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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Loki, Disney’s Latest Nihilist Hero

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Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in a scene from the new Disney+ show. (Marvel Entertainment/via YouTube) Moral relativism for die-hard Marvel fans

Not just for Marvel die-hards, Loki gives the shape-shifting trickster — derived from Norse mythology as Thor’s adversary and last seen in Avengers: Endgame (2019) — his own storyline in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This six-part Disney+ television series tells us nothing about that old literature-class bromide about man’s inhumanity to man, but it says a lot about the blatant commercialization of narrative.

Because schools apparently no longer teach interpretation, cathexis, or exegesis, Marvel and Disney’s inhumanity to viewers is as brazen as Loki himself, the god of mischief played by tall, lanky Tom Hiddleston, whose pale skin and dark, flowing mane stylizes today’s fashionable gender and moral chaos.

The TV show-runners behind Loki use Hiddleston’s paycheck androgyny to disrupt notions of good and evil. They diddle with the narrative — further convoluting the Marvel plot ideas about timelines and Time Keepers — to get viewers wrapped up in silly minutiae. After Endgame, Loki takes the Tesseract cube and enters a new dimension where he must stand trial before the Time Variation Authority (TVA). This story arc exposes the makers’ cynicism, while discombobulated viewers commit themselves to Hollywood venality.

Marvel and Disney’s travesty is unacceptable following Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a visionary narrative that was a restoration in the grandest sense, enlarging its characters’ personal, principled choices. Snyder’s sensual, kinetic imagery gave aesthetic substance, emotional weight, and suspense to human dilemma, even when told through the analogies of godlike or superhuman figures.

The fact that Loki is flimsy and doesn’t take itself seriously is part of the Marvel-Disney problem. Director Kate Herron and writer Michael Waldron don’t have Snyder’s chops — the only visually interesting moments occur when Loki traipses his way past panoramic views of the TVA that’s in another dimension (ripping off both Lord of the Rings and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets). Herron and Waldron settle for comic-book, sci-fi pastiche in which the narrative is reduced to the tongue-in-cheekiness that

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