A little warning upfront: This is long. It has four pages in word.
As mentioned (several times *coughs*) before, Loki is the character I’ve taken most interest in when it comes to the Marvel movieverse. Even though the other characters are very interesting and come along with a lot potential, the adopted Odinson, especially since he is supposed to be the villain you shouldn’t root for, has a presence one can’t resist. Certainly I couldn’t.
Even more so as he’s not your typical villain, the one who’s evil, period. Actually, one could claim him to be simply misled and looking for love… or a hug, as Tom Hiddleston says himself.
I’m usually rather straight when it comes to my likings – there really has to be a good reason for me to not root for the hero at the end of the day. I might like the bad guy somewhere along the way through a story, but in the end, I’ll always wait and hope for the right one to win.
With AVENGERS, and then also THOR, it was different.
When I first watched AVENGERS, I had no idea what had happened before. I didn’t know the backstory of Thor and Loki, neither did I know that Loki actually was one of the good guys. Or used to be this once. Still, I immediately had this feeling that there’s more to this strange dark-haired fellow from outer space, who arrived on Earth as a big surprise, it seemed, and started to fight the SHIELD agents/military – the good guys, as we know from IRON MAN – right away. Something was just not right; something didn’t fit into the picture of the one-sided baddie, and it didn’t get better over the course of the movie. And when Thor as one of the Good appeared and it became clear that Loki is his brother…
Surely it helps that he is played by handsome and charming Tom Hiddleston. And gifted Hiddles. Because in the end, it was him who gave Loki character, body and facial language, and his voice. This is very important to me – the way he talks, barely raising his voice, but keeping it quiet and gentle almost the whole time. It was one of the reasons that made me doubt Loki’s entirely evil seeming motives.
Hell, I even cried at the end of THOR… in all honesty, I cry every time I see that ending with Loki falling into oblivion. If it is the villain you cry for in the end, the actor – and writers – have done something wrong. Or just right. If you ask me, I definitely vote for right. If you never once buy that someone really is just plain cruel, even without background knowledge…
If we go into the scenes, there is one in particular that didn’t make it into the movie, but got me thinking. A lot. It is the Deleted Scene “Loki and Thor before the coronation”. In my opinion, it gives us a pretty good impression of what life must be like for Loki.
Thor is the one with big ego. He even was as a child, while Loki himself always appears quieter, calmer, more thoughtful. The child actors play that very well, and as Kenneth Branagh said so as well in the director’s commentary, they really grab the essence of the adult actor’s play. Little Thor is ready to fight without giving it much thought – little Loki, however, remains silent, and only wonders aloud whether the Frost Giants are still alive.
At the beginning of mentioned scene, we see the big and imposing entry of Thor. He marches in, throws his goblet into the fire and demands another. A rather rude and arrogant behavior for a would-be king who’s supposed to show some grace and thoughtfulness. Would we ever see Loki throw a goblet down onto the ground or into a fire and call for another? I don’t think so. He’s too quiet for it, and has this elegance and grace to him that Thor lacks.
The little talk between the brothers says more than two movies together. Thor is playing his brother’s importance, and more so, that of his skills, down. Loki is not a warrior, like Thor or Sif and the Warriors Three. He is a strategist, a planner and thinker, and a sorcerer of course. While the others rely on muscle strength, Loki relies on the strength of his mind and his magic. He can fight, we’ve seen that, but he uses his magic to his advantage while doing so, because he’s just not a warrior in the classical sense.
He also uses his skills to help and support others. I believe that it is the truth he tells when he talks about Nornheim and that he had a crucial part in them getting out alive and victorious. Still, Thor doesn’t acknowledge it; quite the contrary, he plays it down, he almost mocks it. Maybe takes it for granted, but certainly not as something he should be grateful for.
