Rewatching The Avengers and I noticed that during the Battle of New York, Thor went to a nearby building, struck the top with lightning before striking the Chitauri.

But why would he need to do this when he can just directly attack his enemies without needing to strike a building first? Is there a reason?

  • It would be great if you can link the video in the question.
    – naive
    May 17, 2019 at 12:31
  • 1
    My guess would be that since the top of the building is made of metal (a great conductor of energy), it would help Thor increase the power of the lightning... May 17, 2019 at 12:33
  • @GustavoGabriel But, can a conductor amplify power of lightning. I think it might as well decrease the power.
    – naive
    May 17, 2019 at 12:36
  • @naive Can't find a legal source of the clip at the moment. I'll try...
    – I. Am
    May 17, 2019 at 12:38
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    I think youTube links can be used on this site, not sure though. Maybe someone can comment on this
    – naive
    May 17, 2019 at 12:43

2 Answers 2


Here is the scene in question:

Thor calls the lightning down to the Chrysler Building in New York that has a metal lightning rod. As rightly pointed out in the comments this would actually direct the energy towards Earth (as these lightning rods are designed to do) and would therefore not have the amplification effect as shown in the movie.

However, the shot looks cool so the rule of cool applies, therefore if they're showing it as being used as amplification, physics be damned! Incidentally, the Avengers Wikia pages also agree that this shot is showing Thor using the Chrysler building to amplify his powers.

My opinion on what is probably happening here is Thor is steadying himself at a much higher elevation so that he has a better view of the portal. Since Thor has control over lightning the fact that the lightning rod would usually send energy towards the ground is overridden and controlled by Thor's innate control over lightning.

  • Okay but I'm somewhat doubtful about the better view part. If he wants a better view, he can just go up the building and strike enemies. But he struck the building first then his enemies, which really got me confused.
    – I. Am
    May 17, 2019 at 12:53
  • Yeah I get what you mean but ultimately this is a super hero movie, trying to apply real world physics to it is not the point. The rule of cool is in play. We know Thor doesn't need to store up energy to unleash it. We know that Thor could fly and do this. We know that lightning when hitting a lightning rod is directed to ground and dissipated - it's not the point because the shot looks cool regardless of how much it breaks real world physics and regardless of how much it ignores what we know in universe...
    – user5603
    May 17, 2019 at 12:56
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    @I.Am well, it'a not really striking the building, as it does no damage to the building, rather using the building as a larger hammer^^ He typically does use the hammer to attract lightning and then send it to enemies from there or just do a "lightning enforced" blow. So this is simply a case of "bigger is better", instead of just using the hammer to attract/concentrate lightning energy he uses the building too (bigger metal thingy) to attract and hold the lighting (simple logic, bigger metal thingy can hold more lightning, does more powerful outgoing strike). May 17, 2019 at 13:16
  • @FrankHopkins I took a quick read at Mjolnir's wiki page and it says that Thor's hammer is made of uru, an Asguardian metal. I'm not sure uru has the same properties of an Earth metal.
    – I. Am
    May 17, 2019 at 13:21
  • @I.Am It doesn't but it likely can be used in mysterious ways to acquire the help of some earthly metal. ;) An alternative interpretation would be that it simply was so much energy that Mjölnir attracted sparking around that some of it got caught up by the building and properly directed towards earth, but Mjölnir kept most of it up there and directed it at the foes. I'd go with the other explanation though, as both are equally reasonable (within superhero logic) and that one sounds cooler. May 17, 2019 at 13:29

What I think is happening here is that Thor is using the metal peak of the Chrysler building as a capacitor to store a far greater amount of lightning than what he can normally deal with. Thor can control lightning, true, but that Chitauri Leviathan might be too strong to control with just the lightning Thor can muster from his hammer alone. Thor is charing a lot of lightning energy into the Chrysler building, overloading it far beyond what it's capable of diverting down into the ground (or otherwise ensuring part of the capacity stays in the spire). Then, when he launches the bolt, he releases all of that energy into a far greater bolt.

  • Agreed - if you watch the scene in user5603's answer you see lightning slowly creeping down the side of the Chrysler building - then when he attacks, it is very quickly sucked back up the building May 18, 2019 at 12:10
  • He may have gone to the basement and pulled the grounding strap first... May 18, 2019 at 17:45
  • @Harper Not necessarily, the Lightning that Thor collected was far longer than any lightning strike that normally hits Earth, so he might simply have pumped FAR more energy into the system than it's capable of feeding to the ground, and even if that's not the case, he's the God of Lightning, he probably is able to keep all that electricity close through the power of Mjolnir or something like that.
    – Nzall
    May 18, 2019 at 19:42
  • @Nzall oh, sure, just overload/melt the bond instead of unhook it. That's good, now I can blame those on Thor :) May 18, 2019 at 21:59

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