Monday, June 21, 2021

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A Slightly Underwhelming Start to Time Travel Hijinks



The God of Mischief comes to TV in the MCU’s time-traveling, theremin-fueled mix of Catch Me If You Can, The Adjustment Bureau, and Tenet. Loki has Tom Hiddleston’s duplicitous Asgardian running afoul of the Time Variance Authority (TVA). The premiere episode answers what happened to Loki after his escape during the “time heist” in Avengers: Endgame. The show has Loki addressing his misdeeds while still being a conniving trickster. Loki sets up intriguing possibilities for the character, but doesn’t seem to have the creativity or thematic heft of WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Fans looking for a more direct comic book adaptation will be pleased.

Loki opens immediately after he steals the Tesseract in the 2012 lobby of Avengers tower. But before he can snarkily resume his humanity conquering, he gets a visit from B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) and an ass-kicking squad of Minutemen, temporal patrol officers from the Time Variance Authority. Loki gets a reality check as he’s whisked away for altering the timeline and dubbed a “Variant”.

After a hilarious introduction to the TVA by their clock-shaped cartoon mascot, Miss Minutes (Tara Strong), Loki is introduced to his case officer, Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson). He’s in serious trouble and facing a severe penalty. But he may be able to mitigate his sentence by helping the TVA address a problem. Mobius, much to the consternation of B-15 and a TVA judge (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), believes Loki‘s criminal nature may be exactly what’s needed to assist in another troublesome case.

There’s a lot of explaining done in the premiere. Loki, like the audience, has no idea what’s happening or that this extremely powerful organization even exists. The best bits are Loki coming to terms with being powerless and ultimately accepting his fate under control of the TVA. Owen Wilson’s Mobius schtick is pretty much his standard comedy delivery. The TVA is a by-the-numbers bureaucracy with characters, at least in the premiere, that are rigid. Tom Hiddleston juxtaposes the ensemble cast by going through a wide range of emotions. The Loki here does not have the character growth of the later MCU films. He’s forced into introspection. We’ll see if the character ends up in the same moral place as he did in the Thor sequels and Avengers: Infinity War.

The TVA setting is a brown, muted, 60s era dull Mad Men-esque office. This is in stark contrast to the time jumping adventures they engage in. The production design reminded me of The Adjustment Bureau, but more outwardly cinematic to illustrate the TVA’s tedium. What becomes annoying as hell is the grating score. Natalie Holt’s (Herself, Knightfall) music is led primarily by the eerie sounding theremin. The electronic instrument sets a creepy mood when done sparingly, but it’s a full on theremin onslaught any time you see the TVA. I honestly cannot think of another instance in film or TV where the theremin was used as much.

Loki gets off to a decent, if slightly underwhelming start. It doesn’t grab you like the first two MCU TV series. WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier felt shot out of a cannon. Their premieres were utterly gripping. We’ll see if Loki builds to that level. There is a cliffhanger to the first episode, so the series has ample opportunity to blow fandom away. Loki is produced by Marvel Studios. The premiere debuts June 9th with episodes dropping every following Wednesday for five weeks, exclusively on Disney+.



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