Thursday, November 30, 2023

Break reality and keep Marvel weird

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Earlier this week, Disney + released a new trailer for the upcoming Marvel series Loki. Like most of these trailers, it starts off quietly – Tom Hiddleston’s God of Mischief was summoned to a meeting with Owen Wilson’s Mobius M. Mobius, a Time Variance Authority agent – and then it gets very loud and nervous. . There’s action and knife throwing, and jokes about Loki’s ability to tell the truth (he can’t). It’s funny and a little offbeat – and a good reminder that Marvel should stay in its weird lane for as long as possible.

Technically, this lane exists next to the main highway in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Loki, as you may remember, died in Avengers: Infinity War. But when the Avengers succeeded in their “time hold” in End of Game and returned to the events of the original Avengers movie, Loki grabbed the Tesseract and escaped, causing all sorts of alternate realities to open up. (I could explain this in more detail, but instead suggest taking a tip from my colleague Adam Rogers: Do not worry. That’s not super important.) The goal, then, of Loki both a spectacle and a piece of the Marvel puzzle, is that he’s been tasked by TVA to clean up his own mess. He’s still technically gone, but here he can live up to his old stuff.

This is perhaps the best gift the Disney + Marvel TV universe has given us. While Netflix Marvel shows like, say, Jessica jones and Luke cage has used everything from streaming to give the MCU a dark side, more family-friendly Disney + shows have fully leaned towards the weird. (Although not Doctor Strange. Yet.) The first, of course, was WandaVision, who increased the weirdness by giving the Scarlet Witch a bunch of TV tropes to bend and twist at her will. It might have ended in a great superhero fight like every other Marvel property, but in its quieter (better) moments it worked wonders just by acknowledging the fact that, hey, The Avengers are probably super weird when they walk around the house. It took the Superhero Sitcom vibe from DC Extended Universe shows like Super girl and Flash, and made it more meta. A brilliant turn.

My hope if I’m allowed to have one here is that Loki goes even further. In a way, you have to; it’s woven into the character. He’s the ultimate trickster, and his quirk – like when he masquerades as his own father, changing shape at the drop of a hat – is sort of the whole thing. (He’s also played by Hiddleston, who channels his Shakespeare Thespian energy so well into the character, he’s both a villain and a tragicomic hero.) In this new show, they call Loki a “variant” – different from that. who died before. An alien in a different timeline, able to Quantum leap its way into its own sandbox and wreaks as much havoc as it fixes.

In an ideal world, there are plenty of upcoming Disney + shows that will. The juggernaut that is the MCU is great, but many of its best moments happen when our tireless heroes don’t save the universe. When Captain Marvel has a verbal argument with Rocket Raccoon; when Lebowski Thor plays video games; when Ant-Man does ant things. Theoretically, as the universe enters its next Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness phase it will become more difficult (hence that title), but movies will still be movies and will require all whiz-bang kapow! fit into an orderly operating time of two hours. With television, an entire episode can just be a side quest full of gags, quirky characters, and other ephemera that would never make it to the big screen. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier this is good, but the biggest problem is that it looks too much like a very long Captain America movie. That’s not a bad thing, but not the surreal ride with the gang that a Disney + show could be, if it wanted to.

Based on the latest trailer, Loki could be the best of both worlds – the action of Falcon with the quirky character of WandaVision. A show about the outoxing of a fox with a bit of Kill Eve energy. (One can only hope…) “You picked up the Tesseract, shattering reality,” Mobius M. Mobius told Loki halfway, “I want you to help us fix it. Hoping he never does.

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