Assuming that this wasn’t the first time Loki was laughed at rather than applauded for his skills, but that this has been going on all his life, it is not that surprising that he snaps at one point. He isn’t the typical Asgardian, and isn’t regarded as one. He’s a calm and intelligent young man who possesses the most dangerous weapons in the world – knowledge and wit. And he knows how to use them. He is said to have a silver tongue, which that describes someone who knows exactly how to express himself and make use of the power of words.
Loki is probably, and despite his brother, his royal heritage and family, and his friends he certainly has in Sif and the Warriors Three (the first more than the latter three, imo), still sort of alone. An outsider. It starts with his outside appearance – lean, pale, dark-haired – and goes to his qualities and skillset. He’s the one known and, as it sometimes appears, also feared and suspiciously eyed for his clear tendency to mischief. He’s known as the God of the same, after all.
What he can do with his magic is impressive and helpful. And still, to a warrior race like the Asgardians, sorcery doesn’t seem to be an honorable skill. Strength of mind doesn’t count as much as strength of muscle does. In some way this might also come from the others being afraid of him. They don’t understand his ways; he is unpredictable, thanks to his skills. Only that they don’t realize that he had never used his magic against his family and friends had they never devalued what he has to offer. This is of course only my opinion; but I think also a logical consequence from what we know about Loki and the others.
Had they, from the beginning, seen the usefulness of Loki’s skills, and consciously combined his mind and the others’ strength, and worked on refining this co-operation between magic and muscle, they might have become close to undefeatable, in battle and in life. Instead, Loki is ridiculed for his abilities, and not listened to, e.g. when Thor and the Warriors decide to go to Jötunheimr, despite Loki’s reasoning/protest (one might argue that this has its origin also in the fact that Loki conspired with the Jötunns, but the fact remains that it is still forbidden to go to this world, and I believe it is another reason why Loki tries to hold Thor back).
Their trip to Jötunheimr is like a twist of fate. Hadn’t they done this, Loki might never have learned that he is Laufey’s son. The truth comes as a great shock to him, naturally. He is deeply hurt by what he learns, he’s furious for having been kept in the dark about his true heritage, and he is confused about how is supposed to consider himself now. All his life, he was taught to fear the Frost Giants. To fight and to hate them. They’re gruesome and brutal, a race that neither knows nor respects peace and friendship. They are the ones all Asgard resents. And Loki is one of them.
What, because I… I… I am the monster parents tell their children about at night?
This is the moment where you wonder whether one can tear oneself apart by the sheer power of thoughts, because one hates oneself so much. Does Loki feel that he’s been betrayed? Does he feel that his whole life has been a lie? Does he see himself as someone, something to hate and fear? Is his whole world, his whole life falling apart form one moment to the next?
One can certainly assume that the answer to all these questions is yes.
What he does afterwards is born out of quiet brooding and painful consideration. Loki’s intelligent enough to see that Thor doesn’t belong on the throne – he saw that before already. And even though he might not have intended his banishment, he’s also not mourning it much, if at all. Besides, it is his chance to rise to the throne himself, something that then just seems to fit into his plans. The Deleted Scene that shows how Frigga makes Loki king is a very good – and wordless – insight in how glad Loki about this development is, but also that he hadn’t expected it. But as we know, it is his best chance to go through with his plan.
Loki sees himself as Odin’s son. It’s all he ever wanted to be. Prove himself worthy to be it. Receive the same appreciation Thor gets. His inner conflict brings him even to not only kill a whole race – his race – but also to allow Odin’s nemesis, Laufey, to get to him in his weakest moment so that Loki can kill and kills Laufey – his true father, nevertheless. All the while claiming to be Odin’s son; seeing himself as the same.
And YOUR death came by the son of Odin!
There is a hurt fierceness in him when he says that, when he fires the energy that literally dissolves Laufey, and open vulnerability that shows all too well that this isn’t a game, no pretense to make the others (and himself) believe he did it for Odin and the Asgardians. No, it really is his intent, and it is clearly recognizable on his face, in his voice.
