Hannibal Lecter, Lex Luthor, Darth Vader and... Loki?
It might seem a bit premature to place the trickster god of Marvel's cinematic universe in the pantheon of these iconic big-screen villains, but after seeing Tom Hiddleston's most recent turn as Loki in Thor: The Dark World, I can't help thinking he deserves to be mentioned alongside some of Hollywood's most famous bad guys.
Fortunately, with three films on his resume already and talk of a solo project buzzing around the online world, it's not a very difficult argument to make.
Historically, villains who aren't set up to be the centerpiece of the film like Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger tend to be one-and-done roles. Outside of slashers and that sort of horror fare, franchises that get away with bringing a bad guy back for an encore are rare, and when they do try it, the project is usually destined for the bargain bin.
That's why characters like “Hannibal the Cannibal,” Superman's arch enemy, Luke Skywalker's dad, and other villains who make the transition from supporting character to franchise-spanning villain stand out from the crowd.
After his debut as everyone's favorite man-eater in Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins reprised his role as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in 2001's Hannibal, which put more of the spotlight on his unique, well... tastes. Similarly, villains like Lex Luthor, Darth Vader and more recently, Magneto (in the X-Men movie-verse) all tested the limits of audiences' willingness to spend more time with a familiar, albeit sinister, face. Heck, Christopher Nolan has suggested that if it weren't for his untimely death, Heath Ledger would have reportedly returned for another turn as Joker in the follow-up to The Dark Knight.
Meanwhile, Hiddleston's Loki has served as the villain in three wildly successful films over the last two years, including one of the highest grossing movies of all time (The Avengers). Not bad for a character who was widely considered a second-tier comic book villain, eh?
Still, there remains some resistance to putting him on the A-list pedestal. And I get that. I really do.
Prior to seeing Thor: The Dark World, I wondered (publicly) whether this would finally be the film that tipped me into Loki overload. Hiddleston's performance was my favorite part of Thor, sure – and he only upped the ante in The Avengers. Even so, it seemed highly unlikely that a third film pairing Thor and his adopted brother would do anything but wear out his welcome. After all, that sort of honor is reserved for characters like Darth Vader and the other, aforementioned iconic villains.
That's why I was so shocked to discover that the polar opposite proved true: The Dark World only made me eager for the next movie to feature Loki.
Like the desire to see more of a certain Sith Lord or the mutant Master of Magnetism, Hiddleston has made us want to see more of Loki, and every bit of the character we do see only makes us more excited about him. Every line of dialogue or shift in expression seems to hint at something even more interesting lurking in his backstory, and rather than see Thor face off against different villains, I can't help wondering how Loki would confound different heroes – something we got a taste of in The Avengers.
And now that talk has turned to a potential Loki movie, we just might get that chance. Fingers crossed!
Rick Marshall is an award-winning writer and editor whose work can be found at Movies.com, as well as MTV News, Fandango, Digital Trends, IFC.com, Newsarama, and various other online, print, and on-air news outlets. He's been called a “Professional Geek” by ABC News and Spike TV, and is still not quite sure how he ended up writing (and talking) about comics, video games, and movies for a living. His personal blog can be found at MindPollution.org, and you can find him on Twitter as @RickMarshall.
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