“Loki” 1st Episode Is Weird In The Most English Way Ever


The greatest compliment I can give Loki is that in just its first episode, it already feels like a long-lost sequel or companion piece to the Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency books, complete with recurring characters from Norse mythology. Just swap out the hilarious, bumbling, kind-hearted Gently for Owen Wilson’s hilarious, bumbling, seemingly-kind-hearted-but-probably-a-lot-more-formidable-than-he-lets-on Mobius M. Mobius, and the holistic detective agency itself for the vast, sprawling entity of the Time Variance Authority, a nigh-on omnipotent organization on the outskirts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, whence Mobius and a fleet of agents nicknamed Minutemen preside over what they call “The Sacred Timeline”.

Loki and Mobius | indianexpress.com

Throw in a time-hopping mass murderer (or rather, two versions of the same being), and you’ve got yourself an absurd yet surprisingly profound semi-satirical comedy of which I think Dirk Gently’s creator Douglas Adams, or for that matter Good Omens‘ Neil Gaiman or Discworld’s Terry Pratchett, would be proud. What these three authors have in common (or at least, the one shared trait I’m interested in for the purposes of this review) is their Englishness. Loki‘s head writer Michael Waldron is not himself English, which I personally find fascinating, because he’s nevertheless created something distinctly in the same vein as both the aforementioned authors’ works and the long-running English TV show Dr. Who, using the same kind of humor, dry wit, and quirky stylistic choices as those other – fantastic – pieces of media.

Some of that must surely be attributable to Waldron’s partners in inter-dimensional crime behind the scenes and in front of the camera, both of whom actually are English: director Kate Herron, who brings sophistication and humor in equal parts to her work; and Tom Hiddleston, who returns to the title role with the same vigor and Shakespearean gravitas he’s been breathing into the character of Loki Laufeyson since the very first Thor movie. Hiddleston’s still got it: the “it” in this case being the ability to turn on a dime from raging homicidal god-king “burdened with glorious purpose” to pleasantly rakish charmer, and to win our hearts either way. The fact that Loki himself doesn’t distinguish between the two sides of his personality just makes it all the more enjoyable, because he’s a god, unconcerned with being one thing or another when he can be everything at once and never have to answer to anyone, for anything.

Well, at least until the Time Variance Authority (TVA, for short) interrupts his attempted escape from the alternate timeline which diverged from 2012 during Avengers: Endgame. The beauty of this is that Loki represents, or believes he represents, extreme anarchy: chaos for chaos’ sake, nihilism across all Nine Realms, and the threat of Ragnarok hurled at whoever would oppose his misrule. The TVA is the antithesis of everything he stands for – it is the very pinnacle of rigid mechanical capitalism and all the lifeless bureaucracy that comes with it, grinding inexorably forward yet going nowhere, rewarding conformity and seeking to violently eliminate any deviation from the status quo which cannot be manipulated to serve the institution.

That’s the capitalism embodied by Mobius M. Mobius, who steps in to protect Loki from the harsh sentence passed down by the TVA’s Judge Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). He frames his intervention as an act of mercy, but what he sees in Loki is an opportunity to help the TVA continue as it always has. In the premiere episode’s final minutes, it’s revealed that at least one other variant of Loki exists, and that the TVA has been struggling to capture and contain this variant before his (or more likely, her) reckless gallivanting across the timeline causes a second multiversal war like the one depicted in a retro animated flashback playing on the TV in one of the TVA’s waiting rooms. This threat to the capitalist system is posed by an anarchist, albeit one who seems more wholeheartedly committed to bringing about the end of all order than our self-doubting Loki – but Loki is nonetheless the sole individual who could conceivably get into this variant’s headspace, figure out their next move, and help bring them into custody.

He’s a tool, basically.

Loki | forbes.com

But Mobius, while exploitative and callous, is the best option Loki’s got at the moment. Renslayer, who appears to the be the most devoted to the overarching mission of the TVA, clearly wants him eliminated (and once he’s done using the God of Mischief to his advantage, I’m positive Mobius will back her in that effort), while Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku), a trigger-happy field agent whose disgust for Loki seems to outweigh her loyalties to the organization, seems like she might laser-beam him out of existence the second Mobius’ back is turned. It’s understandable why they’re all wary: Loki is a corrosive force of nature, who could easily disrupt the TVA’s workflow with his unpredictable attitude. It starts with telling Casey the receptionist (Eugene Cordero) what a fish is, but where does it end? Mutiny against the TVA elite?