But it is not only Odin’s love and acknowledgement as a worthy son of Asgard he seeks. No doubt Loki loves his brother, even if in his own way. And he is desperate to be seen as an equal to the popular Thor that he would do anything. He even does. He’s just using the throne and his kingship to complete his self-set objectives, freeing Asgard of the burden of Jötunheimr – their enemies – and himself of his heritage, in some way.
I never wanted the throne, I only ever wanted to be your equal!
In the end, the scene where Loki and Thor hang over the abyss the universe would be if they fell, he tells his father that he could have done it – for him, for all of Asgard. And I can’t help but wonder if Odin’s “No, Loki” is connected to Loki’s words or the probability of him falling (more or less committing suicide). IMO, Odin is really referring to Loki’s words, his certitude that he has done the right thing – we all know it wasn’t.
Thor loves Loki nonetheless, as we can see when Loki lets go and falls into oblivion. His “No” is as upsetting as there ever was one. And Odin’s might just top that; that weak, strangled single syllable he brings forth gives an impression that it is the only thing he can still say before he chokes on his own sadness and grief.
As for Loki, I guess he saw it as his only way out, believing that it would only await him punishment, if not even the death penalty. And yes, he probably would have been punished for what he did; I believe that there will be sanctions for him now that is back on Asgard after AVENGERS. But not in the way he expects. I just hope that Odin, Thor and the others will understand that Loki didn’t just become evil out of fun, but because of a long and terrible chain of events – starting with Odin’s and Frigga’s ‘lie’ (or withholding of the truth) when it comes to Loki’s personal history and heritage.
After reading a lot about Loki on the web, I noticed that fangirls tend to see the poor, hurt boy, while they totally ignore the malicious side of him. It’s easy to do that, I admit it. I have a hard time to keep in mind that he is a bad guy after all as well. You can, in my opinion, look at him in two ways – either you see him as the cruel, evil villain, the psychopath, or as the misunderstood young man whose whole life was shaken up when he heard of his true origin. Or you can just combine these two.
No doubt Loki has strong psychopathic tendencies. He wanted to subdue the Earth. ALL of humanity. And why? Who knows. I’m sure he really convinced himself that he was doing humanity a favor. Maybe it also is because his brother loves Earth so much, and he wants to hurt him. I’m also thinking that hadn’t Natalie Portman been pregnant and had Jane been a part of the Avengers movie, there might also have been a Thor/Loki/Jane confrontation. In which Loki tries to hurt Jane perhaps, or at least pretends to.
The question is now: Loki may have been the villain, certainly in AVENGERS, one could argue that he also was it in THOR. But is he really bad? That I don’t really think. Deep inside, Loki is a good person, despite his tendencies to mischief and trickery. Referring to the Marvel created fact that Loki was found and raised by Odin (this never happened in the myths, even though Loki there often associates with Thor and Odin), he had a lot of emotional baggage to collect until it broke free at once.
“The pitcher goes often to the well, but is broken at last.” is what they say. If Loki was teased all his life for being different as he is, his reaction that might just be his first real one here has to be extreme. Add to that for AVENGERS that he was falling through space for a while and saw all sorts of things as, I believe to remember, either Tom or Joss Whedon said, you have your very own, personal crazy psychopath bred.
As for what happens after AVENGERS and in THOR 2 – I hope very much that Loki will understand that his family and friends love him, despite everything that has happened. I’m sure they do, even if they always teased him. Especially Frigga is very fond of him, and Odin seems to be as well. There needs to be a process in which Loki is shown that he has a life and a future.
He’s not bad down to his very core, but he needs to be made understand that what he did was wrong, and that this is not the way he’ll achieve what he is looking for – love and appreciation. You can’t force that, and certainly not from people who kneel before you. He will always be mischievous – but hopefully, he won’t remain bad and as disillusioned as he is now.
And then you have Sif… but this is another story.