A glance at the cast list for Thor: Love and Thunder reveals many fan favorites and Academy Award winners. We get Natalie Portman returning to the MCU as Jane Foster, Christian Bale and Russell Crowe crossing over from the DC Universe to play Gorr the God Butcher and Zeus, respectively. With Ragnarok standouts Korg and Valkyrie coming back, there’s really only one major franchise character missing in the latest Asgardian adventure: Loki, Thor’s half-brother and chief antagonist.
Some people consider this an unforgivable omission. After all, Loki has been part of Thor’s story even before either character appeared in Marvel Comics. The tension between the duplicitous trickster and arrogant thunder god has been the driving force in some of humanity’s finest stories in Norse Mythology and modern fantasy, as well as comic books. For many storytellers, Thor and Loki define one another.
Furthermore, Tom Hiddleston’s performance as Loki was integral to the MCU’s widespread success. Even more so than Chris Hemsworth, Loki was the breakout character of Thor, and Hiddleston’s charm and good looks brought the character to life for those early audiences. He returned in The Avengers as the perfect villain to bring together characters who headline their own movies, a worldwide threat that only Earth’s Mightiest Heroes could thwart.
But when people start to demand that Loki accompany Thor again in the newest movie, I can only respond by quoting the thunder god himself: “I say thee nay!”
Since The Avengers, Loki has played only a secondary role in Thor’s life. While the brothers certainly had some nice moments in The Dark World and Ragnarok, Loki no longer served as a driving force. He became a supporting member of Thor’s cast. Certainly, he was fun to watch – his cheer when Hulk smashes Thor in Ragnarok remains a highlight of the movie – but not essential. In fact, Thor seems utterly bored when Loki betrays him in that same movie, and boring is the last thing Loki should ever be.
Simply put, Thor no longer needs Loki. Where Thor was something of a joyless stiff in the first two movies, filmmakers have since discovered Hemsworth’s comic abilities, allowing them to give the thunder god new layers of personality. Hiddleston’s Loki cannot so easily be a mischievous foil when Thor himself has good jokes. In the hands of Taika Waititi, Loki has been reduced to one more goofy figure in Thor’s shadow, not the center of attention he once was.
The character of Thor has in many ways moved on from his brother’s shadow. He watched Loki die at Thanos’s hands in Infinity War, alongside many of his fellow Asgardians. Thor avenged Loki by killing Thanos at the start of Endgame, but the attack clearly lacked the resolution he sought. Only through a conversation with his mother Frigga and the return of his hammer Mjolnir could Thor find peace. And if the first Love and Thunder trailer is any indication, Thor will be moving on, no longer defining himself as the God of Thunder or as an Asgardian, which suggests that he has come to terms with life without Loki.
Furthermore, Loki no longer needs Thor. As a character, Loki has evolved past the point of being a mere antagonist or supporting player. He’s a protagonist in his own right, as demonstrated by the fact that he carries his own Disney+ series. With the Prime Loki dead and Variant Loki on a multiversal adventure with Sylvie, it seems like a step backward to now force him into a simple trickster role. Loki’s quest now takes him beyond Asgard; beyond Thor.
Does this mean that I never want to see Thor and Loki reunited? Not at all! The two actors have fantastic chemistry, and there’s something primal about these two characters sharing the screen. But that chemistry deadens when their interactions become rote. Giving the duo time to find themselves separately will make their eventual reunion more meaningful, and it shouldn’t be rushed.
All of that said, cast lists do indicate that a Loki of sorts will appear in Love and Thunder, as Matt Damon will return as an Asgardian actor portraying the god on stage. Along with Sam Neill, Luke Hemsworth, and now Melissa McCarthy as Hela, this ridiculous version of the Thor and Loki relationship will be enough to hold us over while the two characters separately evolve. Only with some more time apart will it matter when Thor returns to his brother again and declares, “Loki, I would have words with thee.”