THE AVENGERS: The LOKI Reaction

The Avengers (2012) – The 6th Marvel Cinematic Universe Film – Directed by Joss Whedon – Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Alexis Denisof, Stan Lee, Powers Boothe, Lou Ferrigno, and Harry Dean Stanton.

Welcome to the tenth character-specific reaction to Joss Whedon’s THE AVENGERS. I’ve already written a 4,200+ word review of the film, but that wasn’t nearly enough to cover everything I wanted to talk about, so I’m going to write character-specific reactions to delve a bit deeper into the film. You can find all of the relevant AVENGERS links at the bottom of this post.

Also, please note that these reactions are evolving as we go. If you see some line I got wrong or a detail I overlooked, by all means let me know. I’ve seen the movie twice, but it’s a long movie and the audience reacts wildly in parts, so some things get lost or forgotten or misinterpreted. And I’m sure some of the quotes are wrong, but I will correct the mistakes as I become aware of them. Don’t be surprised if these reactions grow a bit in the coming days.

Let me be clear about what’s coming: SPOILERS. Lots and lots of SPOILERS. Read ahead only if you’re cool with that. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want things ruined, come on back when you do.

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“How desperate are you? That you call on such lost creatures to defend you?”

“How desperate am I? You threaten my world with war, you steal a force you can’t hope to control, you talk about peace, and you kill ’cause it’s fun. You have made me very desperate. You might not be glad that you did.”

“Ooh, it burns you to have come so close. To have the Tesseract, to have power. Unlimited power. And for what? A warm light for all mankind to share? And then to be reminded what real power is.”

“Well, let me know if ‘real power’ wants a magazine or something.”

Of all the characters in MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS, it’s Loki that is the most straightforward.

It’s not that Loki is a bad character or an uninteresting character, or that Tom Hiddleston did a bland job, because Loki is an incredibly interesting character and Tom Hiddleston delivered as fine a performance as anyone in the movie. The problem is that Loki is undressed throughout the movie and so I’m left with little to reveal and much to summarize, which is much less interesting to spend my time on. Which makes me feel like a bit of a jerk, because, as I said, Loki and Hiddleston both bring a lot to the table.

For instance, we learn from Thor (Chris Hemsworth) that Loki is motivated, in part, to destroy and rule the Earth because Thor has chosen to protect it. So go ahead and check the box for the little brother with an inferiority complex. What strikes me about the Thor and Loki relationship here is how Loki is both determined to sever the relationship and yet still dependent on it for his identity. He desires to reject Thor, yet his rejection of Thor ties him even closer to his brother than when they were kids, as Thor himself proves when he asks Loki to remember their childhood together. Where Thor is interested in the past as an attempt to heal their differences, Loki is interested in the past as a means of fueling his villainous acts.

We learn from the Other (Alexis Denisof) that Loki is charged with claiming the Tesseract in exchange for getting to use the Chitauri as his personal army as he attempts to subjugate the Earth. Just as importantly, we learn that Loki isn’t as powerful as he likes to think it is, which brings up an interesting point:

How the hell does Loki work as a character in this movie?

Joss Whedon puts almost all of the weight on his shoulders to be the Big Bad of the film, but after stealing the Tesseract and turning Hawkeye and Erik Selvig (Jeremy Renner and Stellan Skarsgård), all he really does is get himself captured – on purpose – and then get himself defeated intellectually by Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) and physically by the Hulk. Plus, for the entire film we know – we know - that there’s someone more powerful than him jerking his chain.

So how does he work? I think it comes down to this: 1. he’s entertaining as hell, 2. despite carrying most of the villainous weight, Whedon doesn’t overburden him, and instead uses Avenger-on-Avenger conflicts to create dramatic tension, and 3. until the Hulk takes him out, Loki just … keeps … coming.

Loki gets into verbal battles with Steve Rogers, some old dude in Germany, Nick Fury, Agent Coulson, Tony Stark, and Black Widow, and he pretty much loses all of them. He goes back and forth with Steve (Chris Evans) in Stuttgart and, at best, it’s a draw, as Steve’s, “You’re out of time” comeback is a bit weak. On the Helicarrier, both Fury (“Let me know if ‘real power’ wants a magazine or something”) and Coulson (“You lack conviction”) get the better of their exchanges with the Asgardian. The old dude in Germany delivers one of the most powerful lines in the film. After refusing to kneel before Loki, he tells the god, “There are always men like you,” and he doesn’t mean it as a compliment. The Stark/Loki confrontations are some of the most enjoyable in the film, and we see in their most memorable exchange how Whedon continually uses Loki to set up a witty comeback.

