Media & Entertainment

Marvel’s Loki: From Villain to Antihero?

Loki, Avengers, Marvel

**Spoiler warning for Thor 1-3, Marvel’s The Avengers, Infinity War, and Endgame**

Loki, God of Mischief, is one of the most beloved villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As an ambivalent character who goes after his own benefit and likes to change alliances like his underwear, he draws the audience in – with no intention to ever let them go. The trailer for his own series Loki, release planned for May 2021, inspired me to analyse what makes his personality so enticing and to finally give him the attention the antagonist has been (fake) dying for since forever.

Funnily, my own obsession with the character of Loki, Prince of Asgard and brother to everybody’s-darling Thor started when I heard rumors’ about Disney planning to dedicate a whole series to him back in November 2018. Up until then, I had not watched even one Avenger movie, not to mention the Thor trilogy. But somehow, I had seen bits and pieces of Tom Hiddleston as Loki before and I knew from Norse mythology that Loki is not just good or evil, but a rather complex figure. Apparently, those two components were enough to lure me into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Loki Series: A First Look

Two years later I am still fascinated with Loki. On December 11th, 2020, Marvel released several trailers for their upcoming projects and just like millions of fans, I am more than elated to finally be granted a first look into the series. But the question is; why do we care so much? Amazingly, the number of views of Loki on YouTube seems to outrun even the popular Avenger pairings WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which were uploaded at the same time. So, I must ask again: Why do we care so much about Loki?

Recap: Loki’s Character Arc

Let’s begin with the first film, Thor, where we as the audience meet Marvel’s Loki. The God of Mischief, Illusions, Trickery and Lies is introduced as an equal to his brother Thor and son of Queen Frigga and King Odin of Asgard. Throughout the film, Loki discovers that he, in fact, is not family by blood, but a feared Frost Giant. On top of that, Odin tells him that he only took Loki in so he could re-use him as a political instrument, a piece-offering, in the future. Within a second, Loki’s trust is broken, and Thor’s antagonist is born.

To be honest, this conversation between the apparent father and son duo is heart-breaking to watch, especially thanks to Tom Hiddleston portraying a whole range of emotions after the disclosure of truth: bewilderment, betrayal, vulnerability and finally rage. Through this scene we as spectators get to witness the turning point of an already unstable character, who then does everything in his power to ascend the throne (in which he fails).

So, why is he still as beloved?

For Avengers, Loki becomes a ‘real’ villain, teams up with the extraterrestrials called Chitauri and attacks New York where he expects to be ruling over Earth, or Midgard as he would say. In this film, Loki appears to be particularly satanic and evil, killing many civilians. So, why is he still as beloved? One answer could be that he is such a multi-facetted character that every spectator, who is not immediately drawn to the good, shares Loki’s excitement. We might not want him to win in the end, but we want him to stand up to the Avengers and put them in their place, at least for a little while.

The Thor sequels develop his character further. Instead of the villain we have seen before, Loki helps Thor here and there, even if, again, it is just for his own benefit. But what’s new? The end of his character as we know him manifests in his (apparently final) death scene in Infinity War, where he heroically tried to make an end to the villain Thanos.

Loki’s Labyrinth of Emotions

Throughout the Thor and Avengers movies, Loki dies several times, he betrays Thor more than once and most of all he is after the Tesseract, a powerful Infinity Stone, craving mastery and a throne more than anything (except maybe love and acceptance, but shh, Loki isn’t there yet). And yet, with all the evil he does, he still stays an impossibly charming and mischievous God. He might be far from humble which is a trait that can be annoying about the good guys, but that makes Loki only more appealing. With moments of brotherhood sprinkled in, the God of Mischief creates an unseizable aura of humanness that even some Marvel Superheroes fail to emit.

He is intelligent, charming, humorous, jealous and yes, he is evil too.

But of course, it would be naïve to say that Loki is just a pitiful, misunderstood and betrayed man, because he is more than that. He is intelligent, charming, humorous, jealous and yes, he is evil too. All those pieces of a puzzle fit together perfectly and somehow make it possible to empathize with him. After all, he lived in Thor’s shadow ever since and all he wants is to be admired, preferably as King of Asgard. With an inferiority complex as big as his ego (weird combination, I know), Loki is torn but never beaten. His vulnerable complexity could be enough to explain why the audience is more invested in Loki than in any other Marvel villain.

What Now?

In 2018, Marvel confirmed that Loki was not the real villain in 2012’s Avengers after all. Instead, he was mind-controlled by warlord Thanos who used Loki’s hatred for Thor and catalyzed it into rage against Earth. So, what now? Was this whole article for the birds? Well, I sure hope not.

The Loki series picks up right where Endgame left: 2012 Loki steals the Tesseract and vanishes into space. First glimpses into the show give much room for speculation about what will happen next. We can see the God of Mischief imprisoned for violating timeline laws, running for president in the USA and even as Lady Loki, hinting at his shape-shifting abilities and perhaps even gender fluidity? Moreover, the tone of the trailer is filled with dark humor and an amazing soundtrack. Although everything hints at Loki finally grasping power and using it for his (or her?) own benefit, it is safe to say that the character won’t suddenly become a saint but will stay as unpredictable and ambivalent as ever.

I mean come on, what did you expect?

 

Cover: Disney/Marvel

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