'Loki' Review: Come Back, God of Mischief, All Is Forgiven
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead direct Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson and Ke Huy Quan in the solemn season two opener.
Do you enjoy picking up all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle after someone else has opened the box and spilled the contents onto the floor? Would you rather assemble the pieces by yourself or with a friend?
The season two premiere of Loki is like watching someone else tell you about each piece of a jigsaw puzzle, before they join the pieces together with glue. First, though, you have to pick up all the pieces from the floor by yourself.
I say this as a long-time admirer of directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, who have made a series of fiercely independent films that are richly imaginative, thoughtful, and often dazzling puzzles (Resolution, 2012; Spring, 2014; The Endless, 2017; Synchonic, 2019; Something in the Dirt, 2022). I enjoyed their recent departure into Marvel territory (Moon Knight, 2022). But the first four episodes of Loki, Season 2, have left me confused, somewhat perplexed, and disappointed.
Granted, Benson and Moorhead only direct the first and fourth episodes, and I believe episodes seven and eight. Also, they are not in charge of the series, nor are they the writers. (Eric Martin wrote the first episode and contributed to the others.) And strictly from the visual side of things, Episode 1, the only episode that's streaming so far, is quite marvelous to behold, with imagery that suggests the wonders of the universe are very much worth exploring with a child-like delight.
And since I've already seen the next three episodes -- thank you, kind publicists -- I know and can assure you that they improve in the clarity of the storytelling, with a concurrent increase in the variety of landscapes, which is touted at the end of Episode 1, with the visit of Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) to a McDonald's, sometime in the past, somewhere in the heartland of America.
To my mind, however, too much of the show is consumed by people explaining things, which weighed down the final episode of Season 1 as well. The Marvel Movie Power That Be (Kevin Feige) determined back in 2016 with Doctor Strange (2016) that the Marvel Multiverse was the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to feed upon itself and give birth to many more series and movies, and we've had to suffer with it ever since.
Marvel has made a multi-billion dollar meal out of its movies, so it's been successful on that score, which is the primary score for stockholders who, after all, finance all these movies. I suppose the other avenue to take would have been developing other characters from the comic books, which has met with mixed success at Marvel. (Hello, Eternals! Goodbye, Eternals.)
Or they could have traveled the DC path, which primarily has relied upon three main characters (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) by rebooting them ad infinitum, with other characters fizzling lately, leading them to call upon James Gunn … to reboot Superman, only younger, among other ideas (?!).
Getting back to Loki, the main challenge for me is that they stick Academy Award-winner Ke Huy Quan with the thankless role of Chief Explainer for the multiverse madness, and it's simply not fair to expect anyone to bring life to words that sound like they were lifted straight out of a printed book describing the Multiverse -- or Wikipedia. (Enjoy reading! I did.) What happened to Loki, God of Mischief? Well, he got deadly serious and decided to be heroic. And as you know, heroes are always deadly serious, and kind boring. That's the show so far.
In any event, come for Benson and Moorhead's visual talents and stay as long as you can stand the endless explaining and pios Loki. [Disney Plus]