Okay, I’m going to take a second to wax poetical all over this gifset, so strap in and come along with me, folks. Or, you know, scroll on past, I don’t mind.
Let’s talk about these two for a second, shall we? It’s no secret that Thor and Loki are my favourite characters in The Avengers (hell, some of my favourites in the entire Marvel universe. My top five are Thor, Loki, Gambit, Rogue and Quicksilver), but I don’t think I would be so damn pleased with them in the Marvel Cinematic Universe if the performances given by Hemsworth and Hiddleston weren’t so multi-faceted and strong.
I’m going to start with Thor/Chris Hemsworth, mostly because he’s the one featuring in the first gif, but also because I hardly think I am alone when I say that his own performance of Thor against Tom’s Loki is something that doesn’t get the deep, introspective analysis that is its due (and that is no slight against Tom, because good lord, the man deserves all the accolades he’s getting and more).
Here’s the thing: Chris is playing a character who, the last we saw him, had grown from a very childish, arrogant boy in a man’s body, to a man who was beginning to truly realise the reality of not only his world, but the worlds and realms around it, and the truth that one’s actions have sometimes irreparable consequences. The Thor who is talking to Loki here is so much wiser. It’s evident in the way he tells Loki that a throne would suit him ill. He understands much more than he did when Odin banished him to Midgard, and he’s grown from all that. Chris pulls off this growth of character, this growth of personal mentality and understanding that Thor carries, with insurmountable amounts of grace. Maybe those prize-winning biceps have something to do with bearing the weight. Bad joke? Okay. Moving on.
The whole point is the delivery of this line. Thor is trying to appeal to Loki’s emotions, trying to appeal to his brother Loki, and the hope Thor’s holding onto is that somewhere under the box of cats in Loki’s mind, the brother he grew up with -the brother he played with, the brother he fought with - is still there, somewhere. He’s playing the big brother role in a way that we never got to see in Thor, and he’s, yeah, pulling that card and bossing Loki around. He’s telling him what to do. Give up the Tesseract - it was never his to take. Give up his poisonous dream - because, seriously, there’s not much more poisonous than ‘I’m going to enslave this intelligent race and their entire world, because I deserve a throne.’
But this final part of it, this ‘you come home’ is what does it. You don’t even need to see the images, if you had the audio. The delivery of the line is just as heavy without the visual, because of how thick Chris’ voice gets. It’s a tone we’ve all heard before - longing, a hint of regret, a lot of cautious hope - it betrays just how much Thor is reliant on Loki agreeing with him and coming home. How very much he needs his little brother to just nod with a roll of his eyes, indulging his big brother and behaving, despite his world-dominating plans to the contrary.
Add in the visual, and you’re looking at a lot of heartbreak coming down the rails towards you. This is what I am saying about the way Chris plays Thor - it’s evident in the choices he made for his tone, and it’s evident here in the expressions he makes. The first two orders, his face holds some facsimile of stern, but here, in the slightest of ways, it crumbles. It’s a testament to Chris as an actor that it’s all in his eyes and his eyebrows. He opens his eyes wider, his eyebrows furrow. In the slightest of ways, he goes from ordering to just about begging. He puts down the mask of acting on orders, and lets himself show through. Just him, just Thor. Just the person that continues to call himself Loki’s brother and who loves him regardless of all the crap he’s pulled.
Moving on to Tom/Loki, let me take a second to APOLOGISE FOR HOW LONG THIS IS. Anyway…
Because Loki doesn’t actually have a line in the gif, I’ll be pulling his next line in order to reference what is happening here. That next line is, of course, ‘I don’t have it’. I’ve seen a lot of people saying that line is Loki’s reply to the end of Thor’s plea that begs he come home, that the ‘it’ he speaks of is his home. Nevermind the grammatical errors in such a sentence if that were the case, but that’s not the way I read it at all. The line follows this face, yes, and the last line before that is most definitely ‘you come home’, but ‘I don’t have it,’ continues - following Thor summoning Mjolnir to his hand in a show of the fact that even with as much as he’s grown, twist that knife and stress him more and his anger flares - ‘You need the Tesseract to bring me home, but I’ve sent it away, I know not where’. ‘I don’t have it’ doesn’t reference ‘you come home’. It references the Tesseract.
All the response that Loki gives for ‘you come home’ (because he vocally chooses to ignore it, probably to spite Thor more) is in the expressions that cross Loki’s face here, commanded with exceptional ability by Tom.
His first reaction is clearly disbelief. He’s not entirely believing what he’s hearing and what he’s seeing, and it catches him under the guard for just a second. Loki doesn’t want to believe and does try to convince himself that Thor could not still see him as family, as his brother, there is no way that the Thor he grew up with could love and accept him, given his parentage. And yet, there it is, bald-faced in front him, that Thor does.
And he tries to write if off for a second, he’s searching for something in Thor’s face when he grins. He’s looking for confirmation that this is nothing more than an emotionless plea to get him to surrender, and when he finds none, his grin falls, and again, for all of a second, he’s open and vulnerable. It’s stamped on his face that he’s seeing, reading and considering what Thor’s said, what Thor clearly feels. He’s acknowledging for half a second that Thor still accepts and loves him and that maybe everything he’s told himself can give way to the love he still harbours for his big oaf of a brother. (And, an aside, you cannot convince me that Loki doesn’t still love Thor, under his megalomania and insanity. Maybe in other incarnations it is definitely possible, so far gone is he, but not so far in the MCU. That’s the beauty of his layers in this universe - he’s bad, he’s superbad, but he’s oh-so-human under all that). It’s all out in the… moonlight for Thor to see before Loki’s screaming at himself to put the wall back up. Abort this sentimentality, fake an apologetic attitude, and shake his head. Again, it’s all in the eyes that you read the bulk of this (glassy, flicking back and forth while he reads Thor’s face, eyebrows furrowing just slightly), but Tom plays it in his mouth too (yes, Tumblr, I’m asking you to stare at Tom Hiddleston’s mouth for a second, I hope I’m not requesting too much here). The forced grin and the way it drops slack (in confusion? In shock? Either applies, really).
I think I’m done here, but I felt the need to comment deeply on this. My greatest kudos to both Tom and Chris for their performances as Loki and Thor. The weight that the characters’ relationship forces upon them most certainly is not a minor one, nor is it one that, given its weight, is easy to bear. But they bear it, with grace and flawless performances in each and every scene. Bravo, sirs. Bravo.
WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME FEEL THESE FEELS????!?