The TVA is supposedly presided over by a trifecta of alien deities known as the Time-Keepers, who, according to the aforementioned animated propaganda, were responsible for saving the multiverse from self-destruction in the far-distant past (or perhaps its future; time is weird that way). But they appear to have taken a step back from the organization in the millennia since, assuming they’re even still alive, or existed in the first place. Now, the closest thing the TVA has to a leader is their animated mascot Miss Minutes (voiced by Tara Strong), a grinning clock-face with a Southern drawl who ruminates cheerfully from a thousand screens and posters in every TVA office, waiting room, and hallway, on all the possible ways to terminate time variants who step out of line.

In the absence of much action, the premiere is free to do a lot of world-building (and I mean a lot, more than was probably necessary for most general viewers), heightening our sense of awe and fear with an almost surgically precise use of Natalie Holt’s dizzying psychedelic score, which vibrates in the TVA’s laminated floors and builds to a crescendo as Loki gets his first glimpse of the organization in its entirety: a trippy sci-fi wonderland of infinite spires, columns, and cathedral-like structures, all decorated in violent shades of taupe. It’s a place where the earth-shattering events of the MCU have no relevance, where spare variant Infinity Stones get tossed around as paperweights – a humbling revelation that just goes to show how much pain could have been averted at literally any point in the MCU’s history if the TVA actually cared about the people in the Sacred Timeline they’re meant to protect.

But they don’t. Their belief is that the Sacred Timeline will take care of itself, if they stick to pruning the offshoots, the alternates, and the variants. What constitutes a deviation from the timeline is still rather unclear – for instance, it’s revealed that the TVA was perfectly okay with Loki hijacking a plane in the 1970’s after losing a bet to his brother Thor, and becoming internationally famous on Earth as the mysterious D.B. Cooper. Is it the Time-Keepers making these decisions on what can be allowed to happen? Is it Miss Minutes? Who is behind all this?

Miss Minutes | denofgeek.com

I suspect we’ll find out more soon enough, and the answer may have something to do with the Loki variant whose been wreaking havoc in 16th Century France and 1850’s Oklahoma (1858 in Salina, Oklahoma, specifically: an extremely deep-cut reference, one year before the first oil was discovered in the state). I have little doubt that said variant will turn out to be some version of Lady Loki, played by Sophia Di Martino, although other candidates range from Richard E. Grant as Old Loki to Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror. This rollercoaster is just getting off the ground, and I can tell we’re in for a wild ride.

Episode Rating: 9/10

Thor: Love And Thunder Villain Gorr The God-Butcher Is Absolutely Terrifying

While it certainly wasn’t the biggest reveal from the crowded Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday, the confirmation of the Thor: Love And Thunder main villain was still pretty huge news for Marvel Comics fans – and exactly the type of thing I couldn’t wait to write about, because I love few things more than extensively researching obscure Marvel deep lore. And Gorr the God-Butcher is one of the most fascinating villains in the comics: a terrifying, complex, tragic Shakespearean figure…who just happens to also be an immortal mutant alien symbiotically fused with a cosmic death sword.

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Gorr | comicbook.com

Academy Award-winner Christian Bale is officially attached to play Gorr, joining Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Natalie Portman’s Mighty Thor, and Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, in the fourth (and until further notice, final) installment in the long-running franchise. We still don’t know how director Taika Waititi was able to land an actor of Bale’s caliber for this role, but I have a few guesses. Firstly, it goes without saying that Waititi is one of the most creative, inventive, and unique filmmakers working today. He was able to nab Cate Blanchett for the super-campy role of the goddess Hela in Thor: Ragnarok, before he was even fully established in Hollywood. Secondly, methinks the character of Gorr could be achieved at least partly via practical effects, as we know Bale loves his transformative roles, and physically becoming a literal alien could be his most shocking metamorphosis yet. And thirdly, the character of Gorr has a fascinating backstory that seems like juicy material for a dramatic actor.