Loki: “Please tell me you’re going to appeal to my humanity.”

Stark: “Actually, I was going to threaten you.”

And later: “I have an army.”

Stark: “We have a Hulk.”

This conversational interplay is used throughout AVENGERS; Loki says something clever, and then someone else says something cleverer. One of Loki’s few victories is with Thor. “Listen to me, brother,” Thor implores just before Iron Man steals him away. Loki watches the two heroes go rocketing away and smirks, “I’m listening,” he says to the emptiness.

His best monologue comes during his imprisonment in the Hulk’s glass cage in the Helicarrier when Widow gets the better of him during an interrogation. Hiddleston delivers a very strong monologue as he rips into Tasha for her willingness to make a deal to save Hawkeye from Loki’s control, and get the “red” removed from her ledger: “Can you? Can you get out that much red? Barton told me everything. Your ledger is dripping, it’s gushing red, and you think saving a man no less virtuous than yourself will change anything? This is the basest sentimentality. This is a child at prayer… pathetic! You lie and kill in the service of liars and killers. You pretend to be separate, to have your own code, something that makes up for the horrors. But they are a part of you, and they will never go away!”

“You’re a monster,” Tasha insists, on the verge of tears.

“You brought the monster on board,” Loki sneers, which causes Tasha to drop the act as she now realizes that letting loose the Hulk is Loki’s play. “Thank you,” she says politely and Loki is flabbergasted that he was just bested.

Look at what’s gone on – Loki is getting his horned helmet handed to him all over the place, and yet he’s still entertaining in every single exchange and, most importantly, he doesn’t stop. Every setback is but a tiny speed bump for him. He never loses faith in his belief that he’s better than everyone else, or that his plan will ultimately work, so he just doesn’t stop going forward.

Even at the end of the movie, when the Hulk has slammed him around like an angry kid playing with a rag doll, leaving him battered and bruised on the floor, Loki is still pushing on. Waking up to find the entire Avengers’ roster staring him down, Loki remarks to Stark, “If it’s all the same to you, I’ll have that drink now.” Like a true schemer, Loki recognizes when it’s time to abandon one plan and start working on the next.

And that’s why Loki works for me despite being continuously chumped. He’s the mastermind of this Tesseract theft, and yet when one of his drones (Hawkeye) tells him he needs, “a distraction and an eyeball,” Loki goes to Stuttgart and gets Clint that eyeball, gives the archer his distraction, and then gets himself captured by the Avengers so he can sow the seeds of discontent from in close.

Tom Hiddleston is fantastic as Loki. Where every other actor survives the Robert Downey Jr. Experience by keeping to their character and surviving, Hiddleston is the one actor who can go right at Downey, matching his energy and intensity. I love, too, that where most superhero films treat villains as one-and-done antagonists, Loki’s story is growing right alongside every other Avenger. The idea of having a THOR movie without Loki now seems preposterous, and as exciting as the idea is that AVENGERS 2 will bring in Thanos, I hope they carve out space for Loki, too, because for all the talk that losing Clark Gregg is a negative, losing Hiddleston would be just as unfortunate.

———

Atomic Reactions: Marvel Comics on Film now available.

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THE AVENGERS REVIEW INDEX

THE AVENGERS: THE MOVIE REVIEW
THE AVENGERS: THE HAWKEYE REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE AGENT COULSON REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE BLACK WIDOW REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE NICK FURY REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE MARIA HILL REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE CAPTAIN AMERICA REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE CHITAURI/THANOS REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE HULK REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE THOR REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE LOKI REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE IRON MAN REACTION

THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REVIEW INDEX

1. IRON MAN
2. THE INCREDIBLE HULK
3. IRON MAN 2
4. THOR
5. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

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13 thoughts on “THE AVENGERS: The LOKI Reaction

  1. But in that scene where he gets bested by Natasha, you have to admit that if it was almost anyone else, he probably would have come out on top. That was a vicious tear-down, and the worst part of it was how much of it was true, based on things she’d actually done. In fact, it did get to her; she just had enough of the right experience to keep it from showing.

    And he does get the Hulk to rampage.

