Note: This article contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame. Duh.
Look, we get it: When you pour a ton of yourself into a big, multi-year project—as J.K. Rowling did with the Harry Potter books, and, to a lesser extent, as Joe and Anthony Russo have done with the latter-day Avengers films—you start to take on a certain desire to have your world, and your artistic impulses, be precisely understood. In extremely limited doses, a little bit of “Hey, this is what was actually happening with that character” can be acceptable from a proud creator, clearing up some minor ambiguities that didn’t make it into even the most voluminous of texts. But you definitely don’t want to go the full Rowling route with this sort of post-canon, “Dumbledore was gay and Nagini was a shapeshifter and nobody ever knew it” retconning, because that’s how we end up with wizards, shitting on the floor, like dogs.
Which is why we’re pretty nervous to listen to the Russos talk about the biggest, most-fan-delighting-est moment from their recent mega-successful blockbuster Avengers: Endgame on Josh Horowitz’s Happy Sad Confused podcast. You know the one: It’s the bit where everybody in your theater probably started screaming, because Steve Rogers just picked up Thor’s hammer and started kicking Thanos’ big purple ass with it. It is, easily, the purest moment of fan service in the whole 22-film MCU experiment, a throwback to one of the best moments of a film four years its senior, and definitive proof that if anybody in the Marvel Universe is “worthy,” it’s got to be Cap.
But, hey, did you know that Steve could have picked up that ol’ hammer any dang time he wanted to, from Age Of Ultron up to its destruction in Ragnarok? The Russos would like you to, apparently, making clear in the interview a point that the movie itself leaves happily ambiguous: Captain America has always been worthy in their minds; he’s just chosen not to pick up Mjolnir in the past because it would have made Thor feel bad. (And robbed the franchise of a big damn heroic moment several years down the line, of course.)
To be fair, the Russos didn’t write Avengers: Age Of Ultron, where the famous hammer-lifting scene—in which it moves just a smidge when Steve “tries” to lift it—takes place, so the only true answer to the question is presumably floating around in Joss Whedon’s head. Still, they’ve been stewards of the character—and through him, the wider MCU—since Captain America: The Winter Soldier, so it’s not like you can easily contradict them when they say Cap was sandbagging and chose not to haul the hammer around for years. Which is a bummer, both because it’s a less narratively interesting choice—isn’t it cooler if Steve achieved worthiness over the course of Civil War and its complicated, grief-filled aftermath, rather than just inherently possessing it?—and because it deprives fans of the chance to argue about when he became worthy, or what, exactly, Thor means when he yells, “I knew it!” in the aftermath of the big reveal. (You might not have caught that line, though, because again: big screaming point.)