***SPOILER ALERT*** ***SPOILER ALERT***
Without Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Thor: The Dark World would have been a mediocre movie at best. The first 45 minutes of the movie were incredibly boring. During a scene involving a heart to heart between Thor and his father played by Anthony Hopkins, one that was meant to set up one of the emotional underpinnings of the movie (Thor’s love for Jane), I found myself dumbfounded by how uninspired even the legendary Anthony Hopkins was. Natalie Portman was similarly disspointing. I don’t mean to pile on Chris Hemsworth, but it was almost as if he was dragging his co-stars down to his level. During the entire first act, the acting was flat, the tone was flat, and the jokes fell flat. All except when Tom Hiddleston was thrown in the mix. It wasn’t until a later scene, featuring Tom HIddleston and Rene Russo as adopted son and mother respectively, that I began to realize that Loki’s world is far more interesting than anything else in the movie. It was at that same time that I remembered Jarrett Haas’s State-lines article where he tried to sell us on the magnificence of Tom Hiddleston.
All of the most compelling and memorable scenes involved Loki. ***SPOILER ALERT***. First, there was his back and forth with Anthony Hopkins before being sentenced for his crimes. Then, there was the mother-son scene I mentioned, which also would become the emotional fulcrum of the movie – even more so than the Thor-Jane love story. When the “bad guys” caused a prison riot, Hiddleston’s silent reactions, his mannerisms and facial expressions, took precedence over the chaos that was happening.
When Thor went to visit Loki in prison to seek his help, there was a fantastic line where Thor told Loki to “drop the illusions.” The line itself was a great “allusion” to Loki’s unrelenting rhetorical deception. It came as a pleasant surprise when it was revealed that Thor was speaking literally. It turned out that Loki’s regal attire and well kept prison cell were all manifestations of his mind. It was revealed that the cell was a mess and Loki himself was in shambles sulking over the death of their mother. Apparently, and please forgive me if I should have known this, Loki has the ability to project images that are not true representations of reality. I don’t remember this ability from the previous movies. I digress.
The best comedic relief in the movie also was provided by Hiddleston’s Loki. The funniest scene of the movie is where he and Thor are walking through the halls of the Asgard palace while Loki playfully uses his “illusions” to change himself and Thor into different characters from the Thor and Avengers universe. This results in a hilarious Chris Evans cameo when Loki sarcastically turns into the patriotic Captain America. It is telling that Thor is often reduced to Loki’s foil, having to put up with Loki’s clever quips and sarcasm.
Perhaps I am merely pointing out the obvious. Hiddleston was fantastic in the first Thor, and even better in the Avengers. At this point, his prominence in the Marvel franchise is possibly to much to ignore.
It is the level of prominence the role of Loki has gained that made his death all the more depressing when it predictably came after the partial mending of the brothers’ relationships. Not only was there the sadness that was set up by the establishment of his relationship with his adoptive mother and his beginning to re-establish the relationship between him and his brother. The fact that he died while saving his brother certainly hammered that point home. But his death was doubly sad because by the time his death finally came in the movie, I couldn’t imagine a Thor movie without him. I immediately began questioning, what the hell are they gonna do for installment 3? The answer to that question was nearly as obvious as his impending death.
No way he’s dead! He’s too important. And I was right, he wasn’t. It was another okey doke! At the end of the movie it is revealed that Loki is alive, likely killed Odin, and assumed Odin’s identiy. Thank Gods!
One last thing . . .
What makes the rise of Hiddleston/Loki so fascinating and exciting is that it appears to have happened organically. I can’t say for certain, but I have my doubts that Marvel knew from the start that this relatively unknown stage actor would become such an integral player in the franchise. I suspect he earned his spot like an athlete earns playing time. Coach put him in the game and found out that when the lights are brightest he shines even brighter. The coaching staff said, “We need to figure out more ways to get the ball in this kid’s hands.” Chris Hemsworth may be the superhero, but this franchise consists of two star players. Hiddleston is the Gary Payton to Hemsworth’s Shawn Kemp, the Chris Paul to Hemsworth’s Blake Griffin. One may fill the seats, but the other wins games. After his show stealing performance in Thor: The Dark World, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hiddleston starts doing both.