I realize that this seems to be an odd time to write about Thor: The Dark World. 9 months after the release of The Avengers and 11 months before the release of the Thor sequel, there doesn’t seem to be much cause to write about the film. Nonetheless, I want to take this opportunity, before the trailer is released and the press reveals more of the plot, to pen down, not what I think will happen in the movie, but what I feel ought to happen. More specifically, I want to address Loki and how it is necessary that he die in the film.
Quite simply, there are four possible venues for Loki’s character to take in Thor: Dark World. He can survive as a villain; he can die as a villain; he can survive as a good guy; or he can die a redemptive death. Of these possible outcomes, it is the last that would best serve Loki’s character and, consequently, the Thor film franchise.
We still know fairly little about the premise of Thor: The Dark World but since Malekith is going to be the primary antagonist, it seems clear that Loki isn’t going to be focus of the film. This poses the possibility that he might slip into the background and complete the film unchanged. The greatest problem with Loki surviving Thor: The Dark World unredeemed, though, is that his potency, as a villain, is going to dwindle with every appearance he makes following The Avengers. Thor: The Dark World is his last chance to exit the franchise a useful character. Quite simply, Loki has had his ass handed to him too many times to ever pose a real threat again. Granted, he made an intimidating villain in The Avengers after his miserable failure in Thor but only because of his character development between the two films. His villainy, insanity and power had escalated enough by the time he entered The Avengers that it was hard to believe, at times, that he was the same baddie who got taken down by his big brother in Thor. But Loki can’t escalate any further now. He can’t get any meaner. He can’t get any crazier. There is nothing he can do to reinvent himself enough to make us take him seriously as a bad guy again. He has hit the ceiling of villainous escalation and can only plateau from here on out. The greatest he can hope to accomplish, as an antagonist, in Thor: The Dark World and in all subsequent films is as the sidekick of the primary villain, an obsequious position unbefitting the god who nearly took over the earth, once.
So, a scenario in which Loki dies a villain in Thor: The Dark World is preferable to the previous scenario I’ve just discussed in so much as it would spare him from becoming a washed up Marvel has-been. That said, it would still be an unsatisfying exit for the character after both Thor and The Avengers hinted at the possibility of his redemption. While perhaps not as misunderstood or as innocent as the more extreme branches of his fandom portray him to be, Loki is one of the more sympathetic cinematic super villains in recent memory. His tear streaks in Thor and Phil Coulson’s dying assertion that he “lacks conviction” in The Avengers are among the moments in both films that contribute to an image of Loki that is not entirely evil and, therefore, capable of change. At any rate, the possibility of Loki’s redemption is a hot topic in the online buzz for Thor: The Dark World and both Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston have commented on the subject. Whether Marvel Studios intended for audiences to have such sentiments towards Loki or not, the fact is that there is anticipation among the fans that Loki will be redeemed in Thor: The Dark World. To kill Loki off unchanged would be to extinguish audiences’ hope for him and while it is silly to take fictional characters and events too seriously, hope is something that human beings cling to and should not be revoked, even in a fictional context.
So it seems that Loki has to redeem himself in Thor: The Dark World but for the sake of the movie’s tone and the integrity of the character he has to die in doing so. Redemptive character arcs are difficult to pull off. They can so easily come off as contrived or cheesy, especially if the change doesn’t cost the character anything. Indeed, I struggle to imagine a conclusion to Thor: The Dark World in which Thor and Loki mend their relationship that isn’t a cringeworthy ham-fest. It would be best for the tone of the film if the quaintness of Loki’s return to “the good side” is balanced out by tragedy. Beyond the delicate matter of tone, though, there is a moral component to take into consideration. Mainstream filmmaking tends to adhere to a strict moral code that demands retribution for wrongdoings. In Brett Easton Ellis’ novel, Imperial Bedrooms, for example, the narrator explains that Julian Wells dies in the film, Less Than Zero, because “he had to be punished for all of his sins … it’s what all movies demanded.” Now, as a rule I find this mindset to be inflexible and oblivious to the ambiguities of human nature. However, in Loki’s case I do find it appropriate that he pay for his sins. The fact is that Loki has committed some truly terrible crimes (the murder of Phil Coulson being, perhaps not the most heinous, but certainly the most remembered). It would be unfulfilling, therefore, for Loki to be allowed to rejoin the “good guys” without paying for the blood that he has spilt.
I am cautiously hopefully for a sacrificial death that is in the vein of Siege#4 in which Loki is killed by the Void for aiding superheroes in the defense of Asgard. Despite his echo’s later claim in Journey Into Mystery #622 that he planned his own death (which I thought a self-contradictory and contrived way to maintain the contrast between Kid Loki and his former self), I would very much like for this scene to serve as a template for Loki’s death in Thor: The Dark World. It effectively removes Loki from the storyline yet his death doesn’t seem forced or unnecessary because it is by performing the very act that kills him that he redeems himself.
This is my hope for Loki in Thor: The Dark World. I am not asserting that this is what will happen in the film (Lord knows filmmakers don’t always make the right decisions); this is what I hope will happen. Only November 8th 2013 will prove if I’m right or not.