I love a good villain. Really, I do. And I’ll be quite honest here; most of the reason I went to see Dark World was that I am an utterly shameless fanboy for Loki, as played in the Marvel films by Tom Hiddleston.
That’s not all of the reason, I hasten to add. Dark World is a visual feast that definitely merits viewing in 3D. It’s refreshingly involving for a Brit to see rampaging evil destroying dear old London for a change too, instead of some bland American cityscape. Plus I had a genuine “holy shit” moment when I realised the chief antagonist was actually Christopher Eccleston. Amazing what a few prosthetics can do (and just how far under a rock I live most of the time). But I grant you, a big part of it was getting my Loki fix.
Now it’s not about thinking the actor’s hot (although the greyhound build and aristocratic cheekbones hardly detract). No, Tom Hiddleston himself is a rather blond and polite sort of chap – a little bit mild for my taste. Chap is definitely the word: with a pedigree including Eton, Cambridge and RADA he’s an English thoroughbred if ever there was one. But he’s just a bit lacking in… oomph.
Loki, on the other hand, is glorious. I’m reminded of a conversation I once had with an ex-boyfriend, who was advertising a TV series to me on the grounds it featured Eliza Dushku.
“Point,” he replied.
Loki the character is a gift for anyone with a love of the moustache-twirl. The background of the character is a potent mix of pathos, vulnerability, mischief and rage – and Tom Hiddleston balances insanity against justifiable fury with aplomb. Dark World is not a subtle film, but from Hiddleston’s performance it’s genuinely hard to tell which of Loki’s lines are from the heart and which are just another layer in his armour of deceptions. Even to tell whether Loki himself would know. Fandom has imploded over Loki – the fan reaction in this video says it all – and part of that is the depth Hiddleston brings to an otherwise fairly, well, cartoonish character.
And that’s what I mean about villains. In my last post I was apologising, and taking the piss out of myself for doing it. But there’s something else about the English too – we understand complexity. It takes a nation of controlled and mannered people to understand what it’s like to be forced to express oneself in twisted, subtle ways. To be taught from an early age that some things are just not done and certain emotions must be sublimated lest you face the humiliation of their public appearance – that gives you a deeper feel for the truths of a character with a hidden, possibly darker inner life. I won’t spoil one of the two best Loki moments in the film, but reading Tom Hiddleston’s performance as a metaphor for that type of repressive personality makes it a joy.
I can see the fan appeal, too. That scorching mix of dewy-eyed inner pain and masterful bad boy – it could have been made to tweak the imagination. There’s also the way Hiddles (for thus he is known to fandom) and Robert Downey Jr shamelessly play up to the fanfic in interviews. It’s like they know or something. I also find it hilarious, given my general contention that male villainy equals effeminate qualities in my culture, that Hiddles is so willing to make with the doe eyes.
But then, what’s a villain if he doesn’t enjoy his job? And what’s a good actor if he doesn’t know how to game the whole system? From that point of view, Hiddles is good. Really good, in my humble estimation. He knows the game of showbiz, and he knows when to play with the rules instead of playing within them. That, at heart, is what acting is all about.
I just don’t think I’d want to be married to anyone who’s quite so good at playing a manipulative emotional time-bomb. There’s no good villain without fire…even if it’s cold.