In the sprawling Marvel universe, Loki (shown here) has always been an anomaly.
This is a world of good intentions and great physiques. It’s a place where superpowers (plus super suits and shields and hammers and such) can save us from fierce villains.
Then there’s Loki, the “God of Mischief.” He’s a trickster who uses his tricks mainly to help himself. He’s sly and selfish and scheming; he’s perfect for a TV series.
So now “Loki” has its quick run on the Disney+ streaming service. Two episodes arrive Wednesday (June 9), with weekly ones for four more Wednesdays.
This finds him on his own … which is his fault. He stole the Tesseract cube, expecting it would give him great power; instead, it plunked him into a desert and then into a timeline-police prison.
It’s soon clear that “Loki” reflects three Disney trends:
– Clever comedy scripts. That goes back 25 years, to the original “Toy Story,” which drew an Academy Award nomination for best original script. Witty writing, we soon learned, can exist inside any genre.
– Mixing genres. This year, “WandaVision” brilliantly ranged from black-and-white situation comedy to colorful science fiction. Now “Loki” is happy to drift into odd moments. There’s even a cheery animated section welcoming Loki to the Time Variance Authority. It’s sort of like those little videos we see while waiting for Disney World rides … except that the TVA uses capital punishment.
– And fresh ways to use Shakespearean actors in science fiction.
Certainly, those actors have always had their place in fantasy. From Alec Guinness and James Earl Jones in “Star Wars” to Patrick Stewart, William Shatner and Avery Brooks in “Star Trek” shows, stars have had Shakespearean roots.
Mainly, however, they’ve played captains or other authority figures. Disney has mixed it up.
Kenneth Branagh, a brilliant director/star of Shakespearean movies, was hired to direct a sci-fi epic – “Thor” (2011) – and then a fairy tale, “Cinderella” (2015). For the former, he cast Tom Hiddleston (who had played his assistant in the first round of “Wallander” detective episodes) as Loki.
Hiddleston is a gifted actor in Shakespeare dramas, but this role lets him go in quirky directions.
When Loki is stared at by desert nomads, his first instinct is to stand on a rock and proclaim himself their god. When he’s in prison, his scenes with his keeper (Owen Wilson) are gems.
Here are two comedy masters, colliding with subtle skill. This should be a fun six weeks.