Does Disney+ have its Mandalorian-killer? Read the following spoiler-free review to find out:
The new series, Loki, starts off on about as strong of footing as you could hope for in a new series. Tom Hiddleston is phenomenal. Owen Wilson is superb. The world of the Time Keepers is actually believable, as opposed to previous attempts at different worlds and dimensions that often felt devoid of grounding. Timeless, bureaucratic hell is a heck of a thing for Marvel to pull off, but pull it off they have.
There are some qualms, but they’re minor. Without knowing the lore of the multiverse wars in Marvel, it does seem that it would have been fun to have the world Loki finds himself in be more representative of timelessness. As is, the characters of this world seem to wear attire that matches with modern clothing. The architecture, on the other hand, looks to be an amalgamation of many times from many cultures — which is very cool and very immersive.
The dialogue in the script is abundant but never tedious. Loki is placed into seemingly-impossible situations, which are escaped with clever deus ex machinas that never feel too cheating. The episode stops at a great point for building-suspense as to where this series is ultimately going. It appears the winner in all of this is Michael Waldron, who was picked up out of relative obscurity (a custodian for Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon at the studios of Rick and Morty). This is a tremendous start for the series, and it’s more clear now how Mr. Waldron’s talent was noticed. It makes a heck of a case for meritocracy that someone can be discovered in such a different position and then rise up to leading a Marvel series in no time.
We’ve also got to mention that director Kate Herron does a stellar job. I’m running out of adjectives. This world feels real and has the gravitas it needs to not be just a series of backdrops. I think we can all remember how Cloud City originally felt in Star Wars, or how Asgard could feel in earlier Marvel films. They were supposed to represent real places, but that’s quite difficult. Mrs. Herron does a great job of having a cohesive feel so that the audience buys into this three-dimensional, inter-dimensional metropolis. My one big critique is going to be that we know there are extraterrestrial beings all throughout the Marvel space universe… so why are all the inhabitants here essentially humans? Budget would be my guess.
There’s no telling how Loki will go from here. We’ve heard previews of the second episode that suggest it remains just as strong. But can the series finish as well as it’s starting? I don’t know the answer to that, but this is no WandaVision… this thing may just be excellent the whole way through. And just like WandaVision ended strongly because Vision had a deep psychological conundrum that you don’t often see in a comic book script, Loki starts off so strong because it does a deep dive into what exactly makes Loki the villain (or antihero) that he’s been thus far.
Mr. Chapek, get the Mickey Money ready. You owe the people running this series a raise, and fast. This might just be what Disney+ was beginning to desperately need.
Is it better than The Mandalorian? Well… it’s better than the first episode of The Mandalorian, and we’ll see where exactly that takes us.
Update: 1:05 PM EST, 6/9/21
We’re going to take the very unusual step of issuing a clarification about the review you’ve just read. Spoiler in this clarification.
There’s been a criticism that Loki is a horrible series because it teaches predestination and lack of agency in human decision-making – which therefore renders all the heroism and drama of the MCU moot. When I wrote this review, I was aware of that issue, BUT I’m assuming based on the writing that the series is going to take that viewpoint head on as being WRONG. If we get to the end of this series, and it’s essentially a Sam Harrisian belief in zero freedom of choice because everything can be boiled down to a series of cause and effect with no free will… except by the “space lizards” known as the Timekeepers watching over the TVA… well, at that point, I’ll join others in calling this bullocks. But I have a feeling that the series is going to speak out against that philosophy. Surely we’re not at the point, even as far as I know Hollywood has thus far gone, where the moral of a story is “nothing matters”. Okay, okay, maybe that was the lesson of Last Jedi, but surely they wouldn’t try it again. Anyway, we’re aware of the criticism, but we’re hopeful that Marvel isn’t so awful as to push lack of freewill as a positive force for good. We’ll let you know if that hopefulness diminishes.
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