Loki, revisited

Well, as far as I can tell, the show stuck the landing.

Loki is now secure as my favorite of the Marvel TV series so far. Sure, I’m excited to see what comes from What If…? but I don’t expect those jaunts to have the same emotional weight, or to be given the same time and focus. I don’t think I’m spoiling too much to say that there’s supposed to be a second season of Loki, and that I’m really looking forward to it.

I’m going to try talking around spoilers as much as possible. But I am going to talk about the show, mostly from a structural perspective. If you’re really worried about spoilers and are able to watch the show, I strongly encourage you to go enjoy the rest of Loki’s first season (when you can) and ignore the rest of this.

I was worried when I started watching Loki that the show would promise too much and give (or resolve) too little. I was also afraid that, like WandaVision and Falcon and the Winter Soldier before it, Loki would suffer from compression or similar [writing / directing / editing] runtime and continuity problems. To be clear, I think WV and F&WS worked… but I also think they suffered from narrative cuts and cramming.

So. This show promises a whole lot. I think it delivers more.

In a really wonderful way, this show kept giving me more than I expected. There was one exception—one that kind of disappointed me—but that had been foreshadowed extensively already. Mostly, the show felt free to resolve lots of issues and move things along to a new, messy resting state with new sources of tension that I quite enjoy. Best of all for me, the show leaned into the exploration of Loki’s motivations, hopes, and dreams, and played those through to the hilt.

Honestly, I think the certainty of a second season is critical here. Without it, and without the show’s writers and runners feeling free to resolve issues or create new ones as they saw fit, I think they would have felt pressured to tie things up more neatly for the end of the season (and the show). And I think that would have done a huge disservice to the story. I suspect that pressure (along with budget) is what forced WV and F&WS to compress as they did.

I believe that Loki‘s messiness is actually better than a neatly tied up story, even if we never get more Loki. I’d love to have more stories that feel free to do this sort of thing: creating interesting and exciting and difficult situations and then using them for honest explorations of characters I enjoy… without feeling locked into tidying everything up at the end. I like stories that end with open possibility.

I know other people don’t necessarily feel the same way. I have friends who love a neatly resolved story with all the loose ends tied up and all the resolutions for each character explored on screen. They abhor open-ended conclusions that only imply next steps and leave it up to the viewer to decide, or imagine, what happens next. But for me, a lot of that is boring or uninteresting. Life is full of the unexpected, and it feels more honest to me to close out a story’s arc while leaving open the shapes of arcs to come.

Loki does that. I have my guesses about where things will go, but there are many possibilities, and I look forward to exploring them even if I have to do it in my own mind.

Loki (2021)

I’ve now seen the first two episodes. I like it. I rather like it. This show is great so far.

I’m a sucker for this for several reasons: one, it has time travel, which I love; two, the interplay between Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson is a delight; three, the whole Time Variance Authority and its cast is a great vibe, all the way from R. Slayer down to Casey; four, I was upset when Loki died for Thor’s character development at the start of Angry Purple Man #1 because (a) it felt like it cheapened & threw out the deeper relationship they’d built in Ragnarok, and (b) any resulting character growth for Thor was ignored in the underwhelming and too-busy Infinity War series… so watching Loki’s earnest emotional reaction to seeing all of his other self’s suffering and growth was fucking brilliant.

Honestly, giving Tom Hiddleston more of a chance to play a bigger role seems like the right choice to me. I never understood what people saw in him in the first Avengers movie (besides a pretty face with good quips), but the Loki that grew out of the subsequent movies won me over completely. On reflection, I blame Joss Whedon’s writing and the big ensemble movie’s lack of focus for anyone not dead center in the spotlight. Anyway, making this show with more room for Hiddleston (& others) to explore seems like such an obvious good move.

And in case I still had any doubts, Loki’s emotional private moments convince me that this show was a good idea. I don’t think we’ve gotten anything like as personal a view of Loki’s internal world in any previous Marvel movie. As conflicted as I feel about supporting the Mouse, I’m really enjoying watching this show and I’m glad that it’s being made. I’d absolutely go for more.

