Thursday, December 19, 2013

Was Loki a Good Villain for 'The Avengers'?

Let's talk about Loki.

Yes, the god of mischief from the recent Thor and Avengers films certainly has made a name for himself, both as a heartthrob and as one of Marvel Studios' most compelling villains. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a Loki fan myself, but what I've always found interesting is that his character didn't seem to have that huge of a fanbase until The Avengers (his second film appearance) came out. The reason I find this interesting is because for as much as that movie boosted his appeal, it also seemed to harm his character the most.

Many people have criticized Loki as one of the biggest weaknesses in The Avengers, saying that he fell flat as the villain due to a lack of menace, determination, and most notably, success. He doesn't just lose at the end of the story; he loses almost every step of the way. Nearly every confrontation that he gets into results in him looking like a fool while his opponent wraps up the scene with a victorious one-liner. This brings me to today's question:

Was Loki a good villain for The Avengers?

By "good," I of course mean "ideal." Was he the right fit as the main antagonist? Did his character serve the movie well in that role?

To everyone who's criticized Loki as a villain in The Avengers, I would like to make a friendly appeal. You're all correct. Loki did fall flat as the villain. He wasn't menacing, he wasn't highly determined, and he was an overall failure.

And I believe that was the point.

As much as the Thor storyline in the movies has been about Thor growing into a wiser and more compassionate hero, it's also been about Loki becoming a stronger villain. There's a very sharp focus on Loki's character development throughout the series, and we see that his various successes and failures throughout it teach him how to be more effective in his schemes.

The reason he did such a poor job at taking over Earth in The Avengers was because he was doing something out of his comfort zone. He was trying to be the big, bombastic tough guy who frightens people with loud speeches and defeats them with brute force. The problem is that Loki at his core isn't a fighter, he's a trickster. His greatest skill is being able to subtly pull strings behind people's backs. That was what he did in the first Thor movie, and for the most part, that worked. It just didn't pay off in full, which is likely why he tried a different strategy the next time around. And why wouldn't he try being the big, bombastic tough guy for once? It usually pays off for his brother, after all.

However, Loki's constant failure with that new strategy seemed to teach him, as well as Thor, that upfront combat is not his strong suit. I think he later harnessed Thor's knowledge of that in order to convincingly stage his own death in Thor: The Dark World. In that regard, Loki's story arc in The Avengers can be viewed as him reconciling with his trickster ways so that he could finally succeed with them in the following movie.

That still doesn't answer whether or not Loki was an ideal villain for The Avengers. Well, for what that movie was, I think he really was ideal. The Avengers is the first installment in a relatively lighthearted and fun film series, so it had to clearly set the tone for that. I think that having a much darker and imposing villain would have hindered what the filmmakers were going for. A villain like that could certainly work in the second or third installment where the stakes are usually a lot higher, but for the opening act of the series, it's fine to set the bad guy bar low.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to flee before the diehard Loki fangirls decide to murder me. Spare me from the wrath of your army, god of mischief!

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