Loki (2021)

A sybaritic time-travel mystery enigma series with identity, ego, hedonism, megalomaniacal themes, religion allegory, genre diversifcation, rich audiovisual panache, & multiverse twist narrative: a synergized apotheosis of MCU history and its eponymous mischief god. 8.7/10.

Plot Synopsis: Loki, the God of Mischief, steps out of his brother’s shadow to embark on an adventure that takes place after the events of “Avengers: Endgame.”

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

CLC’s Official Best #Loki Episodes: 1. Journey Into Mystery, 2. For All Time. Always., 3. The Nexus Event, 4. Lamentis, 5. The Variant, 6. Glorious Purpose

Official CLC Review

Back To The Beginning

May 4, 2012 – A Premiere That Changed Blockbuster Movie History By Showing The Epic Potential & Box-Office Receipts Of Shared-Universe CBM’s; ~10 YL, First Villain

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

On May 4, 2012, the world of blockbuster moviemaking tilted off its axis. The premiere of The Avengers not only hulk-smashed box-office records and built the foundation for the MCU’s pop-cultural reign – but it remains, in CLC’s vote, the best Avengers film to-date [well, Captain America: Civil War is technically the best MCU team-film breaking that very team apart, but we’re talking with the formal Avengers title]. Sure, Joss Whedon is a charlatanic scumbag whose racist/misogynistic foibles are well-documented on the sets of every film & CBM he proceeded to fail from Age Of Ultron to Josstice League, but a broken clock is right twice a day and directors sometimes get lucky with the perfect-storm of luck and star-alignment. Besides groundbreaking scale & ambition best-exemplified by its glorious hour-long NYC finale straight out of a comic book, practical VFX that still hold up well today, remarkable balance for each hero getting their own arc and shine-action, and a ~perfect balance of tone: fun-yet-not-cartoonish; childhood-nostalgic-without-being-childish, one of the greatest accomplishments of 2012 Avengers was its villain. The classic, sibylline, Machiavellian golden/silver-age malevolence of Tom Hiddleston’s God Of Mischief established a benchmark to which all proceeding MCU villains would be judged by and defined a career role for the actor. Now, ~10 years later in an MCU with plenty of room for corners, we return to give the rest of the OG team-of-six that built the foundation of the franchise their own solo projects: Black Widow, Hawkeye, and – best of all – Loki.

Characterization-Depth Like ’08

From ’12’s NYC Skyscrapers To A Starkian Crash Landing In The Desert, Nostalgia & Origin-MCU Psychoanalytics For A Mischief God Taken On A Journey Of Self-Discovery

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

A sybaritic romance/comedy/mystery/scifi/adventure CBM with identity, ego, hedonism, time, religion, and megalomaniacal themes by a cavalcade of paradoxical variants, ’70’s synthesizer minor key chords, epic visual world-building canvas & cinematography technique, character-growth with a decadent TH performance juxtaposed by felicitous O.W. & Sophia Di Martino reciprocity, & unpredictable multiversal trick-narrative of glorious purpose and hyperaddiction, Loki is a synergized apotheosis of the god of mischief and the MCU – one that takes us back in time to its early days with the modernized diversification & skillset since-acquired to overcome sidelines-miscastings, a ~stilted narrative, & mixed comedy-stylization. Loki is, comprehensively, one of the best MCU projects to-date – the origins of the MCU & its first major villain, revisited with everything learned afterwards over ~10+ years and 27+ projects of franchise-building. We’ve oftentimes been critics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: being, largely and even self-admittedly, formulaic, basic, panderative corporate blockbusters tricking the average moviegoer into internalizing this is what good cinema is [catalyzed by the film criticism community’s complicity; we’re not sure what planet most of them live on, consistently overrating sacrilege like GOTG V2 and Ant-Man in the same multiverse of classics like The Godfather and Shawshank Redemption, of which we’ll happily be the villain and antidote to bring some realism and grounding back to this hype machine].

Cinematography, Technique, VFX, Worlds

Perhaps The MCU’s Greatest Visual Canvas: A+ CGI, Next-Level Galaxy Worldbuilding, Chroma-Vibrance, & Technical Proficiency: Extreme Long-Shots, 360 Pans, Long Takes, Whip-Pans, Found-Footage Splices, Etc.

