The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a unique phenomenon in film history that likely won’t happen again for a very, very long time. It’d be like finding TWO FairGo Casino logins. Most franchises have trouble making a single decent sequel- so much so that most viewers are dubious whenever Hollywood announces one these days.
However, the MCU not only managed to make a saga of pretty decent movies, but they also managed to make over twenty of them, which all tied together in Avengers: Infinity War, and then Avengers: Endgame to conclude the epic saga, the likes of which is unheard of in cinema. Think of every other major franchise you know. Star Wars, Terminator, Star Trek, Aliens, James Bond- out of those, how many movies were even all that good? Half? Less than that, perhaps?
Yet, the MCU breaks all trends by being pretty good. It’s not perfect, by any means. It started with Jim Norton’s Hulk movie (yes, really), although most people think of the first Iron Man as its beginning (and that’s probably for the best).
Along the way, some of the greatest Superhero films of all time were created, including Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Avengers. However, there are plenty of duds that don’t hold up quite as well for various reasons, including Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man 3, and Captain Marvel. Nevertheless, Marvel managed to make a coherent storyline throughout that ended in one of the best cinematic masterpieces of all time, Avengers: Endgame.
Especially if we ignore all the TV shows. And most Phase 4 stuff.
On a completely unrelated note, I watched Loki, Marvel’s Phase 4 TV show that- wait, what?
Loki’s Wacky Adventures
The premise is that Loki, the Asgardian God of Mischief and Mayhem, is dead. He was killed by Thanos at the beginning of Infinity War and isn’t being brought back. Instead, an alternate timeline version of Loki from the first Avengers movie (because of time-travel shenanigans in Avengers: Endgame) manages to escape his arrest with the Tesseract and teleports away.
He gets five minutes of freedom before a mysterious organization called the TVA steps in and arrests him, and Loki is brought to a courthouse-organization-place that exists outside of space and time and whose duty is to fix anomalies in the “sacred timeline”, as prescribed by the ancient Time Keepers. The Time Keepers are a trio of godlike beings who unravel the future and decide what’s “supposed” to happen.
The hardest part of the TVA’s duties is hunting down “variants”, or people that aren’t conforming to the ordained destinies put before them. The show actually plays with a couple of very big themes, including the nature of Free Will, Divinity, and Moral Relativity, that I really wish the show had the balls to really dig into. But I’ll get more into that later.
The general gist of the show is that Loki is brought on board in order to hunt down another Variant of himself- a version of Loki that managed to escape the TVA and is attacking the TVA’s various squads and stealing “Reset Charges”- strange devices that literally reset time in an area. It’s up to Loki to figure out why Loki is doing this, how he is hiding from a group that can travel everywhere in space and time, and figure out how to catch him, lest he is “pruned” (disintegrated) by the TVA.
By the way, I can’t for the life of me remember what “TVA” stands for. That’s always a good sign.
Alright, the bottom line: Loki is… kinda good?
I’m having this weird experience, where I immensely enjoyed watching Loki, which is good, but the more I think about the show, the more and more problems I’m finding with it. I can say for certain that it’s better than “Wandavision” and leagues better than “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (which I didn’t even finish).
The story itself is genuinely better (which always helps), but a lot of it is being carried by Tom Hiddleston’s charisma. The show’s treatment of Loki the character, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Loki is an Asgardian- a scheming, godlike being doing his best to grab power through clever plans and mind games. Here, he constantly gets beaten up, defeated, out-thought, and every plan Loki comes up with ends in failure.
He’s also turned into a hero, despite the fact that this version of Loki has had none of the character development his cinematic counterpart had. This Loki has just come off the back of the first Avengers film, where he gouged out a man’s eye to open a door, murdered Phil Coulson because he was in the way, and unleashed an army of aliens on New York in a bid to conquer the Earth.
None of that villainy or ruthlessness comes through here. He’s more sensitive, emotional, and regretful about all the things he does, even though he hasn’t yet undergone any of the development to make him reach that point. Loki is not a good person at this point in the story, and to pretend otherwise is a disservice to the character. Let villains villain it up!
