War. Indeed, his efforts to acquire Stormbreaker were immediately justified by its subsequent performance. With the new ax in hand, Thor almost single-handedly decimated Thanos’ forces in the Battle of Wakanda and, in the movie’s most pivotal scenes, came closest to killing Thanos himself. Though Stormbreaker has already proved popular with fans, some critics felt that the presence of the blade undermined Thor’s wider character arc. Yet rather than hampering Thor’s story, Stormbreaker may be correcting it by returning abilities that he had lost.
- This Page: Mjolnir & Stormbreaker’s Roles in the MCU
- Page 2: Ragnarok Explains How Thor’s Powers Actually Work
As is the case with many of Asgard’s famous weapons, Mjolnir and Stormbreaker were created by the dwarf king Eitri (Peter Dinklage) in the realm of Nidavellir. Though the MCU never specifies what Asgardian armaments are made of, they are likely made out the same fictional element as the comics: Uru, a massively resilient metal that both absorbs and manipulates magical energy.
Since its first appearance in the MCU, Mjolnir has exemplified these qualities. The hammer seemingly served as the source of Thor’s lightning powers (more on that later) and allowed him to fly at great speed. Certainly, it proved to be a formidable asset in all of Thor’s appearances, when its power waylaid huge swathes of Ice Giant, Chitauri, Dark Elf armies, and more. Mjolnir’s enchantment of worthiness also benefited Thor, since it meant that few other beings could wield or move it. Certainly, the fact that the Vision (Paul Bettany) was able to lift the hammer meant that Thor and his teammates could immediately recognize the purity of synthezoid’s heart in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But two years later, Thor confronted Hela (Cate Blanchett) the Goddess of Death in Thor: Ragnarok where, in their first encounter, she promptly destroyed the hammer with her bare hands.
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Though Thor eventually bested Hela without his hammer, he was soundly beaten by Thanos within the first few minutes of Infinity War. After being rescued by the Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor asserts that he needs a new weapon, and he travels with Rocket and Groot to procure one. They encounter Eitri – the last of his people to survive Thanos’ wrath – and together they forge the “King’s weapon” Stormbreaker. This new ax is supposedly the most powerful in Asgard’s history. It not only summons the Bifrost, it also negates the combined power of the Infinity Stones.
Prior to Stormbreaker’s debut, the loss of Mjolnir was a fitting development for Thor. As the MCU has expanded, Thor had become more knowledgeable about his realm’s dark past, and attempted to become a better, more responsible ruler. As such, the acquisition of Stormbreaker was viewed as being contrary to these plot points. Indeed, Thor’s journey to Nidavellir has been perceived as Marvel simply wanting the God of Thunder to have a weapon again, or else giving him something to do in Infinity War’s extended run-time. However, whilst Stormbreaker may be those things, a key detail in Thor: Ragnarok suggests that Thor’s ax fulfills an in-world necessity.
Page 2 of 2: Ragnarok Explains How Thor’s Powers Actually Work
As mentioned earlier, Mjolnir initially appeared to be the source of Thor’s lightning powers in the MCU. This certainly seemed to be the case in his first solo movie since. When Thor was stripped of his abilities and banished to Earth, Mjolnir is a crucial component in facilitating their return. However, later installments proved that this was not the case.
After Mjolnir is destroyed early in Ragnarok, Thor confusedly realizes that he is still able to generate and manipulate electricity, which he notably unleashes against the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in the Grandmaster’s (Jeff Goldblum) arena. In a later vision, Odin confirms that the lightning never originated from Mjolnir: the hammer merely helped Thor channel and focus the potential within him. Odin’s affirmation in Thor: Ragnarok ensures that Thor’s arc is completed, and he recognizes his strength not just as a good man, but as a powerful warrior in his own right. But viewers have overlooked another crucial piece of information that the movie unveils about Thor: that his abilities are tied to the existence of Asgard.
Certainly, before his escape from the Grandmaster’s palace, Thor attempts to persuade Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to join him in his quest. As she refuses, Valkyrie recounts her tragic past, and in doing so she notes that Hela and Thor’s powers originate from the realm of Asgard itself. Indeed, when Hela returned to her home earlier in the movie, the Goddess of Death immediately regenerates and is strengthened because of her proximity to Asgard’s energy.
After the Revengers begin their attack, they soon realize that Hela can only be stopped if Asgard is destroyed. Such an act would remove the source of her gifts, thus rendering her powerless. We never see what effect Ragnarok has on Hela – because she is apparently killed in combat with Surtur – but it stands to reason that if the fall of Asgard would have removed Hela’s powers, it would do the same for Thor as well. And that’s where Stormbreaker comes in.
While Avengers: Infinity War does not explicitly state that Thor lost his powers in Ragnarok, there is substantial evidence within both movies that he has. Firstly, between Asgard’s destruction in Thor: Ragnarok to Thor’s acquisition of Stormbreaker in Avengers: Infinity War, the character uses none of his trademark lightning abilities. Of course, this is partly because Thor and Thanos’ first confrontation aboard the Asgardian refugee ship occurs before the movie starts. Even so, it is somewhat strange that Thanos was able to beat Thor so thoroughly, given how ruinous the God of Thunder has proven to be against his previous foes. Naturally, this suggests that Thor is unable to inflict the same kind of damage that he has done so in the past.
Furthermore, Avengers: Infinity War establishes that latent Asgardian power can be accessed through their surviving weaponry. During the movie’s opening scenes, Heimdall (Idris Elba) wields the broken sword Hofund and swiftly transports the Hulk to Earth – despite the fact that the Bifrost Bridge itself no longer exists. Moreover, Stormbreaker later demonstrates the same capabilities as Hofund, when it opens a portal for Thor and his friends to travel to Wakanda in one of Avengers: Infinity War’s most exultant moments.
As such, it stands to reason that Stormbreaker can access other forms of Asgard’s magic, especially since Eitri fashioned it for a ruler of the Realm Eternal. Indeed, Stormbreaker rapidly revives Thor after he took the full force of the neutron star’s power to forge the weapon. This bears a striking resemblance to the way that Hela healed herself in Ragnarok when she was subject to Asgard’s energies. In short, Thor’s unique mastery over lightning comes from within, yet he needs Stormbreaker to directly access Asgardian magic and thus unlock his full range of powers.
This not only explains why Thor needed the ax so badly in Avengers: Infinity War, it also sets up intriguing possibilities for Avengers: Endgame. Thor’s destructive potential had visibly increased when he wielded Stormbreaker in the Battle of Wakanda. One can only wonder what other feats Stormbreaker allows the God of Thunder to perform, and what this dependence on his ax might mean for his future appearances – provided he survives another showdown with Thanos that is.
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