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

However, if you’re going to do a franchise (especially one with this unprecedented and undeniable box-office success), you owe it to yourselves to explore and give every one of your founding patriarchs their own expositional spotlight – and that’s what Loki does, gracefully and near-perfectly. The TV series is a synergized apotheosis of its eponymous character and everything the MCU is, was, and will be – a romance/comedy/mystery/scifi/adventure CBM that packs nostalgic recreations and a curated tour of the franchise’s greatest hits. The character-driven psychoanalysis of 2008’s Iron Man, sci-fi/comedy team adventure of 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok and 2012’s Guardians Of The Galaxy, historical mystery of 2010’s Captain America: TFA, romance of 2021’s WandaVision+, & more all clearly hinted throughout the experience of Loki – extrapolated to a multiverse of variants and timelines under a signature dark, sybaritic, hedonistic, unpredictable, megalomaniacal motif of everything Loki is. Or was. The series is a psychoanalytical treatise on one of the MCU’s greatest villains [its best team-villain in CLC’s vote, even over the purple grape/shaq Thanos by his classic golden-age comic-book-villain malice and tricky manipulation of protagonists he turns against themselves, brought to life by a lifetime-casting of the suave-and-charming Tom Hiddleston].

The Score & Themes

Themes Of Identity, Ego, Hedonism, Time, Religion, And Megalomania; A Score Echoing The Series’ Mystery Aesthetics W. Glorious, Evocative ’70 Synthesizer Minor-Key Chords

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

The series dissects with depth and nuance every corner of the Odinson’s subconscious: why he does what he does and feels the need to always be the ‘boot to ants’ quarrels’. Loki punctures the Asgardian’s ego and entire raison-d’être in a humbling lightning-strike of black comedic emasculation/manipulation, growing him characterizationally beyond a black-and-white villain into an antihero who even forsakes and evolves past the throne and power-scramble he once craved back in 2012’s Avengers out of care for the timeline & others. This is done through one of the MCU’s most impressive character-quilts – thanks, predominantly, to the mirrorlike and revelational prism of himself-but-not-himslef: Sylvie. Sophia Di Martino’s Loki Variant absolutely steals the show – a career performance we hope skyrockets her career for bringing to life such a powerful, badass, layered villain. A desolate childhood-abandonment/exile backstory fuels her mischievous deviance fantastically, as she pugnaciously rebukes any boxes or semblance of predictability on what she’s going to do next to accomplish the mission she sets out to do – one whose finish line rests with He Who Remains. Of equal celebration is the *SPOILERS* shocking finale cameo of one of Marvel Comics’ biggest heavy-hitter foes [on-par with its greatest and most infamous of all-time like Thanos, Magneto, & Galactus]: Kang The Conqueror.

A Multiverse Of Other You’s

Existential Fascination Of Remixed Versions Of Yourself From Other Genders, Races, Species, Orientations, Realities, Timelines, Etc. – A Genius Way To Open Up Multiverse

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

Given a strikingly-efficacious personalization by a magical theatre-act by Jonathan Majors, the character is an enigma – somehow making you love-but-hate and trust-but-distrust him at the same time as we’re put in a paradox of avenging the lost souls of the TVA while heeding his dark warnings/prophecies about greater threats if he’s not around to shield us from them beyond the stars. The former is the choice by Sylvie – a refreshing prioritization of mission for female CBM protagonists as she becomes one of the most accomplished in the MCU, bringing down the godlike time-keeping institution of the TVA near singlehandedly without diverging from her driving purpose. There is magnificent payoff for the series’ beautifully-handled detective/mystery TVA arc [impressively-unfolding and double/triple-checking its math and explanations for every tenet of an objectively complex topic of time after the plotholes of Avengers: Endgame] with huge multi-interpretable implications for season 2, formally opening up the multiverse the MCU was always heading for. Beyond the trio of major heroes-and-villains writing/acting-wise, Owen Wilson [whom we call the movies’ golden retriever by how effortlessly-likable his southern twang grits/honey-charisma is] delivers one of his best roles: a morbidly-twisted buddy-cop dynamic with felicitous & acidic counterbalance to Hiddleston. The series packs great representation as well in Disney/Marvel’s first genderfluid and bisexual open-references, and has incredible fun with the primal fascination of meeting differential versions of yourself: referencing not only eons of comic-book history and the wildest possible timelines for each interpretation of the character, but also humorous marketable idiosyncrasies like Alligator Loki we’re sure will go viral the second the public sees him, ala Baby Groot or King Shark.