Also, the TVA’s technology is stupid and inconsistent. Loki gets apprehended in the first scene by a punch that causes him to move in slow motion, which is never used again. The TVA soldiers use batons (already a poor choice of weapon) with one end that disintegrates and the other end sharpened. Which begs the question, if you have a choice betting instant disintegration and stabbing, why the heck would you ever use the pointy end?!
Also, the TVA is constantly jumping in and out of time in order to arrest variants, and then they set up “reset charges”, which erase everything in the vicinity so that the normal flow of time can continue. Which begs the question: If the TVA is just going to disintegrate everything in a specific branch of the time anyway, why even bother arresting variants in the first place? What’s the point?
Also, it’s pretty inconsistent as to what Loki can and cannot do with his magic. Sometimes he’s able to teleport, hurl objects, and warp reality- and sometimes, he can’t. Or conveniently forgets that he can do any of that.
Avengers: Endgame also was very careful in how it used its time-travel. It firmly established that the Avengers could travel to an alternate timeline, thereby not causing a paradox by accidentally affecting their own history. However, although there’s a comment about how the Avengers were doing what the “sacred timeline” wanted them to do, the mechanics of how Endgame’s time travel works runs in complete contradiction as to what the TVA’s entire purpose seems to be.
Still, Tom Hiddleston is a blast to watch in action. I don’t hate any of the characters, which is a step up from Wandavision and Falcon. The soundtrack especially is amazing. When Loki gets to ham it up is when this show is at its best.
Let’s talk about the other major character I only briefly mentioned before: The Loki variant, AKA Sylvie.
She’s basically a female version of Loki who was abducted as a child by the TVA but managed to escape, and now she’s back and looking to tear the whole organization down. Fair enough. There are some things that irk me about her character, however.
First of all, she’s a female Loki and boy, and I am sick of gender-flipped Superheros. Female superheroes should be their own characters and be allowed to stand up on their own two feet. Netflix’s Jessica Jones is awesome. CW’s Batwoman is not. This is a lot more prevalent in the comics, where there are a gazillion versions of every character. If the comic book version of female Thor is anything to go by, it doesn’t bode well for the movie “Thor: Love and Thunder”.
Anyway, with that minor gripe out of the way, let’s dig into the more serious problems.
What is Loki known for being? He’s scheming, power-hungry, and a pathological liar. Sylvie (as she calls herself for some unexplained reason) is none of those things. Sure, she nearly succeeds in her scheme to take down the TVA, but most of that plan was carried out off-screen. As soon as we actually meet her, all that ingenuity and clever planning seems to go right out the window. She becomes a character who acts like every problem is a nail, and she has a hammer, and it’s our Loki who actually tries to think things out.
She’s more powerful than she has any right to be too. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has had formal training in both Magic and Martial Arts, while Sylvie has been on the run since she was a small child, and everything she knows is self-taught, Yet somehow, she’s a better enchantress and fighter than Loki and managed to escape the TVA by stepping on someone’s foot and just… leaving. (although we never actually see them go head-to-head at their hardest). She’s supposed to be really smart, but again, all her smartest actions are decided off-screen, and when she’s on-screen, her best plan in nine out of ten situations is to hit things.
The most bizarre thing of all is when Loki actually starts to fall in love with her. I mean, it fits his character so well because he’s such a narcissist, but since Sylvie doesn’t actually display any of the Loki-characteristics, it just feels like another situation where the writers decided that because a male and a female character share the screen for more than a single scene, they must be in love. On top of that, since they’re versions of the same person, they are technically closer than siblings, depending on how Asgardian biology works. So… incest? Ew.
To sum her character up, there was some potential in the idea of a female version of Loki, but ultimately they don’t really go all out with it, and she falls flat as her own character. I think the show could have had a lot more fun by letting the actress really ham it up as conniving schemer and having Sylvie and Loki despise one another- which is kind of what the show actually tries going for, but the characters are too different to really step on one another’s toes.
Loki 6.5 / 10 Let Loki be Loki, gosh darn it.