Despite what a lot of people have been trying to tell me, Loki is, in fact, a villain.
I agree. He absolutely, 100% IS a villain. What makes him so compelling as a character, to me, is the fact that I can see how he got there. [Ignoring the comics, because I’m pretty sure the CURRENT MASSIVE fan-worship is all coming from Hiddleston’s portrayl of him.] In Thor he is presented to us as, intially, a damaged kid. You can SEE his desperate need for acceptance and a sense of self-worth, something he clearly doesn’t have for himself.
And the reaction he has when he learns the truth of his origins? ABSOLUTE FEAR. He has been taught his whole life to despise and be afraid of the SPECIES THAT HE IS. That’s a fucked up thing for someone to go through. And he makes a whole series of VERY WRONG CALLS throughout that movie in his confusion. [And there is a LOT of confusion. Check out the deleted scene of his coronation, and note the tears in his eyes during several of the confrontations with his family.] And by the end, when he let’s go of Thor’s hand? There’s no plan there. He just gives up. Maybe he thinks he might survive, but all evidence points towards him not giving a fuck if he does. He ends that movie a damaged, confused - but redeemable - person.
THEN he shows up in The Avengers and HOLY FUCK he’s gone insane. Mass-murdering, psychopathic INSANE. He is no longer just the antagonist, BUT THE VILLAIN. The things he does and says CLEARLY define him as such. But still, there are tiny little cracks in the facade that show the same lost soul underneath. SOMETHING CLEARLY FUCKING HAPPENED between his fall from Asgard and his arrival on Earth that pushed him away from Chaotic Neutral and smack-dab into Chaotic Evil. Think about how WASTED he looks when he first arrives on Earth. The dark circles under his eyes, the chapped lips and pasty skin? Does that LOOK like a person who hasn’t suffered through some serious shit? The thing is, we have NO IDEA what that shit might have been. But, whatever it was, it has obviously done a number on him.
And the thing is, because of how WELL his character arc has been developed, how well he has been written and portrayed, the audience, the FANS, can still see in him what Thor does: that scared, lost kid desperate for acceptance and his own place in the universe. They can still see someone who can be redeemed.
And yeah, the kind of penance he’d have to pay in order to accomplish is pretty damn high. But he’s effectively immortal, THERE’S TIME. And that possibility, that CHANCE, is what makes him [for me at least] such a damn enticing character.
Because a character that never has to struggle with their decisons, that has clear lines drawn in the sand for right and wrong? One that is clearly good or clearly evil? They’re nice. They move stories along in predictable directions and offer us [the audience] someone to root for or despise. But the in between characters. The ones who are uncertain, scared, hurt, desperate? The ones who make the wrong calls, and who KEEP MAKING the wrong calls because the hole they’ve dug for themself has gotten so deep that they don’t see any way out then through the other side? THOSE are the ones who I connect with, whose full story I want to learn. THOSE are the ones that make me want to understand. THOSE are the ones with a character arc DESPERATELY in need of closure.
The good guys and the bad guys? We know where their story ends. Sure, it’s interesting to see them get there, but its a forgone conclusion that they will. And if we had been presented with Loki only as he was in The Avengers without his history in Thor? Maybe I’d be more inclined to lump him in the category of ‘evil villain who will certainly lose and stay evil through the end.’ BUT HE WASN’T PRESENTED THAT WAY. And so no, his ending is not clear. HE COULD STILL GO EITHER WAY. He’s living on a pendulum, swinging between good and neutral and evil, and we don’t know where he’s going to end up.
(Anyone who doubts the ‘good’ part I want you to think of WHY he did what he did in Thor. Think about what he had hoped to accomplish. Was he jealous of Thor? HELL YES. Did he want him gone? Obviously. But the driving force behind his actions was wanting his father’s acceptance, and to prove his loyalty to Asgard. YES he tried to commit genocide on the Jotunn (THAT’S BAD), but that was what THOR had implied he wanted to do as well. (‘I’ll kill them all!’) So Loki, in his fear and confusion, sets out to remove a threat to Asgard in a VERY FINAL WAY, in a way that has the benefit of removing any evidence of his own birth and helping him to bury the part of himself that he hates, and yet ALSO [in his mind] emulates Thor. A clearly GOOD (if occasionally immature) person. His actions were deplorable, but his motivations weren’t that heinous - not when you really think about it. He wanted his world to be SAFE and he wanted to be loved. These aren’t bad things. In fact, they sound kind of good, don’t they? He just went about it in a truly awful way.)
The point is, his character arc is incomplete. He has swung from scared kid to antagonist to villain. And now, WE WANT TO SEE WHERE HE ENDS UP. THAT is why we love this character. THAT is why we find him so interesting. THAT is why we are so invested. Because a character with an uncertain future who may be redeemed or who may go fully off the deep end into evil-town? One whose ending is still a question mark? THAT is one whose story is worth watching.
Sure, maybe some folks are just woobifying him because Tom Hiddleston is cute, but whatever. They can watch the movies with the sound off, no skin off my nose. That’s not why I’m here, and I don’t think that’s why most of Loki’s fans are here. Maybe some of them are too young to articulate it, but I think most of them understand the spirit of why they give a shit about this character’s story, even if they choose to express their interest through adorable gifs. *shrugs* That’s my story and I’m sticking too it.
Tl;dr: Movie!Loki is such a damn interesting character because we got to WATCH him become a villain, and yet evidence that he could be redeemed (as unlikely as that it is) remains, so his ending is still an unknown. And that’s pretty fucking cool.