The Mystery & Time-Travel Enigma

A TVA Mystery Of Synergization To Its Eponymous Character-Title: A Dark, Twisted, Unpredictable Rabbit-Hole Of Deception, Manipulation, Conspiracy, Time

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

Now from storytelling to the A/V club. The film might honestly have the best visuals and original score of any film in the MCU… ever. The visuals are absolutely INSANE; from the black/gold marble palace of a god beyond the stars to breathtaking purple-sky abandoned mine-shift cyberpunk towns to mossy Scotland-esque atmosphere-laden purgatory in the void to typhon-rainstorm 2051 supermarkets to grain-filtered nostalgia cartoons, the series is breathtaking on an ocular perspective – also managing to be more cinematographically and technically-advanced than ~any other MCU project ever [besides the WandaVision+ it continues the avant-garde legacy of beautifully; why wasn’t this released as the opening 1-2 punch in Disney+’s line-up over TFATWS this blows out-of-the-water?] as it juxtaposes epic, heavily-used extreme long shots with 360-pans, whip-transitions, long takes, slow/fast-mo temporal cycles, live-action/animation, found-footage splices, graphic-matches, etc. to the tune of the best CGI/VFX & world-building money can buy painting galaxies on an artist’s canvas in every frame.

The Performances & Villain

Felicitous Reciprocity By Golden-Retrievery Owen Wilson & Theatrical Apostasy/Cipher By Majors, Juxtaposed By A Breakout Star Making Performance By Sophia Di Martino As Lady Loki: One Of The Best MCU Villains

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

The score is every bit as sly, progressive, galvanizing, and sibylline as the series is elsewhere: a ’70’s feel achieved by glorious synthesizer work in minor-keys that echo/reverberate the show’s mystery and rabbit-hole hallucinogenic dysphoria that gets crazier as it goes and packs soaring orchestration crescendoes and trumpet-drops in the emotion and villain scenes wherever needed. Oh, and there’s complex religion & identity allegory too as crux themes of Loki as a bonus in the context of how addictively it hooks/engages you in its mystery-webs it as if all of these accomplishments weren’t enough; is the universe and every action/reaction predetermined by a God? Do we have free will over our own actions or are we puppets-and-pawns like TVA agents? What do the implications of such knowledge explain about an overlord’s benevolence-or-malice or the universe Itself? Is it wrong to love ourselves – literally? Would you f*ck an alternate-gender version of yourself?

A Tour/Apotheosis Of MCU Greatest-Hits

The Character-Driven Finesse Of Iron Man & WV+, Comedy/Sci-Fi Adventure Of GOTG & Ragnarok, Historical Exposition Of Capt. Am & Endgame, Dark Romance/Mystery Of WandaVision+, Etc.: A Museum 10+ Yrs Later

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

Now, for the flaws. We hate hate HATE everything about Renslayer with a passion. Gugu Mbatha-Raw was a cataclysmic miscasting worse than a nexus event: a mouse for a lion’s role whose weak performance fails to bring the roar or power of a Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller [from DC’s Suicide Squad(s)] the character so wants to be. On the subject, while the series is highly-original in execution, its concept is not: ripped-off, like ~95%+ of Marvel’s characters and storylines are, from DC. The entire TVA idea of infrastructure monitoring crimes/meddling against the timeline has already been thoroughly analyzed and explored over multiple seasons in DCTV/CW’s 2014 The Flash [Zoom/Black Flash & Time Wraiths], multiverse of multiple alternate versions of the same character & hero also done by DCTV in 2018’s Crisis On Earth-X the Justice League fighting evil doppelgängers of themselves & 2020’s Crisis On Infinite Earths DCEU & DCTV Barry Allen Flashes meeting on quest to stop an intergalactic titan portrayed by a black actor with a purple/bluish cape from beyond the stars (sound familiar?), Kang The Conqueror from Darkseid & Anti-Monitor, and the apocalyptic matter/world-devouring cloud Alioth is a complete ripoff of DC’s Parallax amongst the most iconic Green Lantern villains even featured in 2012’s Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern as its major villain.

The Action-Scenes

The Fight Choreography Is Frequently-Clumsy, Slow-Paced, & Lazy, Acting Outside Of Major Quadruple Awful, & TVA Costumes A Worse Fate Wearing Than Being Prisoner!

