Review: 'Loki' mischievously cooks up engaging, time altering, chapter in the Marvel universe
Courtesy of Disney+
The expansive and time-twisty loopholes of yesteryear are present and accounted for in Marvel’s latest foray into the series world: “Loki” which, of course, is built around Tom Hiddelston’s God of mischief, who when we last saw him in “Avengers: Endgame” snagged the tesseract and beamed into what everyone in the audience knew was going to be his own television series. You have to give Marvel Studios ringleader Kevin Feige credit for continuing to foster new and inventive methods of cultivating the cinematic universe (with meticulous detail) and fleshing out legacy characters even if the confusing mythology occasionally takes a toll. But if “Loki'' teaches the base audience anything, it’s to always expect the unexpected. “WandaVision” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” had major success earlier this year, but I could argue “Loki” is more interesting. An emotional character study that presents Loki with his biggest obstacle yet: himself.
Eagle eyed fans will appreciate what director/co-creator Kate Herron cooks up which, over the course of the two episodes provided in advanced for critics, morphs from an intimate peak at the mental stability of Loki to a budding cop procedural with major “Lethal Weapon” energy and Owen Wilson eats up the screen playing the straight man to Hiddelston’s wild, off-the-cuff, comic relief. Just when you think Marvel starts running out of gas (“Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” though entertaining, didn’t reach the creative highs of “WandaVision”) “Loki” steers the universe back on track, delivering a fulfilling and entertaining chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Univerise
guaranteed to be a major summer smash.
Not many actors in the MCU have been quite as enticing as Tom Hiddelston who probably didn’t expect back in 2011 he’d get to anchor his own series. The pitch-perfect casting aids to one’s overall enjoyment of “Loki,” because
the veteran branch’s out new pathways never feasible in the main timeline (where he was either a cartoonish villain or bulky sidekick). But, if we’re being honest, Loki is the unsung hero of the cinematic universe, offering his wily sense of humor and helping heroes in times of desperate need. In “Loki,” the character dutifully gets promoted and his arc is a fascinating exploration of grief and loss while never losing the mischievous (and hilarious) edge fans have come to appreciate.
“Loki” starts with the character beaming from the clutches of The Avengers into an alternate timeline/universe where a shady, Men-In-Black like organization called the Time Variance Authority (TVA) work behind the scenes at keeping timelines tidy and accounting for any hiccups in the model (like Loki unexpectedly escaping from his predestined path). A fun, 1950s inspired cartoon quickly gets unfamiliar audiences up to speed on how the TVA operate, explaining the multiverse wars, and how The Timekeepers - who founded and created the TVA - manifested a primary timeline that shouldn't be tampered with, sending soldiers dubbed “The Minuteman” into different years ranging from 1848 to 2050 should a timeline need to be “reset.” They keep records and documents of all cataylcysic events in history, searching for any “variants” trying to cause trouble.
It’s a boatload of exposition that creates more questions than answers, but all you really need to know is Loki (Hiddelston) gets captured by the TVA and is put through a series of tests and soul searching to understand his evil ways, confronting a past of harsh (sometimes, comical) means of evading capture and the people he’s hurt along the way. Enter Mobius (Wilson looking like any gruffled police detective with a slouchy walk and primo mustache), a head TVA operative who believes Loki is the key to solving a high profile case: capturing another Loki “variant” causing ripples in the sacred timeline. Mind you, this isn’t the “Loki” anchoring the series, but a “Loki” in an alternate timeline hellbent on world domination.
That’s an interesting hook to grapple with and it’s fun watching Wilson and Hiddelston explore crime scenes, talk shop, and rummage through case files like it’s “Law & Order,” but with all the convoluted chatter in “Endgame” surrounding time travel and rumors about a potential live-action multiverse in the forthcoming “Spider-Man” film - not to mention “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” set for a 2022 release - it’s almost parody at this point when anyone in the MCU talks about timelines and resetting the clock. Can stakes actually be real in this universe if anyone can find a way to jump back in time and undo what came before? Perhaps I’m digging too deep, but the thought consistently crosses my mind. I’m not sure a flow chart would help either. Supporting players Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Wunmi Mosaku make some of those elements go down easier playing TVA officers who question the real “Loki” at nearly every corner.
At the end of the day, “Loki” is another cog in the MCU ecosystem manufactured to continue squeezing the timelines for maximum Disney IP. We knew that coming in and if you’re already on the train “Loki” won’t disappoint, but for those who never previewed a single Marvel property, imagine telling them to watch 24 movies plus two series to catch-up. I’m thankful to have gotten started early, but it’s getting somewhat exhausting for fans too. The best practice these days is to set aside logic and enjoy “Loki” for Hiddelston’s continuously wonderful performance, and don’t ask questions that probably have silly answers.
LOKI debuts on Disney+ Wednesday, June 9th.