Gorr first appeared in 2013, during Jason Aaron’s tenure writing Thor. The ageless alien being hails from a tumultuous planet traumatized by eternal war, famine, plague, and chaos. On this planet, as you might expect, the population spends most of their time praying to their gods for aid – to no avail, as Gorr personally loses his parents, wife, and all but one of his children to various disasters. Having lost all faith in the hope of gods, Gorr flees into the wilderness with his last surviving son, only to accidentally discover that the gods are real after coming across Knull, a primordial deity of darkness. Gorr’s lack of faith turns into an undying hatred of all gods who ignore the prayers of their worshipers, and he quickly kills Knull and takes All-Black the Necrosword, Knull’s powerful weapon, as his own. Armed with All-Black (quite literally, since the sword is symbiotic and fuses into his body), Gorr travels the universe, hunting gods and slaughtering them one-by-one. He meets his match in Thor, whom he initially tries to kill in the 9th Century and many times afterwards – but the cause of his downfall is none other than his own son, Agar, who tells Gorr that, in his quest to exterminate the gods, he has himself become one: the God of Hypocrisy.

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Gorr | comicbook.com

Because we’re talking about comics here, Gorr doesn’t stay dead for long. His spirit lives on in All-Black, and he gets resurrected again, pursuing Thor and Loki for vengeance. But his best story remains his original appearance, which gives him a surprising amount of depth, and provides the perfect basis for Thor: Love And Thunder‘s adaptation of the character. Knowing Taika Waititi, I expect him to give Gorr just a little more flair than in the comics (perhaps a morbid sense of humor), but that’s not the only thing that might have to change.

For one thing, we’ll necessarily have to see Gorr kill some gods for him to appear truly threatening – but most of the Asgardian pantheon (with the exception of Thor, Loki, and Valkyrie) are already dead, thanks to Hela’s purge of Asgard during Ragnarok. A possible solution to this problem would be to bring back Hela, and have her fill the Knull role and/or be one of Gorr’s targets. There’s a storyline in the comics where she sets up a casino in Las Vegas and hosts extravagant parties for villains: that sounds exactly like something Taika Waititi would love, and it would make for an awesome set-piece if Gorr crashed the party and dueled Hela to the death. We could also see Gorr go after the Eternals, who will have been introduced to the MCU by that point: they’re basically gods anyway, and so far they’re most closely linked to the Thor mythos in the comics. I’ve always wondered how they’ll be incorporated into the broader universe, but having Thor team up with them to defeat Gorr is definitely one possibility. It’s also been theorized that Gorr will be tracking Star-Lord, who is technically the demigod son of a Celestial (remember that major plotpoint that’s never been addressed since?), which would explain why Chris Pratt supposedly joined the cast a few months ago.

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Star-Lord | mewallpaper.com

I also doubt that Gorr and Thor will have as long a history together as they did in the comics. MCU Thor has been alive for over a thousand years, but it seems completely out of character for him to have battled Gorr during his youth and won (he was a boisterous, hotheaded idiot right up until the first Avengers movie). And having Gorr be one of Odin’s many secrets feels redundant. It would make a lot more sense for Gorr to first appear in the modern day (perhaps his family were snapped out of existence by Thanos, and he sets off on his vengeful murder spree before they get snapped back by Tony Stark?).

Even with these changes, the story of Gorr is still a great one: and I think it’s pretty clear why Christian Bale would be attracted to this role. The God-Butcher could easily rank alongside Thanos, Killmonger, Hela and Loki as the greatest MCU villains of all time if done well: and if this is the final Thor movie (I’m not saying it is, but it could be), then it only makes sense to go out on a high note.

What do you think? Are you excited for Christian Bale’s version of Gorr? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Ms. Marvel” Debuts New Footage, Will Costar In Captain Marvel 2!

Despite the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series only just beginning filming in Atlanta over the past few weeks, a sizzle reel compiled from behind-the-scenes interviews with the series’ creators and clips of new footage from the show was already completed in time for the Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday night, and gave us our first official look at newcomer Iman Vellani as the MCU’s first Muslim superhero, Pakistani-American teenager Kamala Khan. It’s not much, but it’s worth a shoutout because of the representation showcased in the sizzle reel itself, and the promise made by Marvel President Kevin Feige that Kamala Khan (a.k.a. Ms Marvel) will go on to costar in future Marvel films.

Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel | gamesradar.com

The brief video spotlights each of the four main directors working on Ms. Marvel, including Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah, Meera Menon, and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. All are experienced filmmakers, and El Arbi and Fallah directed one of the highest-grossing films of this year, Bad Boys For Life: a gritty, action-packed adventure. Kamala Khan is a superheroine with a very distinctive superpower – the ability to redistribute the atoms in her body at will, to change her shape and size, create giant fists, or grow to incredible heights – so I hope all four directors will be able to carry that over from page to screen in a cool way, while keeping it wonderfully weird. Kamala Khan’s creator, G. Willow Wilson, has said she fears Khan will look “really creepy” in live-action because of her powers, but I have faith in Marvel to do her justice.

While the diversity behind the camera (where it matters most, arguably) is excellent, there’s been some recent controversy around the diversity onscreen…or rather, the lack thereof. A few days, #FixMsMarvel trended on Twitter, after it was discovered that two actresses cast in the series as Muslim women of color, Zenobia Shroff and Yasmeen Fletcher, are not Muslim (and Fletcher is half-white and Christian); that actor Matt Lintz, cast as Kamala Khan’s best friend Bruno, is possibly a Trump supporter (although he claimed later he is not political, which itself is a questionable stance, especially during these times); and that a sexual offender was reportedly cast in another supporting role. That last claim is certainly severe, but the actor in question is not confirmed to have joined the cast, unlike Shroff, Fletcher, and Lintz, all of whose names can currently be found on the Marvel website. For a series that is so laser-focused on improving representation of a traditionally marginalized demographic, these castings do represent missteps – and the MCU’s casting director, Sarah Halley Finn, is no stranger to casting controversy, having previously received criticism for picking a Mexican actress, Xochitl Gomez, as the (arguably) Afro-Latina Puerto Rican heroine America Chavez; and (allegedly) Oscar Isaac, a born-and-raised Evangelical Christian, as Jewish hero Matt Spector.

Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel | murphysmultiverse.com

How you choose to digest this information and proceed is your own choice, and reactions to the news will vary. It’s especially disappointing, however, because of how perfectly cast Iman Vellani appears as Kamala Khan: and how excited I think we all are for her to succeed. Vellani doesn’t appear in her Ms. Marvel costume in the new footage, but she’s still channeling her in-universe role model, Captain Marvel – as we can see her purchasing the Captain Marvel costume she wore in behind-the-scenes photos (where I thought she was being played by a child actor: my apologies to Vellani); wearing a T-shirt that seems to hint at a Captain Marvel/Valkyrie romantic pairing (which, if that’s the case, I wholeheartedly support); and staring wistfully at the Captain Marvel posters and memorabilia that adorn her bedroom wall. Heartwarming footage was also shown of Vellani’s freak-out reaction to her casting.

I can understand freaking out, because Marvel president Kevin Feige made it very clear that Ms. Marvel isn’t a one-and-done character: she will soon join Brie Larson and Teyonah Parris in a lead role in Captain Marvel 2, fulfilling her fangirl dreams and allowing her a chance to punch bad guys with her supersized fists on the big screen where she belongs. Much was made out of Vellani’s two-star review for the first Captain Marvel review on her alleged Letterboxd account (which, she clarified, was not because of Brie Larson, whom she “would die for”) – hopefully, her appearance in the Nia DaCosta-directed sequel will make it even better than the first. Meanwhile, Ms. Marvel may also help introduce the Inhumans royal family to the MCU, as a possible reference to Maximus the Mad hidden in the new footage hints that they’re on their way.

Ms. Marvel
Maximus | mcuexchange.com

The Inhumans were the subject of a short-lived ABC TV series, but they haven’t ever really caught on with audiences, except on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., which was helped by exceptional writing and great character work. For the Inhumans’ MCU debut, I think Marvel would be foolish not to borrow from the best and transfer popular Inhuman S.H.I.E.L.D. characters like Daisy Johnson and Yo-Yo Rodriguez over to the Disney+ series, with actresses Chloe Bennet and Natalia Cordova-Buckley reprising their roles. We already have confirmation that another Inhuman from the comics, the bioluminescent Kamran, will appear and be played by Rish Shah: the stage is set for more to follow.

So what do you think? How do you feel about Ms. Marvel, and how would you deal with the controversies around casting? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

The Fantastic Four Are Finally Coming To The MCU!

Probably (no, definitely) among the biggest reveals from the Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday night was the announcement that the Fantastic Four – Marvel’s “first family” – will finally make their debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at some point in the near future. Whether this is to be the final installment of Phase 4, or the first film of Phase 5 is hard to tell, because the lines between phases are starting to blur now that COVID-19 has messed up the entire release date calendar. Marvel President Kevin Feige offered no details: which makes me wonder if, for the time being, we might not hear as much about separate “phases”, just to give Marvel a little more freedom as they maneuver around the pandemic.

Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four | nme.com

A first logo for the film was revealed: a sharp, angular four in electric blue. And Feige also announced that his Fantastic Four will be directed by Jon Watts, who has been very successful at bridging the gap between Marvel and Sony, directing their Spider-Man films. He is currently at work on Spider-Man 3, which Feige also confirmed on Thursday will feature Multiverse elements: it’s been widely reported (and become something of a joke online) that Spider-Man 3 will include virtually everybody – Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane, Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy, Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, Jamie Foxx’s Electro, and probably Charlie Cox’s Daredevil. If Watts is showing onset that he’s capable of masterfully handling all these different characters and their individual storylines, he may be the perfect fit for Fantastic Four, which will almost certainly deal with the Multiverse in some way or another.

Watts isn’t, perhaps, the most exciting choice on paper: especially since many still feel that Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles and The Incredibles 2, is the only director who’s shown any success with a similar concept – without even trying, Bird basically designed the blueprint for how a Fantastic Four film should feel. I understand why there would be dissatisfaction. But Watts’ Spider-Man films have been good (at least in my opinion: I know they have their extremely vocal haters), and some of the best scenes were those that dealt with the villain Mysterio, who supposedly came from the Multiverse until it turned out he was just a disgruntled Stark Industries employee. If Watts can do wonders with a fake Multiverse, imagine what he’ll do with the real deal.

Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four | whatculture.com

That being said, a Fantastic Four film can’t be all Multiverse shenanigans and confusing time loops and paradoxes. At its core, it has to be the story of a superpowered family facing challenges and overcoming struggles together, or fans will be rightfully angry. The closest thing we’ve got to this in the MCU already is the dynamic between Ant-Man and his immediate and extended family: but where those films generally have low stakes and slightly comedic action, the Fantastic Four is big, and epic, and dramatic. Downright melodramatic, at times. It’s still unknown if the MCU’s Fantastic Four will introduce us to a fully established team, or set up a proper origin story. Fox has tried and failed at that twice, both times bungling it by trying to rush the team’s biggest villains to the forefront: I think a new origin story is necessary to show that Marvel cares deeply about these characters, and that they’re committed to getting them right before we even start thinking about things like Galactus, or Silver Surfer, or Doctor Doom. Luckily, the MCU is currently setting up Kang the Conqueror, who seems like the perfect first-film villain for the Fantastic Four, if you ask me. He’ll already have been introduced in Loki or Ant-Man 3 by that point, so the film won’t need to waste any time revealing his backstory to audiences.

As for what a proper origin story would entail, well…I’ve always felt that the Fantastic Four should be time-travelers from the 1960’s, and that’s a pretty popular theory, but they don’t necessarily have to be. In the comics, they obtain their individualized superpowers after exposure to cosmic rays during a scientific space mission gone wrong: Reed Richards, the team’s leader, becomes a super-stretchy human rubberband (a similar powerset to that of Kamala Khan, whom we’ll see in Ms. Marvel prior to Richards’ own appearance); Sue Storm, who I hope is more than just “Reed’s girlfriend” this time around, is able to turn herself invisible and create force-shields; Johnny Storm, Sue’s hotheaded teenage brother, gains the ability to set himself on fire and fly; while Ben Grimm, Richards’ best friend, is permanently transformed into a massive, self-loathing rock-monster. In the comics, they were among the first superheroes not to wear disguises, preferring to use their newfound celebrity status as a way of bringing attention to scientific breakthroughs – something that is admittedly a cool idea, but not that fresh in the MCU anymore.

Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four | filmdaily.co

Thanks to Reed Richards’ obsession with time travel, quantum physics, and world-hopping, the Fantastic Four are intricately tied up with all the biggest villains in the Marvel Universe: particularly those who threaten the timeline, like Kang the Conqueror and Doctor Doom, or those who threaten to devour the world itself, like the cosmic being Galactus. But the fact that they have such epic enemies and high-stakes battles makes it all the more crucial that their first film in the MCU is smaller and more personal, with a strong focus on family.

So what do you think? How would you recommend Marvel proceed with this long-awaited adaptation? And who’s your favorite Fantastic Four character? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!