Following the relative disappointment of Iron Man 2, I quite enjoyed Marvel’s next outing, Thor. I liked Kenneth Branagh’s take on the iconic superhero and Chris Hemsworth’s performance well enough, but I found myself fixated on Tom Hiddleston as his nuanced portrayal of Loki stole the show. Hiddleston is an extensively trained English actor, attending Cambridge and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He’s already appeared in films from Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, and Terrence Davies, and next month he reprises the role of Loki in The Avengers.
Superhero movies have a tendency to be viewed as simply brainless popcorn fare, with little recognition given to the truly great works of art (The Dark Knight was famously overlooked for a Best Picture Oscar nomination many thought was in the bag). Hiddleston has taken it upon himself to write an extremely effective editorial in defense of the superhero genre as a reflection on humanity. Hit the jump for more.
Hiddleston penned the editorial for The Guardian, in which he begins by pointing out how many legendary actors have shined in so-called superhero movies. From Jack Nicholson to Heath Ledger, “some of the greatest actors have turned superheroes into serious business.” Hiddleston points out that, through mythology, superhero movies shed light on humanity itself:
“Superhero films offer a shared, faithless, modern mythology, through which these truths can be explored. In our increasingly secular society, with so many disparate gods and different faiths, superhero films present a unique canvas upon which our shared hopes, dreams and apocalyptic nightmares can be projected and played out.”
Hiddleston continues by drawing parallels with ancient cultures:
“Ancient societies had anthropomorphic gods: a huge pantheon expanding into centuries of dynastic drama; fathers and sons, martyred heroes, star-crossed lovers, the deaths of kings – stories that taught us of the danger of hubris and the primacy of humility. It’s the everyday stuff of every man’s life, and we love it. It sounds cliched, but superheroes can be lonely, vain, arrogant and proud. Often they overcome these human frailties for the greater good. The possibility of redemption is right around the corner, but we have to earn it.”
“The Hulk is the perfect metaphor for our fear of anger; its destructive consequences, its consuming fire. There’s not a soul on this earth who hasn’t wanted to ‘Hulk smash’ something in their lives. And when the heat of rage cools, all that we are left with is shame and regret. Bruce Banner, the Hulk’s humble alter ego, is as appalled by his anger as we are.”
Hiddleston goes on to cite the most famous characters in comic book lore:
“That other superhero Bruce – Wayne – is the superhero-Hamlet: a brooding soul, misunderstood, alone, for ever condemned to avenge the unjust murder of his parents. Captain America is a poster boy for martial heroism in military combat: the natural leader, the war hero. Spider-Man is the eternal adolescent – Peter Parker’s arachnid counterpart is an embodiment of his best-kept secret – his independent thought and power.”
I was a big fan of Hiddleston before this editorial, and I’m an even bigger fan now. He’s a tremendous talent and could certainly turn his back on superhero films to strictly stick to dramatic or indie fare, but it’s refreshing to see him embrace the genre so wholeheartedly and to defend it so passionately. Now if he wasn’t so damned evil…