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

The fight choreography is frequently clumsy, slow-paced, and lazy as people shockingly forget how to even throw punches or believably fake these fights that reek of stagedness, & finale lags in a 30+ minute glorified accusation-trading conversation with Kang instead if the epic, grandiose experience finale it should have had and definitely built up to; I wish the finale was more and the season was at least 1-2 episodes longer instead of chopping momentum unnaturally just to stretch it to an S2 that [if it’s another 6 eps] would come to the basic minimum length of a regular TV show’s one-season order. The acting by everyone outside of its major quadruple is also awful – best exemplified by a laughable outburst by a random sidelines-actress on Lamentis who screams out ‘they’re only giving tickets out to the wealthy! WHAT ABOUT US?!’ and making us laugh/cry/cringe to the point of almost needing medical assistance, CGI in the block-square portal-transition ugly, and costumes a nightmare with TVA police uniforms looking cheaper than a Wisconsin D-prison by a billion-dollar studio/franchise & sight worse than being erased from existence and comended to eternity in a TVA cell by just having to look at them!

The Marvel Signature: Stealing From DC

Both Comics & TV; Timeline-Monitoring & Punishment From The Flash TV, Multiversal Doppelganger CBM From Crisis On Earth-X/Infinite, Kang TC From Darkseid/Anti-Monitor, Alioth From GL’s Parallax, & More

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

The construction is cheating as well – calling itself a TV show when it’s only six episodes long when even the basic season-order length is a 10-12 episodes minimum.. for good-reason on development purposes this chops up and makes you wait for the rest of the season on as it’s stuck in a bizarre void of being too long for a movie and too short for a television series. The comedy also sucks as the writing becomes stilted with juvenile MCU-isms tonally-clashing with the aesthetic and leitmotif and preventing it from ever feeling heavy by injecting audience IQ-disrespecting silly developmentally-childish quips in dark/emotional moments (and stupid ones at that like not knowing what a fish is, ‘is this a deli?’, ‘talkie talkie’, etc.), and the characterization does have major plotholes/flaws. Why was Sylvie hunted and taken in by the TVA as a little-girl in the first place – the event at the core of the entire plot that sets everything into motion is never even explained, unless they just chalked it up to her being born a girl-Loki which is moronically-weak/nonsensical when there are alligator and child Lokis and most of the real world and especially a civilization as advanced as Asgard values and presents the same opportunities/rights to women nowadays, plus fails to explain why they would’ve waited 10+ years to take her in as a tweenager when they could’ve just taken her in right at birth without a fight?

Plotholes & A Bad Miscasting

A Laughable Performance In One Of Biggest TVA Characters: Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Weak Renslayer Knockoff Of Viola Davis’ Lion A. Waller [Suicide Squad]; Barrage Of Plotholes

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

Why do the Loki variants prefer living in a purgatoric postapocalyptica wasteland instead of even the possibility of returning to their loved ones and timelines and freedom by simply helping in the fight against Alioth? Why does Renslayer demonically oppose free will for anyone except Kang and double-cross everyone in the TVA without even an explanation or possible logical justification for the slave/servitude-mindset beyond just screaming tertly it must be done? Even though it does have sizable flaws, these pale in comparison to how judiciously, skillfully, engagingly, and cleverly it lays out a complex tangle of time themes that evokes nostalgia to early Marvel & MCU days in the context of one of its best original villains modernized & growth-characterized with franchise-futurism looking to the cosmic horizons. If you told the 2012-me walking out of a theater post-showing of Avengers 1 the MCU would have 24+ movies & a a Loki TV-spinoff with scale and stakes bigger than arguably any Avengers movie and a budget almost as big as Avengers 1, I – and ~every other fan in the vicinity – would’ve laughed you out of the parking-lot.

The MCU Tone-Clash & Finale

The MCU’s Foundational Problem: Self-Limitation By Tainting Diversified Tones With Juvenile Quips For Minds Of 5 Y.O.’s, A Mixed Finale, & ~Cheating Too-Short Length

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

Yet, that’s exactly what’s now reality by the MCU’s own He Who Remains behind-the-scenes: Kevin Feige.. and, while in 2021 it’s beginning to get tiresome the release-numbers, you have to respect the grind and franchise-building – here and in WV+ delivering impossibly quite arguably the best two MCU projects ever made. A sybaritic romance/comedy/mystery/scifi/adventure CBM with identity, ego, hedonism, time, religion, and megalomaniacal themes by a cavalcade of paradoxical variants, ’70’s synthesizer minor key chords, epic visual world-building canvas & cinematography technique, character-growth with a decadent TH performance juxtaposed by felicitous O.W. & Sophia Di Martino reciprocity, & unpredictable multiversal trick-narrative of glorious purpose and hyperaddiction, Loki is a synergized apotheosis of the god of mischief and the MCU – one that takes us back in time to its early days with the modernized diversification & skillset since-acquired to overcome sidelines-miscastings, a ~stilted narrative, & mixed comedy-stylization.

Official CLC Score: 8.7/10