    The impression his character made on me was that his main weapon was intimidating or manipulating his enemies, and that he wasn’t bad at it. Just, the Avengers were one step too good to react the way he wanted them to; or in some cases, they were lucky. They were all just a little too stubborn or too stoic or too arrogant for his methods to work; Banner came back to help even after his rampage, Coulson’s death got Stark and Rogers working together, Natasha and Clint were both still going to get the job done despite his machinations affecting them.

    He was technically losing very often, but when I was watching the movie, I guess it just didn’t feel that way to me.

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    • I completely agree, Marie. I think he’s a great foil for the Avengers because he pushes them individually and as a team. It’s a testament to everyone that Loki doesn’t spend the whole film feeling like a loser and I think that gets back to the fact that he has a masterplan – so losing can seem like taking 1 step back in order to take 2 steps forward – and that he just never got discouraged and just kept coming at them.

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  2. Here’s the thing about the scene with the Black Widow – I think Loki plays her right back. His whole plan was to get the Hulk to go nuts, and once Widow finds out, she goes to Banner – and corners him. This starts the arguments, and the fact that they’re all converging on Banner as they fight doesn’t help put him at ease. So, he’s already in a bad state of mind when the Helicarrier gets hit, and Banner’s “Other Guy” comes out to defend himself from the perceived aggressors, the ones Banner felt most threatened by when he turned – the Avengers.

    I think ‘Tasha realizes this, too – she repeats the “red in my ledger” line to Hawkeye later, but isn’t talking about the same thing; she’s not talking about her debt to Hawkeye in that moment (or if she is, it’s a strangely crafted line), so she might be referring to the fact that Loki got her to turn her sights on Banner just in time for him to lose his cool.

    Just a theory. But I think, since Loki got EXACTLY what he wanted, he got it exactly HOW he wanted it, and that set-up that they “brought the monster” wasn’t a slip, it was another act.

    Still a great scene, though.

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    • I’ll have to watch the scene again,but I think that look of momentary surprise on Loki’s face suggests that Widow did him in. Now, you’re right that Loki ended up getting what he wanted by having the Hulk emerge but I do think he was momentarily concerned.

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      • He’s the god of lies – just because he looks surprised doesn’t mean he really is.

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      • True, but it’s just as true that just because he’s the god of lies doesn’t mean he ain’t occasionally telling the truth. The trick is figuring out when he’s telling the truth and when he’s lying. I’m pretty certain Widow surprises him; if you disagree, that’s cool, too.

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  3. I’m with Mike here. While, at the time, it does often look like Loki is getting one-upped… I think we may be interpreting his intentions a little too literally.

    In the end, he’s going back to Asgard with the Tesseract… which is not a bad position in which to be, considering the circumstances.

    There are a number of times in the movie where – as Steve/Cap notes, and you mentioned in that character article – Loki gives up suspiciously easily… and is altogether too pleased with the results. I suspect some (if not all… although some of it may be making good use of what he’s given at the time) of his evident losses are really just more of the same.

    That’s part of what, for me, made the movie so enjoyable… I watched it several times and I’m still really not sure who won. There’s just so much more in it than meets the eye.

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    • Well said, Kathy. I tend to think Loki is the kind of guy who is willing to sacrifice the short term (if it’s lost) for the long term (if it’s still there). Now, he gives himself up in Stuttgart because that’s the plan, but he doesn’t give himself up at the end because that’s the plan. He gives himself up at the end because the Hulk almost put him through the floor. You’re right, though, that he’s headed back to Asgard alongside the Tesseract – maybe he didn’t mean to be slammed through the floor but he does tell Thor he can’t stop because it’s too late, which suggests, at least, that he would have considered giving up at that point in exchange for an easier punishment.

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      • He did have it pointed out to him earlier that, were he to fail (in securing the tesseract), he would long for something so sweet as pain.

        Agreed, he did not plan on the Hulk-delivered hiding… but I think – as you said – it was a sacrifice he was willing to make to achieve his desired end.

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  4. I didn’t understand the introduction to Loki at the beginning of the Avengers. At the end of Thor, Loki falls of the Rainbow Bridge. Then in the post-credits, I assumed we saw Loki possessing Dr. Selvig. But then, in Avengers, Loki has to tap Selvig on his chest to possess him again? Did Whedon just gloss over the Thor post-credits scene, or am I looking at it wrong?

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  5. Pingback: Isaiah 45:23 – Unspoken Truth? | The Daily 200

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