I do worry that the show will not live up to its first episode. The previous two shows (WandaVision, Falcon & the Winter Soldier) felt a bit like they suffered from being compressed—more towards the end for WandaVision, and at several different points for Falcon & the Winter Soldier. All of which makes me wonder whether Loki is going to go sideways in a few episodes and fail to live up to its promise. The fact that Loki is only supposed to have six episodes exacerbates those fears.

But the truth is, even if all we got was the first episode, I think this would have been a worthwhile jaunt. That’s how much I liked the interplay between Loki and Mobius, that’s how much I liked the emotional development of Loki in that set of interview scenes. It’s really exciting to think that we’ll get more of that.

Having now seen the second episode as well, I still have high hopes. There are more twists and I have more questions, but I’m still excited to see what comes next and don’t feel like they’ve really flubbed anything so far. That said, the six episode limit feels tight. I wonder whether the show will stick the landing.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman

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This movie manages to embody the tone of the central character, AND make me believe that the central character really is the Spiderman that I know and love. It’s not grim-dark, or silly (well, I mean, it *is* silly but it’s *Spiderman* silly). I really enjoyed it, and would happily watch it again. And while nothing is perfect, I felt like this movie did a wonderful job of portraying a Spiderman with hope and integrity, and without the angst that seems like such a big component of so many other Marvel movies.

I’m not saying I don’t love the angst, but there’s something refreshing about seeing Spiderman so relatively free of it. Maybe Peter will grow into it in the future, but that can take its own time.

Also, while I still want to see a Spiderman movie about Miles Morales (which the internets tell me has been teased by an easter egg I missed), I was impressed by the fact that this movie managed to feel inclusive in a way that other Marvel movies have not. Maybe I shouldn’t be that impressed. The other Marvel movies, after all, haven’t exactly been bastions of inclusion. But I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the movie’s high schoolers. Honestly, anything else would have been jarring, so it’s good they didn’t screw it up.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Pilferers of Pocketbooks

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I made two trips to the theater this weekend, two nights in a row, to see Guardians of the Galaxy.  At least I watched it in Burlington instead of Boston, and thus offered my wallet some protection from the box office’s depredations.  To be perfectly honest, I want to watch the movie again; the Guardians of the Galaxy’s punchlines are a delight, and I consistently missed the followup lines in the audience’s waves of laughter.

If you’ve enjoyed the previous high points of the Marvel movie franchise and are looking for more of the same with a good dose of silly, Guardians of the Galaxy is the movie for you.  It hits its timing wonderfully well, with a great comedy-action plot well-leavened by stupid and/or greedy and selfish characters, without leaving me feeling that anyone had the idiot ball for too long (or even at the wrong time).  On my first watch-through, I enjoyed myself but was almost disoriented by the movie’s pacing as I came time and again to totally new material (well, new to me).  The second time, it felt like the film fairly well flew along, flowing seamlessly from scene to scene in a rush of drama, action, and excellent comedic timing.  Like I said before, I’m interested in seeing it a third time, though next time I’d like to be able to hear the lines I missed the first two times around.

I liked the actors, I liked their interactions and side comments, and I thought that even the completely wooden Groot was wonderfully expressive.  More tidbits after the break, including a few complaints.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I just watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier for the second time last night.  I loved it both times.  I liked the first  Cap movie as well, but The Winter Soldier leaves that first one in the dust.  They found an excellent balance between action, comedy, and serious trouble, striking a note that felt remarkably similar to the delivery of the first Iron Man movie, less the odd bit where I felt a little underwhelmed by the final fight between Obadiah and Tony.  Which is to say that it’s pretty frickin’ spectacular.  I’d say that it’s worth watching the first Captain America movie in order to better understand what’s going on in Winter Soldier, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

Almost all of the rest of this article is going to be spoiler-rich, so if you haven’t yet seen the movie I suggest that you stop reading before the break.  Take my word for it and go watch the movie; I’m almost certain you’ll enjoy its pulpy action-intrigue comic book goodness.

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