SPOILERS for Avengers: Infinity War ahead.
Avengers: Infinity War co-director Joe Russo has explained why Thor didn't kill Thanos when he had the chance. Infinity War begins with Thanos and his Black Order slaughtering half of the Asgardians that survived the events of Thor: Ragnarok (Heimdall and Loki included), before leaving Thor for dead in space. After being rescued by the Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor then sets out with Rocket Raccoon and (teenage) Groot on a journey to Nidavellir, in the hopes of getting a replacement for his hammer Mjolnir (RIP) that will be powerful enough to take down the Mad Titan.
With the help of Eitri (Peter Dinklage) - the sole remaining dwarf of Nidavellir - and after nearly being killed (again), Thor regained his strength and was ready to take on Thanos with a brand new hammer-axe known as Stormbreaker. Thor came very close to defeating the Mad Titan too, when he rammed his weapon into Thanos' chest mere seconds after Thanos has acquired the last of the Infinity Stones for his Gauntlet. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to stop the villain from snapping his fingers and literally wiping out half of the universe's population in the process. So why didn't Thor aim Stormbreaker at Thanos' head (as the Mad Titan taunted him for not doing) and kill him right there?
The snarky answer, of course, is "Because then there would be no Avengers 4." The longer answer is that Thor wanted payback for everything Thanos did to him, as Russo told Comic Book. Russo further indicated that Marvel fans should be just as angry at Thor for not doing the smart thing as they are at Star-Lord for his own failure to stop Thanos from carrying out his terrible plan:
"I would argue that the fan base could be equally upset with Thor, who chose to throw that ax into Thanos chest and not his head. Because he wanted to tell Thanos that he got his revenge. Had he gone for a kill shot, that snap would not have happened. These are choices that characters who are feeling immense pain make and hopefully, the audience can learn to empathize with those characters because they can grow through stories. Stories can teach us things and that we should try to see every choice from the perspective of the character that made the choice."
There's certainly room for debate about whether Thor failing to kill Thanos is a plot contrivance or makes sense for the character's arc in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thor has gone through quite the dramatic journey in the MCU and is far more mature now than he was when he made his big screen debut in 2011. However, like anyone, he's still susceptible to letting his emotions cloud his better judgement. After all the grief and pain Thanos caused him, it's understandable that Thor would want to get some emotional closure by telling Thanos off before killing him and saving the day. Thor didn't take the time to consider how this plan could go wrong either, seeing as he pretty much raced straight to earth to join the battle against the Mad Titan after getting Stormbreaker.
Alternatively, MCU fans could write this one off as a necessary contrivance and leave it at that. Infinity War was always the first half of a two-part story, so there was inevitably going to be some reason why even Thor wouldn't be able to kill Thanos at first. For similar reasons, fans are having a hard time buying that Infinity War's ending is legit and not something that will be largely (if not entirely) reversed by this time next year. All the same, it should be interesting to see how Thor responds to his failure to stop Thanos and how that informs his ongoing character arc in next year's Avengers 4.
Source: Comic Book
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
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- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019