Loki, Episode 1, "Glorious Purpose" | Minority Report
Free will or fate?
TV REVIEW /// Loki, Episode 1, "Glorious Purpose"
Episode summary: Loki, the God of Mischief, finds himself out of time and in an unusual place and forced - against his godly disposition - to cooperate with others. (IMDb)
If there's one thing that can be said about Marvel Studios, it's that they learn from their mis-steps - and they seem to be learning faster than ever with "Glorious Purpose", Loki's first episode. I liked both of the first episodes for WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but this debut entry for the latest MCU Disney+ series is comfortably the best so far, setting up the title character, supporting cast and premise of the show clearly in less than an hour.
It helps that there's only one main character to focus on - the 2012 Loki who escaped New York in Avengers: Endgame and played brilliantly again by Tom Hiddleston - and the way the story unfolds, setting up the premise for the show as a whole, means the audience is right there with him, trying to figure out what the hell is going and who the Time Variance Authority (TVA) are.
There is a lot of exposition as a result, but it's earned because Loki needs to hear the varying explanations, so it makes sense for the audience to do so at the same time. It also allows for a fair amount of humour, because Loki's confusion will almost certainly reflect the audience's, and Hiddleston is great at playing Loki as both much, much larger than life and also quietly intelligent too, making both states of being seem natural for the God of Mischief.
Also, much like WandaVision, there's not much action here outside of brief scuffles, but that just means there's more time to get to know some of the more prominent new characters, such as Owen Wilson's Mobius. Wilson is great here, playing the TVA agent as a figure of (questionable) authority, psychoanalyst, and a form of ally for Loki, needing his help to track down what promises to be a very intriguing target.
Regarding the time travel elements, it's best to not think about things too much just yet - the TVA exist outside of space-time (multiple time periods are seen out of chronological order here), so don't go taking anything too literally about what has or could happen - I've already seen some comments that because the TVA say one thing, another thing couldn't have happened, but it could and it just hasn't happened yet.
Like I said, just go with the flow for now.
Another criticism I've seen from some is that Loki is too dark (in lighting terms), but I didn't have any issues with the light level at all and instead absolutely loved getting to see the gorgeous set design and art direction present in the TVA headquarters. It very much reminded me of the game Control and I really hope we get to see more of the apparently endless city the organisation are based in.
There's a lot packed in to this first episode of Loki and it already feels more satisfying than the other MCU Disney+ shows as a result, although I will be interested to see if the 50-minute running time for this episode is maintained for the whole series, as that would make it the lengthiest of the shows too. Oh, and not to spoil anything, but there feels like a lot of threads for Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness are already being woven here...
"Glorious Purpose" is a very strong opening for Loki, setting up the 2012 version of the character from Avengers: Endgame, the TVA agents he'll be working with, and his mission with them. There's a fair bit of looking back and discussing what's come before, but it serves to remind us of how much the original Loki went through and also to bring new viewers up to speed pretty smartly.
[9/10 - Great]
MOVIE REVIEW /// Minority Report
Movie summary: In a future where a special police unit is able to arrest murderers before they commit their crimes, an officer from that unit is himself accused of a future murder. (IMDb)
It's difficult to believe that Minority Report is twenty years old next year, mainly due to how convincing a vision of the future Spielberg put together for this movie and the fact that Tom Cruise appears to have aged very little since 2002. Then there's the fact that this is still also a really, really good movie that I think would do pretty well if released now.
However, if there's one serious criticism I'd have of this movie about how it looks, it would be how washed out and desaturated things can get at times. Yes, it never gets quite black and white (much like the story - hmm, think there's a link?), but it does mean that some scenes are a bit of a mess to look at because there's so many light sources bleeding into each other at the same time.
When that's not happening, Minority Report presents a mostly-convincing version of the future that doesn't appear too distant from our own, even if there is some technology so advanced (like the fantastic spider bots) it makes you wonder why other things aren't more different too. Nit-picking gripes aside - none of this matters for the story, after all - it's very easy to just accept what you're seeing and think "yeah, that works".
Cruise's character, John Anderton, almost acts as the human representation of this predicted world, being a highly-skilled officer who has certain flaws that stop him from being perfect. I will say that Anderton does feel a little 'manufactured', as if the writer came up with the perfect protagonist to win the day, then engineering a fault to make him seem more rounded, rather than being a truly convincing character in his own right.
That's not to say that Cruise is bad to watch or that he's giving a bad performance, but he does feel a little 'off', acting as the character needs to for each scene to work, rather than the scene working around Anderton's behaviour. Again, it's a minor issue that most people probably won't care about, but it does mean that this is a Tom Cruise character that you'll most likely forget about fairly quickly after the movie ends.
Then there's that ending that needs to be talked about at least a little bit, even if that's difficult to do without spoilers. Maybe the best way is to frame it like this: there's a certain piece of technology that is explained early on to have a very specific effect on a person when used, which could be what is shown in the last half hour or so - the question is if that ending really happened, or did it all end for real at the two-hour mark?
Visual messiness and minor gripes aside, Minority Report is still a bloody good movie with a great cast giving really good performances in a well-constructed world, with a story that keeps driving forward to the point where most people who watch this movie won't care about any of the problems I've pointed out. This is a Spielberg movie after all, so even if it might not rank up there with his best, it's still a better movie than most directors could manage to create in their entire careers.
Minority Report might be twenty years old next year, but it still holds up pretty damn well as a view of a possible future, even if a lot of it is washed out and desaturated. Thankfully, this is still a Spielberg movie, so there are some great shots to make up for it and the constant high pace means 'lesser' images never detract from the experience - including yet another highly-skilled, yet flawed role for Tom Cruise.