How Loki's retro-futurist style was inspired by Terry Gilliam and crappy offices

Director Kate Herron talks about how the Disney Plus show redefines time travel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Sean Keane Former Senior Writer
Sean knows far too much about Marvel, DC and Star Wars, and poured this knowledge into recaps and explainers on CNET. He also worked on breaking news, with a passion for tech, video game and culture.
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Tom Hiddleston in Marvel's Loki on Disney Plus

Mobius gets to know Loki in the sci-fi surroundings of the Time Variance Authority. 

Marvel Studios

Loki's solo adventures kicked off on Disney Plus on Wednesday, with the first episode dropping the Marvel Cinematic Universe baddy into the clutches of timeline-policing outfit the Time Variance Authority.

It turns out Loki's surprise escape during Avengers: Endgame could have dire consequences for the Sacred Timeline, regulated by the all-powerful Time-Keepers and their minions at the TVA -- complete with intriguingly timeless retro-sci-fi aesthetic.

All six episodes of the series are directed by Kate Herron, who previously helmed episodes of Netflix comedies Sex Education and Daybreak. Loki is her first foray into the MCU, and I spoke to her over Zoom about the joys of time travel, how her own experience inspired the TVA's striking workplace aesthetic, and the women defining Phase 4 of the MCU.

Loki director Kate Herron

Loki director Kate Herron wanted to make the show a love letter to her favorite sci-fi movies.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Here's an edited transcript of our Zoom conversation -- we steered clear of spoilers, so proceed without fear even if you haven't seen the episode (and if you have, then check out our spoiler-filled recap of the episode's cool stuff and easter eggs).

Q: Did your mind reel with the storytelling possibilities when you first saw 2012 Loki vanish through the portal in Avengers: Endgame?
Herron: I was so happy but I was, like, "Where did he go?" As soon as I found out they were making a TV show about Loki, as a fan I had to get in the room and see what's going on with him. But also I wanted to be part of that story because it seemed like a unique storytelling opportunity. It was so interesting for a character that hasn't had the arc he was meant to have and have him go on a different path.

The concept of time travel opens up infinite possibilities, how did you work with those?
Our show redefines our understanding of time travel in the MCU -- the TVA is in charge of everyone's destiny and they control the proper flow of time. So with that, there are going to be extra rules about how time travel works within the MCU, and it definitely opens up a whole new playing field for the MCU going forwards, which is exciting. And we take Loki to some really unexpected places.

There's a heavy emphasis on the TVA's bureaucracy and paperwork. Is that making a point about the banal realities of power?
Maybe on some level. But I've worked in a lot of offices -- I did a lot of temporary work before I got my first film job -- and I wanted to capture the spirit of posters telling you to keep your desk clean but wondered what that poster would look like within the TVA.

Loki in TVA

Loki cautiously explores the TVA. 

Marvel Studios

And I used to have to work on computers that were so old, and I wondered why they hadn't been updated. I liked that idea for the TVA because they're not in the future and they're not in the past -- they use older technology, but it has these futuristic spins.

Brazil [the 1985 Terry Gilliam movie] was a very clear reference, and we're pulling from lots of different sci-fi movies I love -- I wanted the show to be a love letter to them. It's marrying up, like, brutalist architecture with that classy Midwest look.

Women seem heavily involved in shaping Phase 4 of the MCU. How does that make you feel?
I feel like I'm in good company: Nia DaCosta, Chloé Zhao, Cate Shortland [directing The Marvels, Eternals and Black Widow, respectively]. These are incredible filmmakers; being part of that group is awesome. I hope it's a sign that the tides are changing in Hollywood, that you're going to see more women coming through and making these amazing genre films.

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