Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

I enjoyed the Avengers movie quite a bit, but I did have some problems with it, and one of them is Loki. In Thor, Loki was a complex, nuanced, somewhat sympathetic antagonist; in The Avengers he’s just pure malevolence, which is less interesting.

Actually that was my chief quarrel with the second Hulk movie too. In the first Hulk movie (which of course isn’t strictly part of the Avengers continuity, but the second Hulk movie picked up so many narrative strands from the first that it’s hard to treat it as purely separate either), General Ross was likewise a complex, nuanced, somewhat sympathetic antagonist, and one who was opposed to the human experimentation that led to Banner’s condition; in the second Hulk movie Ross is more straightforwardly villainous (albeit not completely so) and is actually carrying on human experimentation himself.

19 Responses to Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

  1. Thomas L. Knapp May 8, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    I’m not sure I saw the same movie you did. In the one I saw, Loki’s fairly complex. He feels like he’s been wronged and robbed of the stature due him, he’s trying to claw his way back up to that stature, he has to prove himself to his backers, so he chooses a project that he thinks will simultaneously be fairly easy AND let him get back at his brother (whom he blames for much of this), and gets a series of nasty surprises.

    So I don’t think it’s so much that Loki lacks nuance as that even in a 2+ hour movie, his character’s complexities are necessarily wallpaper versus those of multiple “lead opponents” and THEIR interactions. Because the movie isn’t really about “Loki’s invading earth with an army of monsters,” it’s about “let’s put together a team of superheroes … but we need a reason for them to get together …”

    • Roderick May 8, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

      But didn’t he come across as a complete asshole in The Avengers? In a way that he didn’t in Thor?

  2. Nick Ford May 8, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    Roderick, I think it’s worth noting that Loki was already developed in the Thor movie and that the focus of The Avengers was…well…the Avengers. So although I understand what you’re saying and why you’re saying it I don’t think the plot could’ve been much more complex. Loki’s origins had already been worked out and his character had been (more or less for the movie’s standards” satisfied enough.

    That’s not to say they couldn’t have done more or moreover that they shouldn’t have but just that I think that with all of the further character development and work on the Avengers themselves I just don’t think they had the time.

  3. Nick Ford May 8, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    “Because the movie isn’t really about “Loki’s invading earth with an army of monsters,” it’s about “let’s put together a team of superheroes … but we need a reason for them to get together …””

    Woops, Mr. Knapp has already said basically my POV but I guess that’s one of the few lines in his post I skipped over. Ah well.

    • Roderick May 8, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

      But again, that’s no reason to make him such an asshole.

      • Nick Ford May 8, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

        Well he is the bad guy after all so I suppose some level of assholeishness is just a given. But maybe they went over-board? If so I guess never really noticed.

        In the end it was just standard “take over the world” stuff mixed in with revenge and family drama with aliens and believing people are “naturally” inclined to love subjugation (which was interesting but also boring and as an anarchist was worthy of a heavy eye roll on my part).

        I don’t know if there’s a good reason to make Loki seem so…non-complex but I think Mr. Knapp’s reasons suffice and make enough sense to me.

        • Roderick May 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

          I suppose some level of assholeishness is just a given. But maybe they went over-board? If so I guess never really noticed.

          His speech to Natasha (including calling her a “mewling quim”) seemed over the top, and beneath Loki.

  4. Thomas L. Knapp May 8, 2012 at 7:28 pm #


    Yes, I guess on re-thinking they made him more of a thorough asshole than I would have.

    But, I did experience more nuance/complexity than you seem to have there. He’s caught in between things — childish arrogance about being a god, but still having someone he has to answer/prove himself to, and a brother he both wants to be like and deeply resents. For me, that all came through, even if in muted form.

    And, of course, the final fighting sequence — I don’t want to spoil, but it’s kind of a “hmm, maybe being a god doesn’t mean you can’t get pwned” realization moment.

  5. Grabrich May 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    Very enjoyable movie. One of the best lines (but hardly mentioned), is the one Stark says to Cap: “We’re not soldiers!”. The way RDJ said it, & the context used, made it stand out for me.

    On another note, I hope the Cap sequel has a significant portion that takes place prior to Avengers, because there needs to be more of his coping with the modern world that was absent from The Avengers (other than a few comedic moments). Apparently the deleted scenes have some more emotional (sad, bitter-sweet) moments. The Cap that appears in this movie, seems like he has adapted (for the most part) to the modern world (other than being befuddled by the occasional cultural reference).

    Even for a person with enhanced abilities, I would like to see him having difficulty in dealing with the deaths and/or old ages of people he knew from the past; his encountering of technological innovations (briefly touched upon in that scene where he says the machine “runs on some kind of electricity); reaction to Rock’n’Roll, womens’ lib, fashion changes, minority civil rights, landing on the moon, etc., etc.

    He does comment about the world having changed, and not necessarily for the better (eg. his exchange with Coulson when discussing the modified stars’n’stripes outfit). But the audience doesn’t get to see where he got this opionion/info from. I think a Cap sequel taking place before this movie could help with this character arc. Or maybe lots of flashbacks showing these man-out-of-time moments?

    Richard G.

    • Roderick May 9, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

      Another point: they’ve hinted at the possibility of adapting the “Civil War” story arc at some point. But as they’ve developed Cap and Stark so far, it’s hard to imagine them being on the respective sides they were on in the comics. Maybe they could reverse them. (Of course another problem is that Civil War naturally leads into Secret Invasion, which they can’t do if the rights to the Skrulls go with the Fantastic Four franchise, and Dark Reign, which they likewise can’t do if the rights to Osborn go with the Spider-man franchise).

  6. dennis May 9, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    I am taking my nephew to see this on Saturday. When I saw the post title I thought there was going to be a reference to “Carefree Highway.”

    • Roderick May 9, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

      Keep an eye out for both a mid-credits and a post-credits scene.

      • dennis May 10, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

        thank you for the heads up!

  7. MRDA May 16, 2012 at 5:36 am #

    I got the impression that Loki was more of a megalomaniacal naughty schoolboy playing a prank,rather than the apex of all evil; it befits a trickster god.

    The fact he doesn’t meet the same fate as previous villains in the Marvel movie canon shows that the protagonists viewed him in similar fashion.

    • Roderick May 17, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

      Loki undergoes an interesting progression in the source material (I mean the original source material — Norse mythology, not Marvel comics). He starts out as a trickster and prankster but not essentially malevolent and often actually helpful, then gradually becomes more and more resentful and malicious, and finally ends up essentially a Satan figure (in other words, the same arc as in the movies). There’s debate as to whether that’s part of his original mythological portrayal or instead the influence of Christianity’s Satan concept (since nearly all the written sources we have for Norse mythology were composed post-conversion).

  8. MRDA May 16, 2012 at 5:39 am #

    Also, a mainstream Marvel flick was the last place I expected to hear someone being effectively called a cunt, amusing as that was.

  9. Grabrich June 2, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    Here’s an interesting take on the story, “Why Loki Won in The Avengers”:

    Richard G.

  10. Dick G June 17, 2012 at 6:46 pm #


    Thought something looked familiar here!




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